Choosing the next leader of our nation was not the only issue decided upon last week. I regret to inform those of you who aren’t already aware, but several states, including California, Oklahoma, and Nebraska, chose by referendum to either retain or reinstate capital punishment.
The death penalty is one of those contentious issues that often escapes the political limelight. But that is a costly mistake, for its implications are far too real.
A plethora of rigorous studies have found pervading racial bias in the administration of the death penalty in many states, including Georgia, North Carolina, California, Louisiana, and Washington (and that list is far from conclusive). In nearly every state studied, an African American has a greater chance of being put to death by the state than a white person, and even more so when the victims of the crimes in question are themselves white.
Sidebar: There are a host of other problems with the death penalty, as it is currently utilized in the United States, and I have included a web address for a Capital Punishment Fact Sheet compiled by one of the nation’s leading non-profit organizations on the matter. (http://www.deathpenaltyinfo.org/documents/FactSheet.pdf)
But we must ask ourselves if retribution is really the right path to take to foster the society we idealize. Moreover, we must recognize that we cannot continue to utilize the death penalty when it has proven, time and time again, to be racially biased.
In our justice system, retribution has replaced rehabilitation. Blind retaliation has circumvented true and equitable justice.
The electorates in those aforementioned states arguably made a grave mistake yesterday in opting to retain or reinstate the death penalty.
There are lives being held in the balance of these decisions, families that are uncertain whether or not they will be broken apart by a system that has sworn to protect and preserve them. Once you see how capital punishment has failed us, do not hesitate to speak out for change.
Someday, I envision a proud United States where civic virtue and lawfulness is fostered by will, not by force or threat of death. To achieve this ideal though, we must first take it upon ourselves to become informed about how the death penalty currently operates – and frankly, how it currently subverts justice.
Ryan is a senior politics major. Ryan is most excited about working collaboratively on various projects with other students of the humanities, learning from one another, and creating something much larger than any of us would be able to as individuals.