Abstract

"Dear Mama, They Sentenced Me to Death: Black Lives Matter and the Death Penalty"

The abolition of capital punishment is among the reforms the Black Lives Matter movement has called for in response to what it calls "the war against Black people" and "Black communities" in the United States. Drawing on the large body of studies indicating discrimination against Blacks both as capital defendants and as murder victims, the movement asserts that the death penalty in the U.S. is a "racist practice" that "devalues Black lives.” In our discussion, we defend the Movement’s abolitionist stance, by showing (1) how U.S. capital punishment practices represent a wrong to Black communities rather than simply a wrong to particular Black individuals, (2) that these practices cannot be explained without reference to implicit racial biases likely to influence capital punishment decisions reached by prosecutors, judges, and juries, and (3) that only abolishing the death penalty adequately addresses these wrongs.

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