This week, a diverse group of criminal justice leaders announced a campaign to rid North Carolina’s courthouses of Confederate symbols. At least 39 counties have these racist monuments on grounds that should be dedicated to impartial justice.
The N.C. Commission on Racial and Ethnic Disparities in the Criminal Justice System says it will create a complete database of all Confederate symbols on courthouse grounds; sponsor events to educate the public on the history of these monuments, most of which were erected in the Jim Crow era as symbols of white supremacy; develop a legislative and legal strategy for monument removal; and serve as a resource for communities seeking to remove them.
At NCCADP, we wholeheartedly support this work and see it as closely related to our efforts to abolish the death penalty. Confederate monuments are the clearest symbols of the racist roots that created our modern criminal punishment system and spawned its cruelest punishment, the death penalty.
As our partner organization CDPL points out, many of the 137 people on death row were sentenced to death in the shadows of Confederate monuments, sometimes by all-white juries. [Read one such story here.] Every day that these monuments stand, they continue to harm our communities.
We also should acknowledge that, in the past, NCCADP might have stayed silent on this issue. We might have thought it wasn’t directly related to the death penalty and let others raise their voices instead.