In pretty much every aspect, racism was the motivation for the beginnings of the drug war. And even when it is not consciously or actively racist in intent, it still ends up racist in its implementation.
15% of those who use drugs are African-Americans. Yet they make up 37% of those arrested for drug charges, 59% of those convicted, and 74% of those in prison for drugs. (Source)
So where are these enlightened Democratic front-running candidates when it comes to changing such racist policies? The silence is deafening.
When a small part of the racist sentencing laws were finally changed, Hillary Clinton wasn't so sure that the changes should be retroactive, until a mostly-Republican sentencing commission unanimously said that they should, of course, be retroactive.
Obama, while proud of his ability to overcome his youthful indiscretions, nevertheless apparently believes that other black youth don't have the ability to do so, as he has bragged about pushing for tougher laws for drug offenders when he was a legislator in Illinois.
While the top-tier Democratic candidates have a variety of positions on drugs, and some of them have tepidly supported not raiding medical marijuana patients in states where it's legal (but so did George Bush in 1999), and some have made noises about sentencing reform, they have not come out swinging against the major racist institution in this country, unlike Kucinich and especially Paul.
When some Kossacks bring up the drug war as an important issue that should be faced by Democrats (or when others on the left do so), they are often shouted down by those claiming that it is politically unwise to place any political capital in supporting pot-heads. And so more blacks are imprisoned and more families are disrupted and more Democrats are disenfranchised!
Ironically, it was Tip O'Neill's frantic desire to be seen as tough on drugs as the Republicans that led to the most racially disparate laws of them all -- the cocaine sentencing nightmare that has only recently been partially addressed. Some of the result:
- 81.4% of crack cocaine defendants in 2002 were African American, while about two-thirds of crack cocaine users in the general population are white or hispanic.
- The average sentence for a crack cocaine offense in 2002 (119 months) was more than three years greater than for powder cocaine (78 months). (Source)
- In 10 states African American men are sent to state prison on drug charges at rates that are 27 to 57 times greater than those of white men in the same state. (Source)
Largely because of these Democratically-led increases in the drug war, Republicans were allowed to prevent one in four black men in Florida from voting in 2000. Gee, I wonder how that turned out?
All due to our fear of appearing "soft on drugs." Well, this is what being "tough" has gotten us:
- In South Africa in 1993 under apartheid, 851 black males per 100,000 were incarcerated.
- In the United States in 2004 under the drug war, 4919 black males per 100,000 were incarcerated.
The United States has 5% of the world's population, and 25% of the world's prison population. These are problems that won't be solved by following the talking points we hear on the campaign trail.
Maybe Ron Paul is a racist. But he isn't interested in promoting or continuing the racist drug war. He is, in fact, the only candidate who has consistently voted against every aspect of the drug war. And the drug war is the most racist thing in this country that a Presidential candidate could actually do something about.
I think the drug war has been arguably the single most devastating, disfunctional, harmful social policy since slavery.
-- Norm Stamper, former chief of the Seattle Police Force
Sure, we've got Kucinich. But why are the other Democratic candidates so racist?
For more on racism and the drug war, see:
-- Drug War Facts
-- The Color of the Drug War by Silja J.A. Talvi
-- Reinforcing Racism with the War on Drugs by Holly Sklar
-- Racism and the Drug War by Jacob G. Hornberger
-- Victory in Tulia, But Not in Drug War by Earl Ofari Hutchinson
-- Drug Policy: Racial Justice - ACLU
Comments are closed on this story.