War On Drugs Is War On Minorities

“And there wasn’t very many black guys in my position. So when I would go into the war room, where we were setting up all of our drug and gun and addiction task force determining what cities we were going to hit, I would notice that most of the time it always appeared to be urban areas.

“That’s when I asked the question, well, don’t they sell drugs out in Potomac and Springfield, and places like that? Maybe you all think they don’t, but statistics show they use more drugs out in those areas [rich and white] than anywhere.”
Matthew Fogg, former US Marshal and special agent for the DEA

I’ve been saying this for years, but it is nice hearing an insider admit it. This is the obvious truth that we Americans are afraid to face.

In the interview (transcription), Fogg then goes right to the heart of the matter when he says, “What I began to see is that the drug war is totally about race. If we were locking up everybody, white and black, for doing the same drugs, they would have done the same thing they did with prohibition. They would have outlawed it.”

That is a great point. But we forget that Prohibition did target the poor and minorities, just as the War On Drugs does today. The difference was that Prohibition ended up having a broader impact than intended. The drug prohibitionists of today learned the lesson from that failure and so have been more careful to keep drug prohibition from going beyond the narrow focus of attacking the disadvantaged.

Still, once the monster is created, it is hard to control. Like alcohol prohibition before it, drug prohibition has grown and more well off whites are realizing they aren’t as safe from it as they assumed. They didn’t predict how far the police would become militarized and how brazen in their violent tactics. Seeing news reports about innocent blacks being regularly attacked and killed by police gets too much, even for the average white person who lives a safe distance from such violence, for it breaks through the spell of willful ignorance.

So, public support is now turning against drug prohibition for the exact same reason it turned against alcohol prohibition. It just took a bit longer this time around.

9 thoughts on “War On Drugs Is War On Minorities

  1. Pretty much it’s become Jim Crow 2.0.

    I think that Whites are mostly willfully ignorant about this sort of thing.

    Article on this:

    My comment:

    There seems to be a willful ignorance amongst much of the political right on the nature of what is happening in Ferguson. That’s because the political right in the US has defined their ideology in many ways through racial superiority.

    The idea that the African American population of Ferguson (and elsewhere) has been suffering for generations at the hands of the police, along with other institutions doesn’t fit their narrative, which is that the society is a meritocracy. To the political right, African American are have failed to advance into the middle class because of character flaws/racial inferiority. That may sound crazy, but that is what the political right actually believes.

    These incidents do not suddenly flare up. It is clear that for many years, there has been a considerable amount of police abuse and misconduct. The only way for the right to keep up its ideology is through willful ignorance.

    Another problem is social class. The political right opposes progressive taxation because they see the very wealthy as having earned their wealth, while they look upon the African American community with contempt, perhaps as leechers. There would be tons of outrage had the victims been upper middle class mostly white people for example.

    It is difficult to get the political right to see this for what it is. It would mean abandoning their ideology – just like it would mean showing a hardcore fundamentalist Christian the empirical evidence behind Evolution through Natural Selection.

    • It’s a good article in many ways. But the author doesn’t tackle the racism issue directly. That is always a weakness of mainstream media.

      The author thinks that speaking rationally to conservatives will convince them that what is going on is bad and that they should stop supporting it. That misses the point. Conservatives fully understand what is going on and that is why they are supporting it.

      There is something potentially worthy about the author’s attempt to reframe an issue to help some willfully ignorant people to see it with fresh eyes. He is trying to get around the conservative defense mechanisms. But I’m not sure if reframing a racist issue as a government abuse issue is a wise move or an effective method.

      I could be wrong, though. There are many conservatives who are on the fence. It’s easy to forget how powerful the echo chamber of right-wing media can be. Some conservatives are genuinely well-intentioned while being victims of their circumstances. It’s a struggle for any of us to see outside of our familiar reality tunnel.

      I’ve seen how much my father has changed over the years. He was pushed far right for a couple of decades. But now he is shifting back to a more moderate attitude. He has in recent years acknowledged how bad racism has been in our society.

      Some conservatives should just be dismissed. Others, however, are worth trying to persuade.

      A major problem is that the author is taking conservatism at face value. Not all conservativism is about racism, that is true. But nearly all of conservatism is tangled up in racism. Conservatives don’t really care about government abuse or defense of tradition. All of that is just rhetoric.

      That said, there is some advantage to taking rhetoric at face value and demanding conservatives take their own rhetoric at face value, even when you know it is bullshit, just as long as you realize the game you are playing. That is one of my favorite games to play. It can be quite effective. I’m often able to persuade my father by forcing him to take his own rhetoric seriously.

      Other comments:

      I read this piece hoping that it’d do what I don’t have the time to do–examine what the Ferguson report tells us about modern American politics, parties, and ideologies.

      It doesn’t.

      Connor, I urge you to re-think your ideas about what racism looks like, about how racism functions. While this piece does a masterful job of collecting links, it’s incredibly weak in its analysis. Racism is a constitutive element of American conservatism. THIS is why it’s difficult to find American conservatives willing to see Ferguson for what it is. THIS is why Goldwater and Buckley were so wrongheaded about the Jim Crow South.

      No he’s not. He’s trying to shift this entire discussion from being about racism, to one of “government abuses.” Same way a lot of libertarians tried to shift Garner’s strangulation into a story about cigarette taxes.

      But it IS about “government abuses.” Racism was one of the motivating factors, but the mistreatment of citizens by government entities is the central issue, regardless of motives. Friedersdorf thinks that conservatives should be outraged by this, and I agree with him.

      He’s clearly illustrating that this is racism.

      “Some critics of movement conservatism believe that the answer is simply racism. But that label obscures more than it reveals. Many conservative institutions and commentators reject the principles of white supremacy, favor equal rights, and bear no personal animosity toward black people. Yet many of these same people and institutions tend to ignore, downplay, and de-prioritize fixing government abuses when the victims are black, a tendency underscored by the reaction to the Ferguson report.”

      The implication is that if race was not a factor, conservatives would be arguing against the egregious abuses committed by the Ferguson police. Instead they have spent much of their publication space explaining how bullshit this report is and how it’s not racism. That right there is the clearest illustration of conservative racism.

      Conor just didn’t want to explicitly say it because an explicit attack on a movement makes those who abide by it too defensive to even take the points presented seriously.

      Yes. He’s trying (rather hopelessly I believe) to motivate conservative readers to remember their opposition to government overreach — especially forceable overreach. Irrespective of race.

      He can’t; they won’t. The conservative “movement” today is a sausage casing packed with bits and pieces of malice, aging failure, and willful blindness. Movement conservatives “know” that young blacks “deserve” whatever the good boys in blue mete out to them. They “know” that the overweight 40-ish women protesting on those streets are all on the dole. They “know”, “know”, “know”………. all that they need to to feel good about themselves while the future of the nation dwindles into poverty and poorly focused rage.

      What Conor’s article makes clear–at least by implication–is that it’s not “racism” in the sense that movement conservatives hate black people. But it is racism in the sense that they don’t care about systematic, structural abuse when it’s only happening to black people.

      Well said, your students are lucky. I can only add: come off it, Conor. Dancing around the truth staring everyone right in the face helps no one. “Conservatives” care very little about the “size of government” at all, there isn’t a shred of proof otherwise. They care only about their sense of entitlement to power and racism, period.

  2. It is the classic false equivalence. In some ways, it is not too different from global warming or evolution. Creationism and various outfits funded by the oil or coal industries are given equal air time compared to the scientific evidence.

    The reason why I think is that amongst conservatives there is a very powerful confirmation bias at work. They are authoritarian. Facts and evidence simply do not matter over ideologically pure ideas.

    Perhaps the moderate ones have a chance. The hardliners are going to be keeping their beliefs for life.

    The big error the author makes is that he is assuming that the right-wing ideologues want to improve the livelihood of the Black community when they want something that they can look at with contempt.

  3. ” The conservative “movement” today is a sausage casing packed with bits and pieces of malice, aging failure, and willful blindness. Movement conservatives “know” that young blacks “deserve” whatever the good boys in blue mete out to them.”

    An apt analogy! Never underestimate the duplicity of the man! Considering the organized dismantling of the labor movement with results like what happened in Detroit where jobs were yanked away from a thriving and dynamic Black middle class community, what frightens me most is what could be next.

    What if the poor in general are targeted; if the government/corporate complex uses its ‘advanced technology’ aka mind control and chemical modification to decimate those considered marginal – supported by some scientific gobbly-gook theories regarding genetic fitness akin to our old friend eugenics??

    • I don’t know where any of it is heading.

      Those in power are in a tough position. To maintain power, they have to play this game out and create ever new systems of oppression. They are trapped by their own power. Their power manipulations will make things worse and create increasing instability, which will then require more power manipulations. It is a downward spiral.

      The American public is already at its edge of tolerance for this kinds of shit. It won’t necessarily take too many more shoves toward the edge before everything goes over, and that won’t make anyone happy, not even the plutocracy. Everything will depend on how the public responds en masse, as has happened many times throughout US history.

    • Chalmers Johnson has been on my reading list for a long time, but I haven’t yet gotten around to any of his books. I noticed that his work is available as audio as well. I’ll either read The Sorrows of Empire or listen to the audio. I’m sure I’ll find myself agreeing with his analysis and probably not being surprised by anything he shares.

  4. Let’s just say that what is happening in Mexico is not pretty at all.

    For Americans, I suppose the question is what the consequences will be for the average person.

    • Mexico is particularly depressing to my mind. If the US government treats our own neighbors that badly, it doesn’t bode well for US citizens.

      Mexico isn’t some distant land. It is a close sibling of America, as a large part of the US was either part of Mexico or before that part of the Spanish Empire. Plus, the two populations are fundamentally inseparable, which becomes ever more clear as the number of Hispanic Americans grow.

      The two countries have a shared fate. Mexico holds up a mirror to us Americans, and in that mirror we see our own potential future.

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