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March 11, 2005 - Image 4

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The Michigan Daily, 2005-03-11

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4 - The Michigan Daily - Friday, March 11, 2005


Thez Or! Ai~u le


Editor in Chief

Editorial Page Editors

Managing Editor


He knows the
seriousness of
this. He's not
- Raymone Bain, Michael Jackson's
spokesman, referring to the supposed
back injury that made Jackson late for
his court appearance, prompting the judge
to issue an arrest warrant, as reported
yesterday by The Associated Press.

Crime and punishment

n Tuesday night,
many Michigan
students saw some
of the faces behind the juve-
mile justice system when
Toshi Kazma presented his
photographic series called
"Kids on Death Row." I
could not attend because I
was helping create a play
with eight incarcerated youth
at Maxey Boys Training School.
The U.S. Supreme Court recently struck down
the death penalty for minors, but four justices and
many others in this country would still have them
killed. I wonder how many of these people have
talked to or even seen the kids on their death list. I
don't know the crimes of the guys in my workshop,
but I have seen their humanity and would be horri-
fied if anyone like them were killed in cold blood
by our government. While my partner and I facili-
tate a workshop in a juvenile facility, other students
in Buzz Alexander's English 319 class hold work-
shops in inner-city high schools and adult prisons.
Most of these people have similar backgrounds:
They're passed from shitty school to juvenile facil-
ity to prison; for some, this downward spiral only
stops with the death penalty.
Before getting to the underlying problem with
our justice system, I will call bullshit on two com-
mon arguments for the death penalty.
Retributivists claim "eye for an eye" for mur-
der, but we don't rape rapists in this country; we
don't torture torturers (in theory). In "Justice,
Civilization, and the Death Penalty," Jeffrey Rei-
man says that even if death is a just punishment
for murder, we as members of a civilized society

should abandon the practice. Along with rape and
torture, we must affirm that death is a punishment
too inhumane to be used by our government on
our own people.
The deterrence effect of capital punishment
has not been proven: There is no way to attribute
fluctuating homicide levels to capital punishment
more than other factors. I doubt many - if any
- people would be deterred by capital punishment
who would not already be deterred by life impris-
onment. Reiman suggests that abolishing the death
penalty would itself be a deterrent - by showing,
not telling, people that killing is wrong.
Reiman sums up my fundamental objection
to capital punishment and the American justice
system in general: "Since I believe that the vast
majority of murders in America are a predict-
able response to the frustrations and disabilities
of impoverished social circumstances, and since I
believe that impoverishment is a remediable injus-
tice from which others in America benefit, I believe
that we have no right to exact the full cost of mur-
ders from our murderers until we have done every-
thing possible to rectify the conditions that produce
their crimes." How dare we neglect the poor in this
country, by denying them decent education and
health care, then punish them when they break the
very laws that keep them down. Congress recently
voted against raising the minimum wage, which
doesn't cover basic costs of living, and yet the law-
makers increased their own wages seven times in
the last eight years. These are some of the reasons
why, with 2.2 million incarcerated people in this
country, we have one of the worst track records in
the world for crime and punishment.
On Wednesday night, child advocate Jonathan
Kozol spoke at the League about the vast inequities

in education. While politicians give their own chil-
dren the best education money can buy, they deny
funding to inner-city kids at segregated schools.
Kozol used the term "apartheid" to describe our
schools and said we have regressed beyond Brown
v. Board of Education and Plessy v. Ferguson: We
now have separate and unequal schools. Anyone
who has visited a school in Detroit or any other
major city knows this firsthand. It is no coinci-
dence, then, that our prisons have become increas-
ingly black over the years, along with death row.
People can try to deny the racial disparity of the
justice system, but when I toured a juvenile deten-
tion facility in Philadelphia over spring break, I
saw only a few white kids. When I walked into the
gym at Maxey for a poetry reading honoring Black
History Month, I saw a room filled predominantly
with blacks.
I shudder to think that even one of these boys,
regardless of his crimes, will one day face extermi-
nation by our government. If one of them does and
current practices remain the same, he will be kept
on surveillance before his execution to prevent him
from committing suicide; he will be physically
examined to make sure he's healthy enough to be
killed; he may be offered tranquilizers to numb the
torture of his final moments; then two executioners
may push separate lethal buttons simultaneously so
that neither person feels solely responsible for kill-
ing him. But all of us in this country, through civil
obedience and tax dollars, are helping push those
deadly buttons. We lay our innocent heads at night
and thank Uncle Sam for keeping the real bad guys
locked up.

Cravens can be reached at


Religious defense of Ten
Commandments outdated
After reading Why Scalia is right
(03/10/2005) by John Stiglich, I found a
number of problems with his argument. I
do believe in God and I also believe in
the Ten Commandments. However, I do
not feel the need to have the Ten Com-
mandments displayed outside government
buildings. Stiglich argues that because
the American government was founded on
is the idea of God-given rights, that it is
thus alright to have references to God in
modern-day government. But the prob-
lem is that the American demographic has
changed enormously in the last 200 plus
years. There is a large number of Ameri-
can citizens whose religion does not have
a Ten Commandments in it. By displaying
the Ten Commandments outside of a pub-

lic building, the government is advocating
one form of religion over all others. This is
exclusive and unfair to Americans that do
not have religions with a Ten Command-
ments. In order to be inclusive, the gov-
ernment would either have to remove the
commandments or include symbols of all
the different religions in the country so as
not to show preference. I'm pretty sure it is
not going to do the latter.
The problem with Stiglich's argument is
that he neglects to consider that the fram-
ers of the Constitution did not live in the
diverse country that we live in today. The
framers could not have foreseen all the
different religions that would exist in
America. Stiglich points out how modern
government has references to religion and
uses that as justification for having the Ten
Commandments displayed. Just because
something is current practice does not
make it inherently right. Instead, the gov-
ernment should be looking for ways to rep-

resent its citizens without references to one
or two specific religions. Stiglich needs to
look around him and realize that it is not
1776 anymore.
David Isquick
Engineering senior

Where's the helping hand?

I've always been interested in the unanswered
questions imposed by the affirmative action
debate. Why are minority graduation rates sig-
nificantly less than whites'? Why, on average, are
the GPAs of minority students less than whites'?
In answering these questions, The Right evokes
arcane accusations of anthropological biological
determinism to explain the discrepancy; while the
Left, in its saccharine-coated kindness, espouses
that racism is to blame.
I reject all of these, but we'll get to that later.
The aforementioned questions, something I
like to call The Problem, have two propagators:
the university and the underrepresented minor-
ity students. For the sake of this analysis, we'll
assume that the University wishes to solicit
students from varying backgrounds, locations,
cultures and abilities. The former, however, is
a bit tricky. Is that student with a 4.0 from Ket-
tering High School as prepared for the rigors
of Michigan education as the kid from Ando-
ver? Probably not. If we go by standardized test
scores, we see that mean ACT score for Detroit
d..,i e1 es,- so 167 which r fcnirse,

vision and that my 12th grade math class involved
balancing checkbooks and calculating sales tax, I
immediately beseeched the Comprehensive Stud-
ies Program for help and was promptly paired
with a tutor within the start of classes. This tutor,
while sympathetic toward my plight, was unable
to convey to me the precepts of algebra for me
to understand the equations needed to prosper in
chemistry. Despite going to a tutor, picking up
beginner algebra books from Borders, faithfully
going to office hours, I completely and unequivo-
cally failed Chemistry 130.
There is no crime in admitting a deficient stu-
dent who has the iron-will resolve to rise above
his unfortunate situation. The injustice occurs
when you admit such a student, hand him a
bill for $18,263, do not provide the tools for his
ascension and then, when things don't pan out,
you advise that the student should go to a local
community college. Why bother admitting the
student in the first place? If the University wish-
es to be the bastion of diversity, then it ought to
offer courses that mirror this diversity.
Certainly, minority culture, especially black
culture, doesn't encourage the attainment of
education After all when Kanve's "The Col-

that I would have gotten such a response if I
were white. I once heard white students use the
words "gifted speaker" and "good writer" when
they were talking about Barack Obama (D-Ill.).
I took a quiet offense to that. What they real-
ly meant was to say is that Obama is a gifted
speaker for a black person.
It is these misconceptions that further facili-
tate blacks on campus to bemoan racial inequali-
ties and racism ad nauseam. Unconsciously, we
know that every time a black person goes to read
a speech, poem, or story, it'll have something to
do with these inequalities. Who can blame them
though? Many will come unprepared for the Uni-
versity's academic rigors, and they'll quickly find
out that the University doesn't offer the tools they
need to prosper. Soon, these students from dis-
advantaged backgrounds will realize that they'll
have to work twice as hard as whites to get the
same grades; all the while, they know that if it
were up to their white peers, the programs that
allowed them into the University wouldn't exist.
Wouldn't you be bitter too?
While the University has made extraordi-
nary and praiseworthy attempts to foster diver-
sitv. there seems to be a significant number of


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