Many people, including yours truly when he was little and didn’t know any better, believed that the War on Drugs was actually about stopping and preventing the sale and usage of illegal drugs. I thought it was a righteous effort to send people who poisoned communities to prison. I thought those who use drugs deserved what they got. Overall, I thought drugs were bad.
That is until I started doing a wee bit of research, especially reading Michelle Alexander’s book The New Jim Crow and realized that the so-called ‘War on Drugs’ was not really about drugs. It was actually more like a war on black people. And recently, someone who has played an enormous role in that war just revealed that it was so.
The internet is abuzz with news of the revelation from one of the deceased and disgraced President Richard Nixon’s top aides. An article from the Vox writes:
A new report by Dan Baum for Harper’s Magazine suggests the latter. Specifically, Baum refers to a quote from John Ehrlichman, who served as domestic policy chief for President Richard Nixon when the administration declared its war on drugs in 1971. According to Baum, Ehrlichman said in 1994 that the drug war was a ploy to undermine Nixon’s political opposition — meaning, black people and critics of the Vietnam War:
At the time, I was writing a book about the politics of drug prohibition. I started to ask Ehrlichman a series of earnest, wonky questions that he impatiently waved away. “You want to know what this was really all about?” he asked with the bluntness of a man who, after public disgrace and a stretch in federal prison, had little left to protect. “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.”
There you have it, folks. The War on Drugs that began in the 1970’s after the Civil Right’s Era was a ploy to launch an attack against the left who opposed the war and black communities. Is Ehrlichman honest about his confession? It’s hard to say. Regardless of whether he is or not, one cannot deny that this war devastated numerous black communities.
When you think about it, it’s hardly a surprise given this nation’s history of racism against black people. The War on Drugs was just another white supremacist plan to oppress black communities the same way the Black Codes and the original Jim Crow did back in the day. It was crafted to be a legal cover to hide it’s true intentions in an already violently divided nation meant to not only keep black down but to also criminalize their collective image. Because of it, the stereotypical image of the drug dealer being a young black male from the hood became prominent up to this very day. Vox continues.
Although black Americans aren’t more likely to use or sell drugs, they’re much more likely to be arrested for them. And when black people are convicted of drug charges, they generally face longer prison sentences for the same crimes, according to a 2012 report from the US Sentencing Commission.
Call me a skeptic, but I believe that if the War on Drugs is somehow discontinued, America will find other ways to criminalize black people, and in some cases, it has. History shows that after one form of oppression “ends” or subsides, another one is implemented. Then again, they don’t really end. They just get reformatted in a more cloak-and-dagger kind of way that will trick the average person that it doesn’t have anything to do with racism when it actually is.