Blacks Divided on Death Penalty, Polls Show

The San Francisco Chronicle says the public may have a skewed perception about support/lack of support for the death penalty in the black community,

Some excerpts:

The high-profile African American leaders who rallied in support of Stanley Tookie Williams gave the impression the death penalty issue is black and white.In fact, national polls show African Americans split evenly on capital punishment. Though whites favor the death penalty 3 to 1, nearly 50 percent of blacks favor execution for convicted murderers regardless of race.

Author and political analyst Earl Ofari Hutchinson said African Americans’ opposition to capital punishment is a “myth,” evident from the amount of mail he received from black readers after he wrote in support of clemency for Williams.

“I got a number of letters from African Americans who said that those who perpetrate crime must be dealt with,” said Hutchinson, a black man who has also written in opposition to Clarence Ray Allen’s upcoming execution. “Many blacks are conservative when it comes to law and order…

…Billy Jeffrey, a 56-year-old San Francisco building inspector, for example, said high-profile African Americans who oppose capital punishment perpetuate the misconception that most blacks feel the way they do.

“The message they put out is absolutely wrong,” said Jeffrey, who is black. “They tell you one thing about the community, but the rank and file are not like that.”

He said silence on the part of African Americans who support capital punishment contributes to the misunderstanding.

“I have friends on both sides of the fence,” Jeffrey said. “But those who support it are trying to be politically correct. So they don’t say much about it.”

Lawanda Hawkins, a Los Angeles member of Crime Victims United of America, said she was shocked by the backing Williams received from church leaders and entertainers and said it will lead them to “lose points” in the black community…

…Kevin L. Martin, who belongs to Project 21, a conservative African American political group with members nationwide, said he is an avid supporter of the death penalty and believes that 99.9 percent of the people in prison are guilty.

He said the idea that blacks rarely support capital punishment results from the tendency of the public to see outspoken black liberals as leaders, while conservatives rarely win that title.

“The perception of black opposition is predicated by these black liberals, who hold these murderers on a pedestal and claim racism is behind the convictions,” Martin said. “They don’t speak for me or my community.”

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