Is the Death Penalty only for Black People? The Myth of Black Guilt


Whenever I attempt to exit a store, I carry the receipt from my purchase. I fear that simply my blackness will mean that security guard that eyes me up and down will ensure that I am searched. This is a routine occurrence for both myself and the innumerable black males and females in my situation. In 21st century Britain I fear the death penalty. Though it is not present in any legal framework, in any law or in any conversation of our politicians, the death penalty exists whenever a policeman deems himself judge, jury and executioner of black lives. No police officer has been prosecuted for deaths in police custody since 1969, likewise the Crown Prosecution Office is an infrequent ally of people of colour where the unlawful killing by a police officer is in question. Both factors are derived from the concept of black guilt, a twisted and racist logic that white Britain remains unable to cast aside, casting our voices to the wind and many young men and women to prison or a coffin.

The presumption of black guilt is the inability to emphasise or understand the position of a person of colour, particularly a black person; it is the immediate rationalisation that whatsoever the context, the POC is to blame or in some way at fault. Black guilt is intersectional, it appears in an array of social, economic, and gendered contexts. It is the hyper-sexualisation of black women’s bodies, seen as a lustful, raunchy beings with little in the way of intelligence or self-control, our society makes it easy to objectify and blame these women for sexual assault. It is the poisonous logic that black poverty is somehow tied to the very character and morals of black people as a community, and that we are lazy, uneducated, lacking in aspiration, violent and ‘thuggish’. Or that drug usage and the notorious ‘black on black’ crime is someway endemic to blackness. The reality is that years of socio-economic marginalisation in employment, housing, low-wages even within employment, barriers in education and health, combined with the political oppression of institutional racism has created hideous inequality in Britain.

The most obviously hideous face of racism and the black guilt fallacy is within the context of policing and criminal justice in the UK. In a system where blackness is deemed to be synonymous with criminality and inherent violence, even in situations where evidence is not available immediately like the controversy after Rashan Charles, Edson da Costa in Britain or the giant number of police shootings and custody deaths in the U.S with Tamir Race, Mike Brown and Sandra Bland as notable injustices, the common refrain from white liberals and racists alike is always ‘wait for the evidence’, ‘he deserved what he got’, ‘to be expected’, ‘just don’t resist arrest’, ‘simply obey the law and nothing will happen to you’ amidst the usual racist drudge. The dead are blamed for their deaths. Never questioned is they who murdered with impunity, no, their actions are infallible it would seem.

It doesn’t matter how innocent you are or whether you even swallowed the drugs that provided the rationale to brutally choke you to death, that bystander was always going to presume you criminal and defend the attacker. That one should be murdered even if they are is another question that should be answered, drugs are, at the end of the day, a non-violent crime. If one was a drug consumer or dealer, does this warrant death? For in the UK I live in, rapists, paedophiles, corrupt government ministers and war criminals either spend their lives in prison or enjoy liberty. For nothing more than his skin colour, Rashan does not have that option.

No matter how much I use Twitter, I will never understand how ignorant one must be to take pleasure in the death of young black souls. Only an agenda of white supremacy benefits from our powerlessness.

And only persistent, political and powerful resistance can change that.



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