DEATH PENALTY: LEGALIZED LYNCHING?
New York City
Ira Glasser, in “Drug Busts = Jim Crow” [July 10], is right to see the drug war as rooted in a legacy of legalized racial discrimination; however, it is not unique in this regard. Just as the current drug war can be traced to Jim Crow, so is the modern system of capital punishment–thirty years old this year–a direct descendant of lynching.
The same post-Reconstruction era that saw mass social disenfranchisement of blacks also saw thousands murdered by lynch mobs. The decline of lynching in the early 1900s coincided with a rise in state executions, along starkly racist lines. (In Virginia, for example, between 1908 and 1930, blacks represented all but seventeen of the 148 people killed in the electric chair.) Today, minorities are still the majority on death row: Of the 3,370 people awaiting execution, 42 percent are black, 10 percent are Latino–and 80 percent were convicted of crimes where the victim was white.
As Glasser points out, the drug war strips African-Americans of their humanity by “removing them from civil society and then denying them the right to vote while using their bodies to enhance white political power.” The death penalty, long favored by politicians running for office, represents the most violent fulfillment of this logic.
The Campaign to End the Death Penalty
WHY OH WHY, OHIO?
I was glad to see Andrew Gumbel’s “The Coming Ballot Meltdown” [July 17/24]. It’s about time the media unearthed the truth about our voting system: It has become one more victim of the corrupt Administration in power. I am watching democracy going down the drain little by little. Without the power of our votes, we the people are sheep in the grip of wolves.
Lucas County, Ohio
I was one of more than 900 people in Lucas County whose right to vote was contested in 2004. Six days before the election I received an official form from the County Election Board stating that a person I had never met, who lived miles away in a different town, was contesting my right to vote. Most of the contested voters had downtown addresses–more likely to be Democratic and minority. All 900 challenges were made, I understand, by six members of the Lucas County Republican Party–of which Bernadette Noe was then president as well as being president of the Lucas County Board of Elections (conflict of interest, anyone?). The court threw out the challenges on a technicality three days before the election. But I wonder how many people were intimidated into giving up their right to vote.
ALICE A. FRYE