The War On Drugs is Responsible For The Current American Jim Crow Situation

The war on drugs as waged in the USA for the past 35 years is directly responsible for the misery and mass incarceration of multiple millions of Blacks and Latinos in the US. Enormous numbers of young black men are swept up in raids, deprived of all Fourth Amendment rights, arrested, forced to plea-bargain, and are convicted of felonies and thus lose nearly all their civil rights and any chance to go to college and get a good job — for doing the exact same things that young white fellows do, with impunity, every single day, AT IDENTICAL RATES — smoking or selling marijuana, harming no one.

Drunk drivers DO kill people — lots of them. But what do we do with alcoholics who endanger other people’s lives? They might go to jail for a month or so, lose their drivers’ permits for a while, and are given treatment and training to quit their truly dangerous addiction. Their friends and relations are encouraged to take the car keys away. A drunk driver who actually kills people, like the two WV assholes who killed my oldest brother with a car in 1968, seem to serve a few months or years of jail time. Judges and juries have huge amounts of discretion and can sentence guilty parties to anywhere from 0 to 30 years, if they want. Alcohol kills about 75,000 people per year according to the CDC, and tobacco is even more deadly. Both drugs are, obviously, legal.

If it’s a white kid dealing a bit of weed or coke in his/her dorm or apartment or parent’s country club or in a trendy (ie expensive) night club, chances he/she will be swept up in a police or SWAT raid and be locked up or otherwise involved in the criminal INjustice system are close to zero. Today, in many states, he or she can even buy legal weed as medical marijuana once they come up with the cash to go thru the appropriate bureaucratic hurdles.

Nurses and doctors have notoriously high addiction rates to prescription narcotics — as do many celebrities (e.g. Rush Limbaugh). Of course these medicos and celebs do not face life in prison or on parole. They will not be made to spread-eagle over the hood of their car, or be strip-searched when they are arrested, etc etc, even though those painkillers are extremely dangerous and kill tens of thousands every year even when prescribed and used as directed. Their cars, offices, medical equipment and houses are not going to be confiscated. They will not immediately lose the right to practice their profession — or to do any job at all –forever. They will not be subjected to rigid mandatory minimum sentences under a “one strike and you’re out” law. Their kids will not be taken away and placed in foster homes. No, if by chance they are found to be showing obvious signs if addiction and erratic behavior that really does endanger others, they are given treatment. Fine, that’s the right way to treat them.

But if you are black and live in the ghetto, you are in fact much less likely to be a drug user, but are at an insanely higher risk of getting caught if you do. The vast majority of those drug sweeps and random stop-and-frisks retrieve nothing at all. But eventually, the arrests pile up, so much so that in many cities, 3/4 of all black men are felons or otherwise under the control of the criminal INjustice system. And of course, if you look at data supplied by Jocelyn Elders and the CDC, no-one has ever died from an overdose of cannabis. The only forms of marijuana that are directly capable of killing people appear to be hemp ropes and canvas (guess where the word ‘canvas’ comes from?) although if you drive while high you can certainly kill someone.

I am inspired to write this post because I’m reading the book The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander. I cannot recommend it highly enough. Please go out and buy or borrow a copy and ACT on what you learn therein. She makes the case very clearly that the War on Drugs has been directly responsible for the devastation we currently see in the Black community in America. We need to have compassion for its victims, and we need to act.

I would like to issue a call to grant a full and complete pardon to every single person who has been convicted of any felony drug charge involving the use or possession of any drug at all. Or even for the sale of small amounts — especially of marijuana which, as I indicated earlier, is not only harmless but has been shown to be beneficial for a number of medical conditions. We need to bring back the Fourth Amendment protections against arbitrary search and seizure. We need to stop putting black men behind bars and destroying their lives for doing the exact same thing that many other people do — and who never suffer any consequences at all. Marijuana should be completely legalized, so that anybody can grow as much as they want and sell it to anyone. (Tax revenues would help many state and local governments.) Folks who are addicted to other drugs, which are not nearly as harmless (and many of which actually do kill lots of people) should be treated with love and compassion and treated so that they can return to their families and their loved ones. Let’s close down the prisons that are eating up funds that ought to be used to educate and treat people. If we are going to lock people up for a long time and seize their properties, let it be the white collar criminals on Wall Street and companies like Enron who stole Billions of dollars, if not Trillions. Let’s take away their ill-gotten loot, and use it to reimburse the poor folks who had all of their property seized, their civil rights revoked, and who were locked up and made into felons forever, ruining not only their own lives but those of their entire families.

It’s time for reparations.

[ps: I wrote my first draft of this column on a Nook. Bad idea. The “keyboard” is useless, the interface frustrating, and it’s virtually impossible to correct spelling errors. I really do know how to spell fairly well. But between my old finger injury {table saw} and the crappy electronics, if you read the first version, you probably thought I was a blithering idiot like that other drug addict Rush Limbaugh. Speaking of whom, if he gets to keep his millions after being found abusing painkillers, and isn’t labeled a felon for the rest of his life, and serves no jail time whatsoever, then what about all the black guys and gals in prison or on parole for doing the exact same thing, only less?]

Published in: on July 30, 2012 at 12:10 am  Comments (2)  

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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. The war on drugs is a euphemism for war on people of color. This policy scheme unleashed a holocaust on the inner city, effectively stopping forward movement achieved in economic and educational development as a result of the civil rights movement. The government created the perfect storm: expanding immigrant populations, introduction of guns and drugs, constricted opportunities for college entrance and employment. From where I sit, it’s worse now than when I grew up in the 60’s. I’m afraid to think how bad things could get.

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  2. You might want to read; “The Rich Get Richer, The Poor Get Prison.” by AU Prof. Jeffery Reiman, now in its 9th edition over some 30 years. The basic point: The real goal of the criminla justice system is to identify and maintain a percieved threat of harm, labeled as crime, that is perpetrated by the poor, as a disctraction from the greater harms perpetrated by the wealthy and powerful. It is the best explanation of the current state of the US criminal justice system that I have read.

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