Friday, May 27, 2016

Californians have a chance to Do Something

A little over a year ago, it is undisputed that Dylann Roof murdered nine worshippers in Charleston's Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal church. This week, the Attorney General announced she would ask for the death penalty at his trial.

Ta-Nehisi Coates responded to this Department of Justice announcement:

... if nonviolence isn’t always the answer, [Dr.] King reminds us to work for a world where it is. Part of that work is recognizing when our government can credibly endorse King’s example. Sparing the life of Dylann Roof would be such an instance—one more credible than the usual sanctimonious homilies delivered in his name. If the families of Roof's victims can find the grace of forgiveness within themselves; if the president can praise them for it; if the public can be awed by it—then why can't the Department of Justice act in the spirit of that grace and resist the impulse to kill?

Perhaps because some part of us believes in nonviolence not as an ideal worth striving for, but as a fairy tale passed on to the politically weak. The past two years have seen countless invocations of nonviolence to shame unruly protestors into order. Such invocations are rarely made to shame police officers who choke men to death over cigarettes and are sent back out onto the beat. ...

Moreover, killing Roof does absolutely nothing to ameliorate the conditions that brought him into being in the first place. The hammer of criminal justice is the preferred tool of a society that has run out of ideas. In this sense, Roof is little more than a human sacrifice to The Gods of Doing Nothing. ...

This fall, Californians will have the opportunity to Do Something. Justice that Works has put a measure on the November ballot replacing death sentences with a maximum penalty of life without parole. This ain't perfect, but it's a start. Let's start.

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