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What about Racism in the Drug War?


Amidst all the hubbub regarding racism and the cops arising out of the arrest of Harvard University scholar Henry Louis Gates Jr., we should at least mention the biggest outlet for cops who happen to be racists: the war on drugs. As any black living in the poorer part of any community in America will attest, the drug war has long provided racist cops with the perfect excuse for harassing and abusing blacks. And if anyone accuses them of racist conduct in subjecting blacks to harassment, such as with abusive searches and seizures, racist cops have the perfect comeback: I’m just protecting the community with the war on drugs.

One of the best examples of how the drug war provides an outlet for racist cops occurred a few years ago in Tulia, Texas. Law-enforcement personnel busted 46 local residents for drug offenses, 40 of whom were black and the rest were Hispanics or whites who were dating blacks. The bust was based on the uncorroborated testimony of a highly decorated white law-enforcement officer.

Some of the defendants were sentenced to prison terms, one for 99 years. (Hey, who are you going to believe in a drug case — some poor blacks or a highly decorated white police officer?) Others pled guilty and received jail terms. Others got probation.

What better way to remove blacks from a community or at least deprive them of the right to vote than that?

Gradually, however, doubts about the undercover cop’s credibility began to surface. Some of the defendants were ultimately cleared of any wrongdoing. Others have been freed on bond. It is unlikely that any of them will ever go to jail, especially since the state has stipulated in open court that the undercover cop is not a credible witness after all.

What happened in Tulia, however, is just one part of a very big problem — the racism that has long been an inherent part of the war on drugs, a war that should have been ended long ago.

For more information on the racist aspects of the war on drugs, see these excellent perspectives on the website of the Drug Policy Alliance:

The Racial History of U.S. Drug Prohibition

Report Shows Racial Impact of Drug War Policies in Counties Across U.S

A New Slavery

Unequal Under Law: Race in the War on Drugs

Tulia, Texas

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.