Is Justice Really Blind? On Racism And The Death Penalty

Imagine sitting in a courtroom as a minority defendant on murder trial with little money for a good lawyer. You listen to the highly paid prosecutors paint a perfect picture to the jury of your crimes and make you into a monster overnight. As you await sentencing you realize the death penalty is on the table and you feel hopeless because you did not commit the crime. As you looked into the jury member’s eyes, you realize they believe you are whoever the prosecutors say you are — even though they have been fed nothing but lies. You know in your heart that you did not commit murder, but your confession and your state appointed lawyers stand no chance against the theatrics displayed in the courtroom by the wealthy prosecutors.

This scenario, filled with hopelessness, happens on a regular basis. There are more factors that play into who receives the death penalty in The United States other than justice. Flaws slip through the cracks of the system and create a terrifying margin of error. My opposition to the death penalty is three tiered. I oppose it because of my morals and spiritual beliefs, my stance as a supporter of racial equality, and because of the flaws discovered by DNA testing and advance in technology. I believe The United States is better than the death penalty; it is a country founded on liberty and freedoms that protect its citizens.

Regardless of the crime, a human life is still a human life — they deserve the freedom to live.

The race of a defendant plays a crucial role in who receives the death penalty in the United States. This role is inexcusable and degrading to the United States constitution that was built to protect citizens from any type of discrimination. Racial bias exists in both the state and federal level with the application of the death penalty. I, unlike many supporters of capital punishment, will not ignore the facts that point to serious inequalities minorities face in the court of law. Not only does the race of the defendant play a large role, the race of the victim plays what seems to be an even larger role. There is a double standard in the system when black-on-black crime is passed on as normal, and black on white crime is heightened to immediate cause for capital punishment. Supporters have argued that race only seems like it is a factor because ‘minorities are responsible for more crimes’. This argument is flawed on several levels and reeks of racism. Yes, I understand that there is a major issue with minority gang violence and black-on-black crime; however, this does not mean black criminals should receive harsher punishment. The playing field is not leveled for all of the races and I will never support a system filled with racism.

We have not come as far as the pro-death penalty arguers would like to think. Some of them view the United States as a country free from any discrimination, but unfortunately this is not true and will probably never be true. Regardless of the progress the United States has made in eliminating racial inequalities, history shows us that discrimination is a part of the American cycle. One minority group after another have gone in and out of the discrimination spotlight depending on year. This being said, I cannot put my trust in the government to sentence someone to death while racial discrimination could play a role in his or her fate.

When I look at the facts and see black men are 2 to 3 times more likely to receive the death penalty over a white male who commit a similar crime, I feel extremely uncomfortable and outraged. Maybe in my youthful innocence I would have been so naive to believe these statistics were merely a coincidence; however, now I know that the reality of the situation points to racial inequality. There is no level playing field for blacks and whites, especially in the south, when it comes to sentencing for crime. I will not stand by a system that unequally punishes black Americans over white Americans — especially when capital punishment is involved.

If police officers are beating innocent black males on the street because they felt like it or because they looked like someone else, how can I put all my faith and trust in the legal system to kill someone? I refuse to conform and accept a flawed system when human lives are involved. No, the color of someone’s skin is not an excuse for whatever terrible crime was done. The victims should receive justice in some way, but justice cannot be found through capital punishment.

Death, punishment, and tragedy go in hand in hand. There is no easy way to deal with atrocious crimes. There is no easy way to figure out the perfect punishment for each unique individual who commits murder. As said before, one death is bad enough and a second would create even more open wounds. In a time of suffering, more suffering and death is not the best option. The margin of error is too high and racial inequalities are too prevalent. I have high hopes for The United States and believe it will become a nation that rids itself completely of the Death Penalty. It only hurts us as a nation. We should not strive to be a nation filled with vengeance, but one of true justice. TC mark

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