All Blacks Are Death Penalty Opponents, Right?
Of course, the “pro-black” position often has nothing to do with what real-world black people think, and everything to do with what white elites think.
And thus it is with the death penalty.
With the execution of Stanley “Tookie” Williams late Monday night, black people in Los Angeles were supposed to be rioting in the streets. After all, the Hollywood types were telling us that this was a huge racial injustice.
But it didn’t happen.
Why? Some indication can be gotten from an article by Earl Ofari Hutchinson in the LA Daily News.
The small crowd of clergy, community activists and death-penalty opponents that gathered in front of the Los Angeles courthouse to demand clemency for Stanley “Tookie” Williams was no different than most other such gatherings. But there was one very loud exception.Hutchinson goes on the deal with the notion that blacks are anti-police.
A young African-American man shouted that Williams was a thug and a murderer who should die. This was no agitator or crank. He represented a body of pro-death penalty sentiment among blacks that has seldom been publicly heard during the great Tookie debate.
I was not surprised that there are many blacks such as this fellow who want Williams dead. The instant I publicly went to bat for clemency for Williams, and against the death penalty in general, the e-mails and angry comments came hot and heavy.
Black critics were especially bitter in reviling me. They were adamant that Williams must pay for his crimes and for the murder and mayhem the Crips gang, that he helped found, has unleashed on poor, black communities.
These hardened attitudes fly in the face of conventional wisdom that blacks are passionate opponents of the death penalty. They aren’t.
During the past decade, even as more whites say they are deeply ambivalent about the death penalty or oppose it, more blacks have said that murderers, even black ones, must pay with their lives. A Harris Interactive poll in August 2001 found that nearly half of black respondents supported capital punishment. Three years later, a Gallup Poll found that black support for the death penalty still hovered at near 50 percent.
The death penalty debate can no longer be neatly pigeonholed into a black-versus-white racial issue. In large part, that’s because whites generally are not at risk from black criminals. Other blacks are. They are more likely to be victims of violent crime or to have friends or relatives who have been crime victims.
A hint of that came in a June 1999 Justice Department survey which found that blacks in a dozen cities generally applauded the police. This shocked and confounded some black leaders who assumed, like everyone else, that blacks are inveterate cop haters. They aren’t. They are anti-racist and abusive police officers, and demand efficient, fair policing in their communities. In Los Angeles, New York, Chicago and other cities, they have also repeatedly demanded that blacks break their code of silence toward the cops and help identify shooters.People who have been paying attention to public opinion polls have long known that blacks, although less in favor of the death penalty than whites, are fairly evenly split on the issue.
Perhaps the best way to get a sounding on a group which (like blacks) constitutes a minority of the population is to use a survey like the General Social Survey, which is repeated every year or two asking the same questions. Piling together all the surveys can get us a large and statistically reliable number of black respondents.
For example, during the years 1996-2004 the General Social Survey asked respondents: “Do you favor or oppose the death penalty for persons convicted of murder?” The results:
So while blacks are quite a bit less likely than whites to favor the death penalty, there is no robust black majority against the penalty. Rather, attitudes are split.
Other surveys yield the same results. For example an ABC Survey in 2002 found that among non-whites 52% favored the death penalty, and 38% opposed it.
Liberal and leftist whites have no business pressing black people into service behind their political agenda. It’s true that a fair number of black “leaders” will tell the white leftists what they want to hear. But, on this issue at least, they aren’t the authentic voice of the black community.