On November 20, The New York Times published an article titled “Justice Dept. Executes Man for 1994 Kidnapping and Murder,” detailing the execution of Orlando Hall. Later that day, CNN commentator Keith Boykin attempted to apply a racial motivation to Hall’s execution, noting “Hall was a black man convicted by an all-white jury.” He also compared the number of federal executions under the Trump and Obama administrations, presumably implying that the Trump administration have expressed their “obvious” racism through federal execution policy.
While Boykin focused on presenting Hall’s execution as proof of racism, he failed to provide any evidence that the “all-white” jury was driven by a skin-based desire to sentence –or even kill — Hall. He also declined to provide any information regarding Hall’s case. As reported by NBC News, Hall and his accomplices kidnapped 16-year old Lisa Rene in 1994, and then proceeded to rape her over the course of several days, beat her over the head with a shovel, douse her in gasoline, and bury her alive. “A coroner determined that Rene was still alive when she was buried and died of asphyxiation in the grave, where she was found eight days later.”
After significant criticism, Boykin attempted to walk back his implications, saying “My previous tweet expressed no opinion on the facts of this case, but for the record, I remain opposed to the death penalty under all circumstances — no matter the crime, the victim or the perpetrator. Period.”
To clarify, it is perfectly valid to oppose the death penalty “under all circumstances.” But is this what Boykin was attempting to do? If he does indeed believe that the death penalty is unjust “no matter the crime, the victim or the perpetrator,” why did he present Hall as a “black man convicted by an all-white jury?” Why did he mention the race of the accused, while declining to mention his crimes or the race of his victim? After all, 16 year-old Lisa Rene was also black.
Boykin’s logic is indicative of a modern pattern of “innocence based on race,” which attributes or implies innocence based on unsubstantiated assumptions of racism. In many ways, this is a reversal of the decades — if not centuries — of abhorrent racism which attributed guilt based on race. In fact, such “guilt by race” is now assigned to those who used to be — disgustingly — protected by racism of the past. However, while it is important that we acknowledge the undeniable racism of the past, such reversals in an attempt to address these moral crimes are themselves deeply racist.
This is not the first time such arguments have been presented. It was assumed by both Democratic politicians and many in the legacy media, for example, that Jacob Blake was inherently innocent when he was shot by police in August. The fact that police “had been attempting to arrest Blake for allegedly breaking into the home of a woman he knew and then sexually assaulting her” was irrelevant, as was the claim by officers that “Blake resisted arrest and was holding a knife when he was shot.” Because of Jacob Blake’s race, he was viewed as a hero of the “Black Lives Matter movement,” with both Joe Biden and Kamala Harris holding meetings with Blake’s family. According to Ben Crump, Harris even “told Jacob that she was also proud of him.” Blake’s accuser, who is also black, received no such contact nor praise.
In addition, Kyle Rittenhouse was assumed by many to be guilty solely because of his skin color and presumed political affiliation. Despite video evidence that suggests Rittenhouse acted entirely in self defense, countless members of the Left maligned him as a white supremacist. Joe Biden featured him in a campaign ad while Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez condemned his release from jail after posting $2 million in bail as the “protection of white supremacy.”
The only evidence Kyle Rittenhouse is guilty of both murder and harboring white supremacist views? His skin.
A fundamental principle of conservatism is that people are individuals, and that the classification of one’s character by immutable characteristics such as skin color or gender is morally absurd. Through this lens, it is clear that the “innocence by race” assigned to black people and “guilt by race” assigned to white people in modern times is just as repugnant as the appalling legacy of “innocence by race” assigned to white people and “guilt by race” assigned to black people in the past.
If justice is truly the goal, as so many who promote this modern form of racism claim, then the skin color of the alleged victim and perpetrator cannot be the defining factor. As long as we value race over facts, evidence, or context, then we are ensuring that racism remains alive and well. All that has changed is the set of individuals who stand to “benefit” or “suffer” as a result.
The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.
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