Why the ‘Drug War’ is Racist
It’s all fine and good that Trent Lott is no longer Senate majority as a result of his praise for Strom Thurmond’s 1948 race for President, in which Thurmond endorsed segregation. It’s also fine and good that Lott’s fellow members of Congress, both Democrats and Republicans, overwhelmingly condemned his racial insensitivity and elected Bill Frist in his stead.
But given that Congress is filled with people who condemn racism, why is it that most of them continue to embrace and support the most racist government program since segregation—the war on drugs?
Consider the following statistics published by the Drug Policy Alliance (drugpolicy.org):
They didn’t find drugs but that didn’t stop the prosecutions. The government had the testimony of a single undercover police officer, who had often referred to blacks as “n*ggers” and who claimed to have bought drugs from the defendants.
On the basis of his uncorroborated testimony, a black hog farmer named Joe Moore, who is in his late 50s, was sentenced to 90 years in prison. Kareem White, a 26-year-old black man, got 60 years. His sister Kizzie, 25, was luckier—she got only 25 years in prison. Cash Love, a white man who fathered one of Kizzie’s children, was sentenced to more than 300 years.
Hey, why fret about losing segregation when you can just use the drug war to remove blacks entirely from a city and relocate them to a penitentiary hundreds of miles away, possibly for the rest of their lives? And it’s all legal, just like segregation.
A Telling Contrast
We might compare the sentences that the blacks of Tulia received to the treatment that has been accorded to President Bush’s niece (Gov. Jeb Bush’s daughter), Noelle Bush. She first received a jail sentence of three days for possession of prescription drugs that were taken from a medicine cabinet in a nurse’s office. She then tried using a falsified prescription for Zanax, an antiaxiety drug, and the same judge sentenced her to 10 more days in jail. While that charge was pending, Noelle was caught at her drug rehab center with what was allegedly crack cocaine but she wasn’t prosecuted because another Florida judge ruled that a federal law protecting a drug treatment patient’s privacy outweighs the interests of the war on drugs.
So what’s the solution to the racist consequences of the war on drugs? Is it the standard one that congressmen use with respect to failed government programs: “The system needs reform”?
If so, then the obvious question arises: Why haven’t the (nonracist) members of Congress reformed the drug war to eliminate its racist consequences? There can be only one answer: It can’t be reformed—because if it could have been, the (nonracist) members of Congress would have already done so.
Given the manifest failure of the drug war to achieve its purported goals after several decades of warfare, and given the inability of the Congress to eliminate the racist consequences of the drug war, there is one—and only one—solution to racism in the drug war: Forget about reforming the war on drugs and instead end it.
Mr. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation (www.fff.org) in Fairfax, Va.
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This story was published on March 5, 2003.