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Tuesday, April 14, 2009

NOTEworthy News, 4/13/09

Georgia AG Thurbert Baker entering race for Georgia governor (February 9, AP)
Georgia Attorney General Thurbert Baker is entering the 2010 race for governor in Georgia, jumping into a crowded field to replace Sonny Perdue when his second term expires. If he wins Baker, a Democrat, would be Georgia’s first black governor… When [former Gov. Zell] Miller appointed Baker attorney general in 1997, he made history as the first black to hold the post. In 2006 he was elected to his third four-year term.

Cliff Note: Looks like Thurbert Baker is just the latest of Black candidates around the country who have caught that contagious disease known as “Yes We Can” fever. I’m pretty sure Mr. Baker must be aware that President Obama got blown out in Georgia, so i sure hope he’s not planning to ride those coattails.

Like many of the new generation, post-racial Negro leaders, Baker tries to downplay race. In fact, it was Baker who, during the Genarlow Wilson case, played party pooper after Wilson received a favorable decision from the county court, which resulted in his sentence being reduced. As Attorney General, Baker promised to appeal the decision and tried to keep Genarlow in jail. If that’s the kind of thing we can expect from Georgia’s first Black Governor, we might as well stick with the white ones.

But i will say this much for him, at least he’s already won statewide elections—three to be exact. That’s more than i can say about some other pretenders, i mean contenders, seeking to become governors in Dixie. I won’t mention any names…

[Cough. Cough] Artur.

[Cough. Cough] Harold.

(Tennessee) African-Americans Go Courting County Votes as Political Doors Open Wider (April 2, 2009, Tri-State Defender)
The political doors of Shelby County government have opened wider for African Americans. Otis Jackson won election as Shelby County General Sessions Court clerk. Cheyenne Johnson won election as Shelby County Assessor of Property on the first try. And A C Wharton is the Shelby County mayor. Before Jackson, Johnson and Wharton, African Americans running for countywide offices often found themselves on the losing end against non-black candidates – sometimes by small percentages. But race is not as reliable a predictor of election outcomes as it has been in the past. Full article.

Cliff Note: When i first read this article, it challenged my theories about this post-racial America mythology, particularly my belief that at the local level we are nowhere near a post-racial America. I was going to post it anyway, just to show i’m not afraid of stories that conflict with my analysis, but then i decided to dig a little deeper into Shelby County, Tennesse, the county discussed above, which includes the city of Memphis.

It turns out that Shelby County has been undergoing an out-migration of white residents for some time now, thereby increasing the Black percentage of the population (from around 43% in 1990 to more than 52% in 2008). So the ability of three Black candidates to win county-wide offices is NOT evidence of a post-racial America. To the contrary, it’s evidence that most of the white population fleeing the county were likely the ones who refused to vote for Black candidates previously.

Georgia Assembly Okays Death Penalty Alternative, Denies Spilt Jury Measure (April 5, 2009, Atlanta Progressive News)
A bill, SB 13, passed the Georgia Assembly this year, which will allow district attorneys to seek life without parole for individuals convicted of murder, without first having to ask for the death penalty in order to obtain such a ruling…

At the same time, the Georgia legislature fought back bills which would possibly have increased death penalty sentences, including HB 32, which would allow split, or non-unanimous, juries in Georgia to issue death penalty verdicts…

Yet, a bill by State Sen. Vincent Fort (D-Atlanta) to end the death penalty in Georgia, SB 175, did not receive consideration in committee.
Full article.

Cliff Note: It’s nice that SB 13 passed, but Senator Fort’s bill (which i believe was actually for a moratorium, not to abolish) would have been better. Just a couple of months ago, New Mexico became the third state in two years to abolish the death penalty, and there are currently eleven other states considering similar bans.

There are a lot of reasons why I’m against the death penalty. The probability of killing an innocent person and the sheer hypocrisy of trying to decrease murder by allowing the government to murder are just two reasons. But at the top of my list of reasons is this simple fact: the death penalty is nothing more than a legal lynching. It’s no coincidence that 1) is has always been used disproportionately, and in some states almost exclusively, against Black defendants, 2) it is used primarily when the victims of a crime have been white, sending the clear message that taking a white life is somehow more unacceptable than taking a Black life, and 3) it is used most often in southern states—states that have always sought to control their Black residents.

I could bore you with a whole lot of stats regarding the death penalty, but instead i’ll just give a small sample. Since 1976, 235 executions have been of Black defendants with White victims, while only 15 executions have been for the reverse. And how ‘bout this little tidbit: 20% of Blacks who were executed were convicted by all-white juries. For more stats, you can go to the Death Penalty Information Center. They’ve got some great info.

In a 1987 case, the U.S. Supreme Court was forced to admit that race has an impact on death penalty sentencing. The only problem is, after recognizing that fact, they failed to require or even suggest anything to deal with that inconvenient truth. The video below features Bryan Stevenson from the Equal Justice Initiative talking about that case and racism in death penalty sentencing.

By the way, i started writing this on Friday—Good Friday—a day on which we commemorate the most important death penalty sentence of all time. And go figure, He was Black too!

So, yes, while the Georgia Assembly’s move to provide the option of life without parole is a step forward, we should not be confused about the facts that 1) it still needs to be signed by the Governor, and 2) much of the Assembly is still attempting to make it easier to sentence people to death. In fact, you have some legislators in Georgia who would love to make Georgia more like its neighbor, Alabama, where a judge can override a jury that sentences a defendant to jail time and impose the death sentence over the jury’s wishes. Now that’s democracy!

And let’s not forget that the state of Georgia is still trying to execute Troy Davis in spite of the fact that 7 of the 9 witnesses in his original trial, witnesses who were probably coerced into testifying, have since recanted their testimony. Perhaps if Troy had been accused of killing a Black single mom instead of a white police officer he wouldn’t be on death row right now.

On that “note”, i’m outta here!

1 comment:

  1. Regarding the comment that Obama was blown out in GA: he did get 47% of the vote there. That was very respectable, given that he did very little campaigning or advertising there. I've heard people say that Obama could have gotten 48%+ in GA if the campaign had put more resources in the state.

    Obama got 39-45% of the vote in AL, LA, MS, and SC.

    I don't know if Baker has a chance. He'll need an enthusiastic black electorate behind him, but he's been a controversial figure in the black community due to the Genarlow Wilson case. I wish him luck, because he'll need it.