What Tom Keith really thinks about the Racial Justice Act

For North Carolinians who ever questioned the Racial Justice Act, Tom Keith is Exhibit A.

Keith, the district attorney for Forsyth County, is always quick to make a case against the new law that allows criminals on death row a chance to have their convictions overturned if they can prove race played a part in their conviction.

But in an Aug. 26 interview with Yes Weekly of Greensboro, Keith clearly displayed why the Racial Justice Act is so important. The top law enforcement official in Winston-Salem, it appears, believes African-Americans are naturally inclined to crime.

“If you’re African-American, you’re six, seven or eight times more likely to have a violent history,” Keith said in the article. “I didn’t go out there and put a gun in your hand and say, ‘You commit eight crimes and I’m a white man, I’ll commit one.’ That’s just instincts, that’s just how it is.”

Today, a group of pastors and other Forsyth County residents held a rally to demand Keith’s resignation. For them, it’s not acceptable that their district attorney holds views that echo Jim Crow.


  1. Rob B

    September 8, 2009 at 6:46 pm

    Obviously his historical perspective doesn’t go past breakfast.

    His is a dying breed, hopefully.

  2. Curmilus Dancy II

    September 8, 2009 at 10:35 pm

    Quote: “The world is a dangerous place to live, not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don’t do anything about it.” Albert Einstein

    I am glad to see some Pastors stepping up to the plate.

  3. Dash

    September 9, 2009 at 10:11 pm

    Now that Yes! Weekly has officially recanted their quote and admitted that Tom Keith said “statistics” and not “instincts,” shouldn’t you offer a retraction since he simply quoted Justice Department stats?

  4. barbara

    September 11, 2009 at 2:30 pm

    His remarks don’t seem too controversial to me. Unfortunately, the progressive (the title they have given themselves) community wants everything to be politically correct- at the expense of addressing a very serious problem. Let’s acknowledge the higher prevalence of violence within the African-American community and take a look at the socio-economic factors which contribute to this including a large percentage of absentee fathers, neighborhoods at or below the poverty line. Let’s not be foolish enough to pretend that this is not a problem or that anyone who addresses it is simply racist.

  5. Charmaine Fuller Cooper

    September 11, 2009 at 4:29 pm


    Thank you for your remarks. You are correct that socioeconomics are huge contributors to criminal justice problems. I will not speculate on any ‘isms’ that DA Keith may have especially since YesWeekly has admitted to flaws on DA Keith’s quote. However, your argument lacks two key issues.

    Where are some of the fathers in the black community? Currently, at least 20,000 of the black fathers are locked up in North Carolina prison cells when many could be better served by community programs in their communities that will allow them to maintain family relationships and some hope of a job.

    Secondly, when we, as citizens of North Carolina, fail to admit that many power players in this state come to the decision-making table with assumptions and prejudices about people that can sway any given argument, that is the strongest denial of the problems that our criminal justice system faces. Until we, citizens and elected officials alike, admit that we each have certain key assumptions and prejudices that none of us are without, we shall never address the dynamics of economics, politics, race and crime.

    Thank you for sharing and admitting the role that socioeconomics play.

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