"Penalties against possession of a drug should not be more damaging to an individual than the use of the drug itself." President Jimmy Carter 1977.
The facts are overwhelming. The trends are clearly evident. And, the destruction of the African American family and thusly the African American community is existent throughout the country.
Ohio State University Law Professor Michelle Alexander, a one-time clerk for Justice Harry Blackmun on the U.S. Supreme Court writes about the so-called “War on Drugs” in her book, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness. The book examines what the author refers to as, “The cyclical rebirth of caste in America." It is a treatise long overdue and one every American should closely examine.
In our lifetime the United States has become the world's leader in incarceration with 2.3 million people currently in the nation's prisons or jails — a 500% increase over the past 30 years. These trends have resulted in prison overcrowding and state governments being overwhelmed by the burden of funding an ever-expanding penal system. According to Alexander and other experts the catalyst behind the numbers is our nation’s “War on Drugs.”
According to Alexander, “The War on Drugs is a war on African-American people and we countenance it because we implicitly accept certain assumptions sold to us by news and entertainment media, chief among them that drug use is rampant in the black community."
But. The. Assumption. Is. WRONG.
“According to federal figures, blacks and whites use drugs at a roughly equal rate in percentage terms. In terms of raw numbers, WHITES are far and away the biggest users — and dealers — of illegal drugs.”
The Sentencing Project, which has an established reputation in the fight for real justice in this country has some rather disturbing facts regarding the trend to incarcerate black males. “More than 60% of the people in prison are now racial and ethnic minorities. For black males in their 20s, one in every eight is in prison or jail on any given day. These trends have been intensified by the disproportionate impact of the "war on drugs," in which three-fourths of all persons in prison for drug offenses are people of color.”
In fact, Alexander warns us that, "One of three black males born today can expect to go to prison if current trends continue."
The debate has been prevalent in many communities for nearly three-decades. However, until now it has not truly been thrust in front of the American mainstream as President Carter and now Alexander has done.