I’m a firm believer in the old adage “Actions speak louder than words.” By that measure, many of those anti-bigotry protesters and mainstream pundits who are expressing outrage about recent events in Charlottesville are guilty of rank hypocrisy.
Imagine a big protest in 1859 in Charlottesville in which people are carrying signs saying, “Peace and love” and “Racism is bad” while, at the same time, not one single person is carrying a sign saying “End slavery.”
Imagine a big protest in 1965 in Birmingham in which people are carrying the same types of signs while, at the same time, not one single person is carrying a sign saying “End segregation.”
I’d say that if that were the case, those “Peace and love” and “Racism is bad” protests would ring hollow. What import would such slogans have had given that the protestors were too cowardly to speak out directly against such government programs as slavery and segregation?
That’s the case among many of those anti-bigotry protesters and mainstream pundits who are puffing out their chests in self-righteous indignation over bigotry and racism in America.
Take a close look at their signs, editorials, comments, op-eds, and interviews. I haven’t seen one express any opposition to the one of the most racist and bigoted government programs in U.S. history — the war on drugs. Protesting in favor of “peace and love” and against racism while remaining silent about the drug war is no different from people protesting in 1859 and 1965 in favor of “peace and love” and against racism while remaining silent about slavery and segregation.
The drug war is racist to the core. We all know that. The noted scholar Michelle Alexander calls it the “new Jim Crow.”
But in actuality, the drug war is worse than segregation. Under segregation, the government kept the races separate but at least permitted blacks to continue living in the community. With the drug war, the government removes blacks entirely from the community and relocates them to state and federal penitentiaries, while also, conveniently, taking away their right to vote.
Why is this racist, bigoted government program still in existence? Why hasn’t it been repealed? Why aren’t thousands of people leading protests against it rather than simply protesting in favor of “peace and love” and against bigotry? It’s the height of hypocrisy to be exclaiming against racism and bigotry while remaining silent or, even worse, supportive of this manifestly bigoted and racist government program.
Here is what the Drug Policy Alliance says on its website:
The drug war has produced profoundly unequal outcomes across racial groups, manifested through racial discrimination by law enforcement and disproportionate drug war misery suffered by communities of color.
Although rates of drug use and selling are comparable across racial lines, people of color are far more likely to be stopped, searched, arrested, prosecuted, convicted and incarcerated for drug law violations than are whites.
Higher arrest and incarceration rates for African Americans and Latinos are not reflective of increased prevalence of drug use or sales in these communities, but rather of a law enforcement focus on urban areas, on lower-income communities and on communities of color as well as inequitable treatment by the criminal justice system. We believe that the mass criminalization of people of color, particularly young African American men, is as profound a system of racial control as the Jim Crow laws were in this country until the mid-1960s.
Check out this drug-war video by Jay Z in the New York Times.
Here is what the ACLU says on its website:
With 5% of the world’s population, the United States now holds 25% of the world’s prisoners, winning it the dubious title of the world’s leading jailer. The rate at which we lock up our citizens now surpasses every other country that has ever kept such statistics.
Pervasive racial targeting provides another peculiarly U.S. stamp to the drug war. We are incarcerating African-American men at a rate approximately four times the rate of incarceration of black men in South Africa under apartheid.5 Worse still, we have managed to replicate-at least on a statistical level-the shame of chattel slavery in this country: The number of black men in prison (792,000) has already equaled the number of men enslaved in 1820. With the current momentum of the drug war fueling an ever expanding prison-industrial complex, if current trends continue, only 15 years remain before the United States incarcerates as many African-American men as were forced into chattel bondage at slavery’s peak, in 1860.
See this webpage about Michelle Alexander’s great book The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the ge of Colorblindness. The website states:
The New Jim Crow is a stunning account of the rebirth of a caste-like system in the United States, one that has resulted in millions of African Americans locked behind bars and then relegated to a permanent second-class status — denied the very rights supposedly won in the Civil Rights Movement.
Please, spare me all the empty bromides about “peace and love” and “Racism is bad.” Actions speak louder than words. End slavery. End segregation. End the drug war. Anything less is empty, cowardly, and hypocritical rhetoric.