Death row inmate is hardly a victim

Is there no African-American miscreant whose misdeeds are so vile and contemptible that he cannot become a cause celebre in black America?

Apparently not. The latest such candidate for the Victimhood Sweepstakes African-Americans hold on an annual basis is Napoleon Beazley, a 24-year-old black man on Texas' death row. In 1994, when he was 17, Beazley shot John Luttig to death in an attempted carjacking. There is little question about his guilt. 2 co-defendants testified against him. Luttig was killed with a handgun. Beazley was the only one in his party of 3 thugs carrying one.

So what makes Beazley the object of sympathy in the September issue of Savoy magazine, a periodical targeting a black audience? It's Beazley's age at the time he so callously snuffed out Luttig's life. He was "only" 17, a mere juvenile, not responsible for his actions. Or so the article, "Old enough to die?" implies.

"At 17," the beginning of the story by Shawn E. Rhea reads, "Napoleon Beazley wasn't old enough to buy cigarettes or vote, but he was old enough to be sent to death row." This, dear reader, is what is passing for logic on the left side of the African-American political spectrum these days. Sophistry and specious argument rule the day. Because Beazley couldn't vote or buy a pack of Kools, the reasoning goes, he shouldn't be held accountable for cold-blooded murder.

Rhea then gives more details of Beazley's life. His victim gets an obligatory sentence or two, but the more we hear about Beazley, the less sympathy we have for him. He was not some misguided kid from an abusive background with irresponsible parents growing up in poverty. Rhea quotes one woman who said Beazley came from "a fine family with a good background." He starred in four sports in his Grapeland, Texas, high school. He was runner-up for Mr. Grapeland High, was voted Most Athletic in his senior year, served as president of his senior class and tutored some of his classmates. This guy, if he wanted to, could have been in college from the years 1995 to 1999.

But he didn't want to. Instead, he latched onto a gang of hoods and began selling drugs. Later, he got involved with Cedric and Donald Coleman, 2 brothers, and tried to carjack Luttig. The brothers testified against him and got 40 years apiece. Beazley got death and, now, fame as a victim of what is perceived as former Texas governor and now President George W. Bush's zeal for executing juveniles.

Let's take a reality check here. Bush didn't put Beazley on death row. Beazley did. Beazley guns down Luttig, and somehow Bush is the villain? That's the thinking among segments of black America. We black conservatives contend that most African-Americans reject this view. Those who don't, should. Because of guys like Beazley, white Americans view all of us as prone to criminality.

Why are there more black men in prison than in college? The black left whines, whimpers and asks that question almost daily. The truth, they say, hurts. In this case, it's downright excruciating, because the answer is: They choose to be there.

It's not because of white racism, or institutional racism, or poor education or poverty or even because that awful Uncle Tom, Clarence Thomas, is on the Supreme Court. Beazley had a choice. He could have used his athletic ability and success as a student to get a college scholarship. Instead, he hung out with a bunch of rats and ended up on death row. Try as we might, black Americans can't blame whitey for this one.

We can blame ourselves. Who raises black boys into manhood? In 99 % of the cases, it's other black people. We instill the values, but there is a notion among our young men that crime is a cultural imperative. Why else would Beazley, with so much going for him and with a future bright as a sunrise on a cloudless horizon, choose to hang out with the criminal element?

He didn't reveal it in the Savoy article, but it shouldn't surprise us if Beazley fell into the trap of thinking that academic success was a "white" thing and that being a criminal was cool. There are some conservative critics of African-Americans who love to point to statistics that show blacks commit violent crimes far out of proportion to our numbers in the population. Few of these critics note that the problem is not new and is almost a century old.

In 1904, W.E.B. DuBois and other black scholars noted at the Ninth Atlanta Conference on Negro Crime that crime "is a dangerous and threatening phenomenon. It means large numbers of the freedmen's sons have not yet learned to be law-abiding citizens or steady workers, and until they do, the progress of the race, of the South, and of the Nation will be retarded."

By portraying Napoleon Beazley and others like him as victims, we make sure the "progress of the race" will remain impeded. Instead of holding Beazley and others accountable for their actions, we send them a message that no matter how heinous the crime they commit, black America will have their back.

Where is that damn DuBois now that we really need him?

 

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