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Race And The Death Penalty Essay

2107 words - 8 pages

The death penalty is one of the most controversial issues on American soil. Blacks are more likely to face the death penalty than whites in the commission of identical crimes(CNN, 2014). The history of capital punishment dates back to the days before Christ. The Old Testament adage 'an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth,' has survived throughout the ages despite the New Testament's rendition of 'thou shall not kill'. Today's American victims endure a more demure of style of cruel and unusual punishment; death by lethal injection has replaced the barbaric traditions of the past.

Statistics prove that for many years the death penalty has fallen disproportionately on racial minorities in the United States. For example, since 1930 nearly 90% of those executed for the crime of rape in this country were African-Americans, and currently, about 50% of those on the nation's death rows are from minority populations representing only 20% of this country's population. Nearly 40% of those executed since 1976 have been black, even though blacks constitute only 12% of the population. And in almost every death penalty case, the race of the victim is white. Of the 229 executions that have occurred since the death penalty was reinstated, only one has involved a white defendant for the murder of a black person (Race and the Death Penalty, 2003). Does this mean that minorities are inherently criminals, or is there an undercurrent of racial segregation affecting the views of the majority in our society? T.V. shows, such as Cops, often depict persons of color as the criminal element, reinforcing the myth that minorities are to be feared.

Blacks are sentenced to jail and the death penalty more often that any other minority in America. As the national inmate population has increased in recent decades, the impact of these changes on minority communities has been particularly dramatic. Two-thirds of the people in prison are now racial and ethnic minorities, and for black males in their twenties, one in every eight is in prison or jail on any given day. Moreover, black males born today have a one in three chance of going to prison during their lifetime, compared to a one in seventeen chance for white males. These trends have been exacerbated by the impact of the "war on drugs," with three-fourths of all drug offenders being persons of color, far out of proportion to their share of drug users in society (The Sentencing Project: Racial Disparities in the Criminal Justice System, 2004).

Racial disparity in the criminal justice system is a product of a number of factors ?crime, offenses such drugs, social and economic disparities, legislative policies, and the use of discretion by the criminal justice system. Social and economic disparities have faces and many are of color.

African-Americans are more likely than others to have social histories that include poverty, exposure to neighborhood violence, and exposure to crime-prone role models. For example,...

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