By Moses kamuiru
Blacks comprise 14% of the regular drug users but are 37% of those arrested for drug offenses in the United States. The war on drugs has produced profoundly unequal outcomes across racial groups, manifested through racial discrimination by law enforcement and disproportionate drug war misery suffered by African American Communities. Although rates of drug use and selling are comparable across the racial divide, people of color are far more likely to be stopped, searched, arrested, prosecuted, convicted and incarcerated for drug law violations than are whites.
Biased Law Enforcement
Higher arrest and incarceration rates for Blacks 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, in lower-income communities and communities of color as well as inequitable treatment by the federal and state criminal justice systems. 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-60s.
It’s All Right When It’s All White
This video from hip hop legend Shawn “Jay-Z” Carter and acclaimed artist Molly Crabapple depicts the drug war’s devastating impact on the African-American community from decades of biased law enforcement. The video traces the war on drugs from President Richard Nixon to the draconian Rockefeller Drug Laws to the emerging aboveground marijuana market that is poised to make legal millions for wealthy investors doing the same thing that generations of people of color have been arrested and locked up for. They tend to engage in modern day “Bootlegging.” The Drug Policy Alliance is committed to exposing disproportionate arrest rates and the systems that perpetuate them. They work to eliminate policies that result in disproportionate incarceration rates by rolling back harsh mandatory minimum sentences that unfairly affect urban populations and by repealing sentencing disparities.
Disproportionate Sentencing for African Americans and Latinos
Crack cocaine sentencing presents a particularly egregious case. Since the 1980s, federal penalties for crack were 100 times harsher than those for powder cocaine, with African Americans disproportionately sentenced to much lengthier terms. But, in 2010, the DPA played a critical role in reducing the crack/powder sentencing disparity from 100:1 to 18:1, and we are committed to passing legislation that would eliminate the disparity entirely. The life-long penalties and exclusions that follow a drug conviction have created a permanent second-class status for millions of Americans, who may be prohibited from voting, being licensed, accessing public assistance and any number of other activities and opportunities. The drug war’s racist enforcement means that all of these exclusions fall more heavily on people and communities of color. DPA is committed to ending these highly discriminatory policies and to combating the stigma attached to drug use and drug convictions.
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