Executions, Official and Unofficial… the Killing Thing About American Democracy

This Is the Imperialist System…
This Is What They Want You to Vote For

If you are horrified by how Black and Latino youth in cities across the country are gunned down by police for some b.s. reason or for no reason at all…if you are outraged at the blatantly racist way disproportionate numbers of Black people are thrown into and executed on death row…and if you are being pulled into the presidential election circus at the same time, then you need to confront this reality: Voting for either candidate means voting for a system that carries out unjust executions, official and unofficial.

The essence of the democratic “rule of law” in the U.S. is the monopoly over the legitimate use of violence by the state to protect and enforce the rule of the capitalist-imperialist class. In practice, wanton illegitimate killing by police—overwhelmingly of Black youth, as well as Latinos and youth of other oppressed nationalities—is so ever-present that the essential “coming of age” talk Black parents must have with their teenage sons is not about sex but about how to act when stopped by cops, in hopes of minimizing the chance of their becoming another police murder statistic. This terror against African-Americans as a people is the modern-day version of the “legal” lynchings of thousands of Black men during the hundred years of Jim Crow.

The police murder of Sean Bell in New York, hours before his wedding in 2006, and of Oscar Grant on a BART train platform in Oakland, CA on New Year’s Day, 2009, triggered widespread anger and protest in the streets. And the way in which the killers were protected by the justice system in both cases was as predictable as it was fundamentally unjust.

When a judge acquitted the cops who killed Sean Bell in 2008 on all charges, presidential candidate Barack Obama was quoted as saying, “The judge has made his ruling, and we are a nation of laws, so we respect the verdict that came down.” And he attacked the protests by saying that “resorting to violence to express displeasure over a verdict is something that is completely unacceptable and counterproductive.” Obama was auditioning for the role of leader of the U.S. global empire at that time, and he was showing those who rule that he could combine generating a sense of hope among sections of people disaffected from the system with ruthless enforcement of the crimes needed to maintain and extend the empire. The “slap on the wrist” given in July 2010 to the cop who killed Oscar Grant did not call forth any comment at all from President Obama.

At the same time as the police murders, the U.S. conducts openly sanctioned, almost ritualized, legal lynchings of Black men put on death row. While Black people comprise 13.4% of the U.S. population, 34% of prisoners executed since 1976 have been Black. As with police murder, the more blatant the injustice in the use of public executions, the broader the terror it induces.

The execution of Troy Davis in 2011, after 22 years on death row, is but the most recent example. The execution by lethal injection was carried out despite the fact that there was an outcry of people around the world, including prominent figures such as Pope Benedict and Jimmy Carter, against it because so much compelling evidence had been brought to light of Davis’ innocence. Obama refused to lift a finger to stop the execution, or to say a word about it.

Obama and Romney see eye to eye on giving a pass to the most brutal police murders. On the death penalty, they have expressed similar views, saying they are for it if it’s “narrowly applied” or “in certain circumstances,” including in crimes where no one was killed. When it comes to the exercise of brutal state violence against the people, there is no debate.

This Is the Imperialist System…
This Is What They Want You to Vote For

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