Dehumanization is a slow death.
The Charlotte Post Foundation continued its Black Lives Matter Charlotte series focusing on the making of black-on-black crime tonight at the Little Rock AME Zion Cultural Center.
“We rarely get to the point of taking action,” Foundation board member Tiffany Capers said. “Understanding can lead to change.”
Capers noted that intraethnic crime isn’t as prevalent as public perception suggests: 63 percent is black-on-black and 57 percent white-on-white, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Charlotte defense attorney Henderson Hill led a conversation surrounding the dehumanization of the incarcerated in the second in a three-part series addressing the larger issue. Hill is executive director of the 8th Amendment Project, which coordinates the national campaign to end the death penalty.
“How many ways can you dehumanize a person?” Hill said. “There are young men who will die in prison with their sentences. We have effectively given them a form of the death penalty.”
Hill began by presenting a statistic: “90 percent of black homicide victims were killed by black men…83 percent of white homicide victims were killed by white perpetrators.”
“There are different ways we measure black-on-black crime,” he said.
While numerous positions of power in Mecklenburg County are held by people of color, for instance Charlotte Mayor Vi Lyles, County commissioners Chair Ella Scarborough and Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Kerr Putney, audience members insisted it is not enough —they must be held accountable.
“As African Americans, what we need to start doing is recognize our political power, but also balance it out with political accountability,” said former Black Political Caucus leader Colette Forrest. “Black folks will call white politicians out in a minute, but we don’t call our own folks out, and we have to do that, because if we are taking over these offices, and we are getting elected to these positions, we too have to have to help us. Not break the rules, not give us a hookup, but to help people.”
Said Hill: “We don’t even put the government to its own test. It rots from the top.”
Hill said growing sentiment toward eliminating the death penalty indicates change is possible.
“Hopefully then we can convince people that it’s wrong to lock someone up, and just throw away the key,” he said. “This notion that justice can only mean punishment, we’ve got to break. In your faith communities, in your civic organizations, you have got to send this message to your political leaders. The solutions are really pretty clear.”