By Joe Klare
“The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and black people, you understand what I’m saying? We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin. And then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders. raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.”
– John Ehrlichman, Domestic Policy Chief for President Nixon
Like it or not, the United States has a long history of oppressing black people. Slavery, segregation and the continued destruction of the black community through the War on Drugs is a big part of our history. We can ignore it, or we can learn from it. Part of learning from mistakes of the past is learning not to continue those mistakes under a different name.
After the Civil War and the freeing of the slaves, racist white people needed a new way to separate black culture from white culture. Out of this need, Jim Crow Laws — laws designed to segregate blacks from whites in society and make sure black people had a much tougher time advancing in society overall — were born.
The 1950s and 1960s brought massive change to the U.S. and most vestiges of Jim Crow were wiped away from the law books. But in so many ways, the War on Drugs — a war whose origins are discussed in the quote above — has replaced Jim Crow as the latest systematic way in which black people are held down in American society.
Anyone who knows me knows I’m one of the last people to yell “racism” when an issue is discussed, but in the case of the War on Drugs being a continuation of Jim Crow, the evidence is hard to ignore. Here are just the top ten ways in which the War on Drugs is a continuation of Jim Crow Laws.
1. Black men are arrested for drug crimes at a rate that far exceeds whites, even though both races show similar drug usage rates
According to a report by Human Rights Watch, during the period from 1980 to 2007 “adult African Americans were arrested on drug charges at rates that were 2.8 to 5.5 times as high as those of white adults.” In some cities and counties in the U.S., that rate can exceed 10 to 1.