Thursday, March 28, 2013
Bryan Stevenson: We need to talk about an injustice
"I was giving some lectures in Germany about the death penalty. It was fascinating because one of the scholars stood up after the presentation and said, "Well you know it's deeply troubling to hear what you're talking about." He said, "We don't have the death penalty in Germany. And of course, we can never have the death penalty in Germany." And the room got very quiet, and this woman said, "There's no way, with our history, we could ever engage in the systematic killing of human beings. It would be unconscionable for us to, in an intentional and deliberate way, set about executing people." And I thought about that. What would it feel like to be living in a world where the nation state of Germany was executing people, especially if they were disproportionately Jewish? I couldn't bear it. It would be unconscionable.
And yet, in this country, in the states of the Old South, we execute people -- where you're 11 times more likely to get the death penalty if the victim is white than if the victim is black, 22 times more likely to get it if the defendant is black and the victim is white -- in the very states where there are buried in the ground the bodies of people who were lynched. And yet, there is this disconnect."