Convicted murderer of four and founder of the notorious Crips gang, Tookie Williams, is gone, executed under the death penalty of the state of California. Now those who protested his conviction, and worked for his clemency, want him to be remembered as a hero.
However, these folks should appreciate that their efforts are undermining any credibility and efficacy that there might have been in the words of remorse that Williams left behind.
The picture they choose to portray, of a justice system hopelessly racist and tilted against blacks, supplies nothing but oxygen to the culture of destruction and violence that sustains the very gangs that Williams supposedly wanted to discourage.
I say "supposedly" because his own words and behavior, up until the end, lend credibility to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's concern that Williams' "redemption" was "hollow."
Redemption, after all, is not a declaration but a transaction. It involves one seeking it and one granting it. The more appropriate word for the one seeking it is penitent. Yet, as I look over Williams' words, I see no reference to repentance but a lot of claims to redemption.
Williams made redemption an entitlement, declaring himself his own redeemer and granting himself his wish.
His defiance _ the defiance that sustains gangs and the culture of "us against them" _ was evident in a final interview that he gave. He said that the redemption that he wanted to be his legacy is "something that I believe is not exclusive just for the so-called sanctimonious, the elitists." Not exactly the sentiments of what one would expect from a humble penitent.
Who exactly are the "elitists" that Williams thought claim redemption as their exclusive territory? Surely, they must be those with the temerity to have suspected his guilt.
So, with irony that he seemed not to appreciate, he sought clemency from a system whose legitimacy he rejected and from authorities who, in his mind, were sanctimonious elitists.
Now Williams' entourage wants to carry forth the message that the problem was not the man, but the system.
Despite eyewitness testimony to one of the murders, witnesses to his confession, ballistic analysis relating the shotgun casing from one of the murders to his shotgun, and 25 years of review after review of the case in state and federal courts, Williams' entourage not only refuses to accept his conviction, but even to recognize that there is a remote chance that justice was done.
A Los Angeles Times journalist touched the central nerve of the controversy, identifying the "dueling goals of redemption and retribution."