The Death Penalty Is Part of Our Shared and Tortured History

Matthias Müller / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

The following speech was delivered via telephone at the Death Penalty Focus event held on September 23, 2018.

The late James Baldwin stated that history is far from a dead thing. “We carry it with us.”

We are unconsciously controlled by it in many ways, and history is literally present in all we do.

It could scarcely be otherwise, since it is to history that we owe our frame of reference, our identities and our aspirations.

I, Kevin Cooper, would like to add these following words to the above truthful statement from James Baldwin.

We must include the death penalty, and overall oppression of poor and minority peoples to this equation, in that we are taught—or certain people are taught—from history, how to hate, oppress, and execute other certain people who have historically been looked at and deemed different. This is especially true when throughout this country’s tortured history, and present-day reality, those poor and minority peoples who are deemed to be different are the only ones who this country’s leaders strap down to chairs and gurneys and torture and murder in the name of justice, god, and “the people.”

Our shared and tortured history and present-day reality must first be acknowledged and then brought to an end as other crimes against our collective humanity have been.

But, in order to do this, it’s going to take all of us!

Understanding our history in this country is important, especially in our present-day reality with Trump in the White House. He wants to make America great again—according to him that’s the mean history, the history that James Baldwin says is not dead, but is with us today.

In Trump’s reality, poor and minority people are worthless, and just like in real history, it is poor and minority people who Trump is against—those who historically have been oppressed, tortured and executed.

We can’t forget this history, or present-day reality, because if we do, America will stay as sick in these times as it was in those times!

Kevin Cooper
Kevin Cooper is a death row inmate at California's San Quentin Prison. In 1985, he was convicted of a 1983 quadruple murder and sentenced to death in a trial in which evidence that might have exonerated him…
Kevin Cooper

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