Those who cannot - or will not - remember the past indeed may be condemned to repeat it. Knowledge of that peril should spur members of an Ohio Supreme Court committee studying capital punishment to probe whether racial bias has been a factor in condemning people to death.
Justice is supposed to be blind in all ways in America. Yet we know that at times in the past, race played a role in how both victims and perpetrators of crimes were treated.
One of the tasks faced by the high court's Race and Ethnicity subcommittee is determining whether new safeguards are needed to ensure that decisions to impose the death penalty against those guilty of heinous crimes are made objectively and strictly according to the law. There is reason to believe that may not always have been the case.
An Associated Press analysis in 2005 concluded that in the past, those who murdered white victims in Ohio had been more likely to be sentenced to death than those who killed blacks. Other studies elsewhere in the country have demonstrated that in some areas, blacks were more likely than whites to be sentenced to death.
Such studies raise many questions. Chief among them is whether racial biases are a factor today.
Racial bias of any kind in any context is abhorrent to all but an extremely tiny minority of Ohioans. It would be nice to believe it is not a factor in administering justice,
But desiring it does not necessarily make it so.
For that reason is it imperative the state Supreme Court panel discover whether discrimination has occurred, as a basis for guarding against it in the future.
This month, subcommittee members postponed action on a couple of proposals to collect information on racial bias in homicide cases. At the same time, the panel approved important recommendations to guard against discrimination, whether overt or subconscious, in the future.
As disturbing as it may be to learn about bias in the past, the panel should approve collection of data on death penalty cases in the past - with one goal being to determine not just whether it occurred, but also when. Again, not understanding history, especially more recent events, is an invitation to repeating terrible mistakes made in the past.