Sunday, April 5, 2009

War on Drugs: War on Blacks

In a recent article addressing the issue of whether we should legalize drugs, Leonard Pitts Jr., a Pulitzer prize-winning columnist, said, "The War on Drugs came into being under President Nixon, whose chief of staff, H.R. Haldeman, once quoted the president as saying, 'You have to face the fact that the whole problem is really the blacks. The key is to devise a system that recognizes this all while not appearing to.' Small wonder blacks account for 13 percent of the nation's regular drug users, but more than 70 percent of all those jailed for drug use." (Emphasis mine)

For those among us with a metal predisposition to believe that there is a link between black usage of drugs and incarceration for selling them, Leonard Pitts went on to say
"In 1914, when the first federal drug law was enacted, the government estimated 1.3 percent of us were addicted to illegal drugs. In 1970, when the War on Drugs began, the government estimated 1.3 percent of us were addicted to illegal drugs. Thirty-nine million arrests later, he says, the government says 1.3 percent of us are addicted to illegal drugs." (Italics mine)

The failure to address the demand side of drugs from the United States has nearly led to the destabilization of the Mexican government and society. We are all too familiar with headlines about kidnappings in Mexico, but now those kidnappings have spread to the border states of Arizona, New Mexico, California, and Texas. The war on drugs is not only been a failure, it has become counterproductive. It is time for a national rethinking of the way we address the issue of drug abuse.

The prisons of America have become a dumping ground for American citizens with drug abuse problems. That many of these people sell drugs, and therefore are given longer prison sentences is just a simple statement about how poor people pay for their drug habits. America, and it particularly the black population, is paying heavily for the failed strategies of the so-called War on Drugs. The very notion of legalizing marijuana raises the blood pressure of millions of Americans. Parents cringe at the thought of their children being able to legally purchased marijuana. So their children purchase of illegally anyway.

Racism takes many insidious forms. There are the convenient racist notions that blacks are: lazy; more inclined to crime; have lower intelligence; more corrupt than Caucasians; and a host of other demeaning generalizations used to ignore the fact that a significant proportion of the blacks living in America are living in a separate Third World country state of perpetual poverty. The fact that we have an African-American president does not make any of this different.

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