For a white man's execution, where are black protesters?
Outcry on behalf of Tookie might be viewed as race-based
Jasmyne A. Cannick
Los Angeles -- In the wee hours of the morning of Jan. 17, another man will be put to death by lethal injection in the state of California. This comes exactly 36 days after the execution of Stanley Tookie Williams. But where are the protesters?
With just a few days to go before the scheduled execution of a 76-year-old blind and deaf man who uses a wheelchair, there has been no public outcry of support for clemency for Clarence Ray Allen, who is white. There have been no planned protests and celebrity read-ins in support of saving an old man's life. Community activists and civil rights leaders aren't organizing statewide tours to bring attention to Allen's execution. There hasn't even been one "Kill Clarence Ray Allen Hour" from KFI-AM's "John and Ken Show."
Which raises the question: Was the community cry for clemency for Williams because he was a black man, or was it because the death penalty is immoral, inhumane and cruel?
Granted, Allen hasn't written any children's books, been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize, or had a Hollywood actor play him in a film, but that doesn't mean his life isn't worth saving.
The fight for clemency should not have died with Williams. With two more executions scheduled in California, including that of Michael Morales, who was convicted at the age of 21 for the rape and murder of a 17-year-old female, now is not the time for all of Williams' supporters to retreat to their separate corners of the world. In fact, it's time for the opposite. We need to get back into action and show the world that the fight for clemency for Williams was not solely based on the fact that he was a black man but rather that he was a man who did not deserve to have his life prematurely taken from him, no matter how heinous the crimes he was convicted of committing.
The state Legislature is considering a moratorium on the death penalty. Although a decision didn't come soon enough to save Williams' life, our work could aid in saving the lives of many other condemned prisoners.
Black Californians who supported clemency for Williams need to re-examine their reasons for wanting Williams to live. Was it because he was a black man? Was it because he co-founded the Crips? Was it because of his anti-gang and anti-drug work? Or was it because we abhor the death penalty?
Allen poses no significant risk. Blind and deaf, it's very unlikely that he will be ordering the killing of anyone if left to live his remaining days on Death Row.
Many of the black leaders who supported clemency for Williams vehemently denied they were racists when challenged by a pair of conservative radio DJs in Los Angeles who sponsored the repulsive "Kill Tookie Hour." Accusing the black leadership of getting involved in the fight to save Williams only because he was black, the shock jocks noted that these same activists were going to be nowhere to be found when the next execution of a nonblack person came up.
If all of the protests around clemency for Williams were not just for show, it should be no problem for the black community to reassemble for the fight to save Clarence Ray Allen. He may not have been our homeboy from back in the day, or demonstrated to the world that he is a redeemed man. He may not even be likable, but his life is worth trying to save. What kind of message does it send if we sit back and do nothing while another person is systematically put to death on our watch?