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Why Is the Media Ignoring the Racist War on Drugs?


One of the unfortunate aspects of the presidential race, so far, has been the refusal of the media to bring up one of the most important issues of our time — the drug war, especially given its racist consequences.

While the decades-long drug war has destroyed countless American families, the part of American society that has paid the biggest price is African Americans. The drug war is the biggest racist government program since segregation. For a good reference for the racist aspects of the war on drugs, one can begin with the following articles posted on the website of the Drug Policy Alliance:

Is the Drug War Racist?

The Racial History of U.S. Drug Prohibition

A New Slavery

Rockefeller History

What better way to disenfranchise blacks than through felony drug convictions? Just think — you don’t need to have members of the Ku Klux Klan threatening blacks who vote. All you need is some well-placed drug-war informants who testify that blacks are ingesting drugs and — voila! — felony convictions that deprive them of their right to vote.

Consider what happened, for example, in Tulia, Texas. An acclaimed (white) law-enforcement officer was able to wipe out a large section of the black community in town by testifying that blacks had purchased drugs from him. His testimony enabled the judge and jury to send the defendants to jail for decades.

Think of the beauty of such a program, at least from the standpoint of bigots, and the advantages it has over segregation. With segregation, racists are able to keep blacks within restricted zones within a community. But with the drug war, they’re able to remove the blacks entirely from a community and restrict them into the walls of a prison. And also deny them the right to vote.

The Tulia victims were lucky. Their lawyers were ultimately able to gain their release by showing that that acclaimed (white) law-enforcement officer had committed perjury.

But how many others are languishing in prison for drug offenses, either false or legitimate?

Ask yourself: Why should anyone be in prison for possessing or ingesting drugs? Why should the state have that power over anyone? How can drug laws be reconciled with the fundamental principles of freedom? What business does the state have in punishing a person for doing something that doesn’t involve the initiation of force against another person? Should the state really have that kind of power over people in a free society?

As most everyone knows, life can sometimes become very difficult. Some people able to confront the difficulties of life without the help of mind-altering substances, but others are unable to do so. The rich and well-to-do can go to their friendly doctor and get a prescription for Prozac or Zoloft to help them get through life’s pains. The poor oftentimes cannot afford such legal luxuries and thus turn to cheaper stuff, such as marijuana or cocaine.

Hardly anyone is going to argue that any of these substances is healthy but the fact is that some people need them to get through the difficulties of life. Shouldn’t that be their business rather than the business of the state? Wouldn’t it be better if we treated every person — rich and poor, white and non-white — with the dignity of letting him make his own choices in life, even when such choices are ones with which we disagree? Anyway, isn’t there a much better chance that a drug addict is going to seek help with a drug addiction when he can be open and aboveboard with people about his problem without fearing like he might be busted and sent to jail?

In December, in an article entitled “Report Shows Racial Impact of Drug War Policies in Counties across U.S.,” the Drug Policy Alliance stated,

“A new report by the Justice Policy Institute found that 97 percent of the nation’s large-population counties imprisoned African Americans at a higher rate than whites. Of 198 counties examined in the report, 193 showed racial disparities in the use of prison for drug offenses. While African Americans and whites use and sell drugs at similar rates, the report revealed that African Americans are ten times more likely than whites to be imprisoned for drug offenses.”

Maybe the reason that the media is choosing to not focus on the drug war during the presidential race is that it would prefer to let sleeping dogs lie. Why stir up people needlessly, especially since African American politicians seem to be rather silent on the subject?

But sometimes sleeping dogs should be stirred up. Perhaps it’s time for American blacks to do the stirring, since they are paying the biggest price for one of the most racist government programs in American history.

This post was written by:

Jacob G. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation. He was born and raised in Laredo, Texas, and received his B.A. in economics from Virginia Military Institute and his law degree from the University of Texas. He was a trial attorney for twelve years in Texas. He also was an adjunct professor at the University of Dallas, where he taught law and economics. In 1987, Mr. Hornberger left the practice of law to become director of programs at the Foundation for Economic Education. He has advanced freedom and free markets on talk-radio stations all across the country as well as on Fox News’ Neil Cavuto and Greta van Susteren shows and he appeared as a regular commentator on Judge Andrew Napolitano’s show Freedom Watch. View these interviews at LewRockwell.com and from Full Context. Send him email.