For a White Man’s Execution, Where are Black Protesters?

Jasmyne A. Cannick, San Francisco Chronicle, Jan. 8, 2006

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?

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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.

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