Date: Feature Week of
July 18, 2004
WHAT CHANGES DO YOU WANT TO SEE FROM THE 2004 ELECTIONS?
The African American community needs to get America’s bad habit - “The War on Drugs” - dropped like a hot potato!
In contrast to the funds our communities need for parity in America, the U.S. Federal Government spent $19.18 billion in 2003 on the War on Drugs – a rate of $600 per second – mostly to the detriment to African Americans. States and local governments spend another $20 billion each year on the drug war. Across America, someone is arrested for drug offenses every 20 seconds. Almost a quarter million people – a disproportionate number black - are expected to be incarcerated for drug law violations in 2004.
White politicians continue to appeal to their main constituents with “get tough” rhetoric and punitive legislation in service to the War on Drugs. In reality, black voters need to check them on that; because in reality, what they are engaged in is a war on African Americans. The drug war has failed and African Americans have been its primary casualties. The impact of drug marketing and drug enforcement continues to be socially, economically and politically devastating on the African American communities.
Isn’t it time to look for less oppressive, less destructive and more creative and humane solutions to the drug situation? The damage being done to black citizens and their children is akin to genocide. Black voters’ demands for cessation of the War on Drugs can only have positive economic impact on our communities. Currently, illegal drug sales activity represents the largest source of teenage economic activity in urban communities. Legalization and regulation of the distribution of some drugs could provide much-needed entrepreneur opportunities for local citizens.
The U.S. spends nearly $40 billion annually on the drug war and problems related to drug abuse continue to worsen. Politicians and government officials need to be made acknowledge that drug abuse is a health problem with broad social and economic consequences. And, their political and legislative activities directed toward solutions that provide public health, social services and economic development and addict support, not punishment. Law enforcement should be at the edges of drug control not at the center. It’s time government lawmakers to bring some illegal drugs within the law by regulating, taxing and controlling them. Ending the drug war will dramatically reduce street crime, violence and homicides related to underground drug dealing. Instead of accepting politicians that still maintain status quo positions, African American voters must change out the War on Drugs with health-based, treatment and prevention-focused approaches.
Due to the racial injustices caused by the drug war, black voters supporting drug policy reform can actually help end one form of racial inequality. Despite the fact that drug use is more or less consistent across racial lines, many punitive drug laws are based on beliefs that certain communities of color commonly abuse certain substances. There are an estimated 9.9 million whites (72 percent of all users), 2.0 million blacks (15 percent), and 1.4 million Hispanics (10 percent) who are current illicit drug users. Yet, blacks constitute 36.8 percent of those arrested for drug violations, 50 percent of those in federal prisons for drug violations. African-Americans comprise almost 58 percent of those in state prisons for drug felonies; Hispanics account for 20.7 percent.
Estimates place the value of the global trade in illegal drugs at around $400 billion per year. The illegal drug trade is multi-layered and often multi-national, with African Americans being at the chain of manufacturers, processors, distributors, wholesalers and retailers. Most of the profits go outsider’s up-the-chain; but black retailers are the principal victims of the War on Drugs and its racial disparities. At every stage of the criminal justice system process, people of color are treated unfairly. It begins with police focus on our communities and use of racial profiling. It continues with prosecutorial discretion on how people are charged, or not charged, and the types of plea agreements that are negotiated. In the end, it shows itself in sentencing decisions by judges and the application of post sentencing relief by parole officers.
The United States prison binge has resulted in over a million black people being incarcerated – it could be considered, perversely, the nation’s largest public housing project. These prisoners have no income, and usually have young children at home, a part of some phase of the public welfare system. To reverse this condition we need to restore due process, judicial discretion and constitutional restraints on law enforcement that violate equal protection and due process of law.
Surely, you’d agree that there’s been enough oppression, chains and cages around blacks regarding the issue of drugs. Will your vote demand that, “it is time to end this senseless war”?
© 2000-2004 William Reed - www.BlackPressInternational.com