The state of Texas is preparing to execute its 504th person since 1974, the convicted murderer Robert "Bones" Garza. Garza was convicted of four counts of first-degree murder in the killings of four women in September 2002 in Donna, Texas. In addition, Garza is suspected of participating in the Edinburg massacre, which left six men dead. There is no doubt that the crimes he has committed are atrocious. Many people have lost family members because of his violent actions, and most people would agree that he deserves to be severely punished.
But as we have seen repeatedly in the last couple of months, the American criminal justice system is not the epitome of fairness and righteous judgment. No, the justice system is made up of overworked people who are encouraged to stereotype citizens to make rash conclusions. This system builds on itself as the biases of jaded detectives are passed down to rookies and new district attorneys are encouraged to avoid cases hard to win, even if race is the only thing in the way.
At the very top of this system of injustice is the ultimate weapon of destruction: capital punishment. Putting aside the question of whether a human being can ever do something warranting his own murder, there are many horrifying problems with capital punishment in America that have little to do with the ethics of killing. Analysis of the data shows that people of color are executed at a rate much higher than white people. This could be rooted in the giant disparity between the number of white and black district attorneys who decide whether or not to administer the death penalty in any given case. Studies have also shown that poor individuals are more likely to be convicted of capital offenses and executed.
None of this should come as a surprise. Our entire criminal justice system, from the police officers on the street to the justices on the highest court, is dominated by white men. While fixing the criminal justice system is going to take a minor miracle, it is entirely possible for this country to end the racist and classist death penalty. If we are going to continue to lock-up African American men at an alarming rate, the very least we can do is not kill them.