a buzz about the death penalty in America
these days. And nearly all of the conversation focuses not on how to maintain
the practice, but rather on abolition.
just decided to repeal the death penalty, following the lead of Illinois,
New Mexico and New Jersey
in recent years. Meanwhile, California voters will vote on a ballot measure that would eliminate
one-quarter of the nation’s death row.
with the high cost, lack of deterrent effect and the inevitability of
executing innocent people, some states are taking another look. Moreover,
given the appalling specter of prosecutors striking black jurors and other
forms of racial misconduct, North Carolina and Kentucky have enacted racial justice legislation
to overturn racially biased death sentences.
the European Union enacting an export ban on lethal injection chemicals to the U.S., states are
scrambling to find out how to kill people. With diminished supplies, states
are faced with the option of suspending executions altogether, or like
a violence addict, purchasing the poisons on the black market. In other
cases such as Ohio, they have abandoned the commonly-used, three-drug protocol
in favor of a single drug such as pentobarbital - a more commonly found
substance used to euthanize animals.
so, as people are still put down like dogs in the land of the free - despite
the momentum for abolition - capital punishment represents America’s human rights blind spot. But really,
this is about more than executions. Rather, it speaks to a nation that
often pays lip service to upholding human rights, but debases and denigrates
human life through its actions. The result is a callous culture of violence,
neglect and disregard.
The U.S. ranked fifth in the world in capital punishment last
year, in league with China, Saudi Arabia, Iran and Iraq. A world leader
in executions, America
is the world’s foremost leader in prisons. The U.S. claims one-twentieth of the global population,
but one-quarter of the world’s prisoners. A majority of these prisoners
are poor and of color, poorly educated, poorly represented in the courtroom
and failed by the system. The warehousing of people is big business, an
unseemly union of criminal justice policy and profit motive.
it an accident that the world’s prison leader also ranks near the bottom in income inequality, boasts the largest income
inequality in the developed world? Hardly not.
Inequality in the land of opportunity is far more than in Europe, Canada, Australia
and South Korea, but
also more than nearly all of Asia, West Africa and North Africa.
The top 1 percent of Americans enjoy far more than elsewhere
in the West in terms of executive pay and policies favoring the rich.
This, as America’s
99 percent receive far less government support for health insurance, daycare,
pensions and education.
as the U.S. preaches democracy
to the rest of the world, it enacts voter ID laws that could potentially
disenfranchise millions of citizens. Harder to vote,
yet easier to purchase a gun. Leading the industrialized nations
in handgun proliferation and firearms deaths, America is truly
what Martin Luther King called “the greatest purveyor of violence
in the world today.” Lax gun laws, “shoot to kill” legislation
and laws allowing concealed weapons in schools, churches, sports arenas
and bars reflect the power of corporate arms manufacturers in U.S. politics.
Made in America, the
violence is exported to Mexico
in the form of illegal weapons fueling the drug war carnage.
this culture of violence extends to the death penalty, in a country conditioned
by years of dehumanization, normalized through slavery and Jim Crow lynching.
The death penalty
is the tip of the iceberg when it comes to human rights violations in
It might be the most disturbing example of the human rights challenges
facing the nation, and the challenges are many.
BlackCommentator.com Executive Editor, David
A. Love, JD is a journalist and human rights advocate based in Philadelphia, is a graduate of Harvard College and the University of Pennsylvania Law
School. and a contributor to The Huffington
Post, the Grio, The Progressive
Media Project, McClatchy-Tribune News Service, In These
Times and Philadelphia
Independent Media Center. He also blogs at davidalove.com, NewsOne, Daily Kos, and Open Salon. Click here to contact Mr. Love.