February 2006 | Issue 38
Why Clemency Is a Joke
In the 1990s, Public Enemy recorded “911 Is a Joke” because the
emergency number didn’t work for poor African Americans who called it
in order to get help.
Recently, FEMA, under the Bush administration and the leadership of
its then-director Michael Brown, showed the world during Hurricane
Katrina that it, like 911, is a joke. It was not there for the poor
people who needed it, though it was supposed to be.
This seems to be the case more often than not when it comes to life
in America for poor people--especially poor African Americans. Because
this is a fact of life, it should not be a real surprise that clemency
in this country and within this state--when it comes to poor people and
particularly poor Black males--is a joke.
If any person deserved clemency, it was Stanley Tookie Williams,
and the reasons why are obvious! Yet the powers that be in California
have shown that--like 911 and FEMA--they will not be there for the poor
folks who called upon them to save a life.
It now appears that the only person who may ever get clemency in
California is the son or daughter or relative of a rich family, should
such a person somehow happen to get sentenced to death row in the first
Then the behind-the-scenes favors will begin to take place--as they
did for Patty Hearst. She didn’t go to death row, but to everyone’s
surprise she did get convicted and sent to jail. Then what happened?
Somewhere down the line, she got pardoned, which is a form of clemency.
Yet none of the poor people who were convicted with her got pardoned.
911, FEMA, clemency and every other program in this country work
for the rich and powerful--the people who need them the least. This
doesn’t seem to bother most people. In fact, many poor people say
that’s just the way it is. And that’s a shame, because it’s real life
and that’s no joke!
In struggle from death row,
San Quentin, Calif.
The New Abolitionist - February 2006; Issue 38
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