As an angry and violent young Black man in Los Angeles, Stanley "Tookie" Williams worked to institutionalize violence. He co-founded the Crips; he may even have committed four murders. As a result, a quarter of a century later, he was put to death early this week.


For many years, from a tiny cell in San Quentin, Tookie sought earnestly and effectively to make amends by dissuading young people from joining gangs and doing violence. In this way he hoped to have achieved a kind of redemption.


We who countenanced his execution, for all of our blather about Christianity, are the most violent, least forgiving people on earth. Our principal achievement as a nation, indeed, has been to institutionalize violence in ever-multiplying forms. Millions have suffered premature death or lived miserable lives due to the exercise of our corporate and military power.


By what means shall we be redeemed?