Unless I’m mistaken, this is big news for both the nation at large and African Americans in particular:

According to a national poll of 1,500 registered voters conducted by Lake Research Partners, 61 percent of Americans surveyed said they would prefer alternative punishments for murder, such as life without parole, over the death penalty.

As America is one of the few developed nations still enforcing capital punishment, that its citizens are finally shunning the practice is exciting, and it means a lot for the black community.

Since 1976, 34 percent of the people killed by the state have been African American, while 41 percent of inmates currently awaiting execution are black. What’s more, a 2000 study by the US Department of Justice found that from 1995 to 2000, 72 percent of the cases approved for death-penalty prosecution involved defendants of color, meaning more and more black inmates are constantly on their way to replace the ones executed.

What we’ve created with American capital punishment is a practice that’s not only generally morally questionable, but also one that’s deeply and perhaps intractably racist. Human beings choose who lives and dies in the justice system, and because human beings hold any number and size of prejudices and animosities, it follows that their decisions will often lead to prejudiced results.

To that end, capital punishment should go, and most people now know that. The problem is getting the government to understand and acquiesce. In an America in which the support of 60 percent of the public can’t end Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, don’t hold your breath for an end to the death penalty.


-Cord Jefferson is a staff writer at The Root. Follow him on Twitter.