Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Capital Punishment

Capital punishment is a very controversial argument today and has been for many years. Whether it should be done at all, or when it is okay to perform the death penalty draws a very fine line. Also, whether or not it goes against our constitution and moral values is another unanswerable question. However, seventy percent of Americans support the death penalty. The death penalty has been around since 1890 when the electric chair was invented in Florida. And the U.S., which has a population of more than 200 million people, usually only inflicts 50 people a year with the death penalty. This raises the question as to whether or not this punishment is being applied fairly throughout the population.
There have been numerous Supreme Court cases held over the issue of capital punishment. One of the very first court cases, Furman v. Georgia, the Supreme Court said that the death penalty was “arbitrary” and capricious” and that it was administered in a random and unpredictable manner often based on race and luck. Another court case that was held was McClesky v. Kemp which declared that there has been a correlation with race as to who gets sentenced to the death penalty and who does not. It was proven that black defendants were eleven times more likely in white-victim cases to be sentenced to the death penalty than in black-victim cases.
So in this political cartoon it shows a picture of a white inmate stall and a black inmate stall. The white stall is just what you would expect a typical jail stall to look like while the black stall has an electric chair in it. This depicts the fact that blacks suffer from an unfair punishment when it comes to sentencing a defendant. This is obviously an example of race discrimination which we have read about in many of our articles in class. The one article that I am going to focus on is Johnson’s Chapter 2 which is titled Privilege, Oppression, and Difference.
Johnson starts off his chapter by stating, “The trouble that surrounds difference is really about privilege and power- the existence of privilege and the lopsided distribution of power that keeps it going” (12). This quote I feel goes right a long with what this cartoon is trying to show. It shows the white privilege of not being sentenced to death and the power of the judge and the Supreme Court to use their power to continue to practice white privilege by sentencing mostly blacks to the electric chair. The fact that the whites are less likely to get sentenced to the death penalty than blacks shows the existence of white privilege in our governing system which is very unfair.
Another quote from Johnson that goes along with this cartoon is “The trouble is produced by a world organized in ways that encourage people to use difference to include or exclude, reward or punish, credit or discredit, elevate or oppress, value or devalue, leave alone or harass” (16). This quote points out the fact that our society is organized in a way that makes us feel as though it is okay to use difference to treat people differently. So the fact that someone is black gives us the go ahead to treat them in ways that we would not treat someone who was white. This cartoon shows this idea in the fact that in the white stall there is no electric chair but in the black stall there is. So the fact that someone is white gives them an unearned advantage that they might not even know and take for granted.
My personal feeling about capital punishment is that I don’t feel that anyone deserves to have their life taken by another human being no matter what that person has done. I strongly believe that two wrongs do not make a right and by killing someone that has killed another person is not going to bring the other person back. It has been said that keeping someone in prison for life is not too much more expensive than giving them the death sentence, so I feel it is better that we just keep those people in jail. However, I feel that it is terrible that our Supreme Court system sends blacks to the death penalty more often than whites. I feel that race should play no factor as to what should be done to someone that has committed a crime. If our courts are going to continue to use the death penalty I believe that they should come up with better guidelines as to when they will give out the death sentence.

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