Before We Say ‘No More Drug War,’ We Need to Shout ‘Black Lives Matter’ and ‘Not One More’
The majority of those arrested and prosecuted for drug violations are people of color even though they engage in drug use at similar levels as their white counterparts.27 Jun 2016
In the summer of 2014, after serving 18 years of a life sentence on felony drug charges, Jason Hernandez of Denton, Texas became the first Latino to receive clemency from the Obama administration. His life became intertwined with the failed war on drugs when, as a teenager, he began selling marijuana and crack cocaine to meet the growing demand in his neighborhood. Jason’s incarceration did not stymie the flow of drugs into Texas nor did it make his community any safer, it simply created a vacuum for someone else to fill while also perpetuating the criminalization of an already afflicted community.
Jason had yet to be born when President Richard Nixon declared that America’s public enemy number one in the United States was drug abuse. In response to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s campaign for civil rights, Nixon linked crime to civil disobedience. In 1968, Nixon said: “Doubling the conviction rate in this country would do far more to cure crime in America than quadrupling the funds for [the] War on Poverty.” Consequently, incarceration rates began their unprecedented rise during Nixon’s second term.
Nixon would go on to create the Drug Enforcement Agency and profess to the world that “this Administration has declared all-out, global war on the drug menace.” Still, 45 years since then, we have come to realize that his “all-out” global war has succeeded in menacing immigrant communities and communities of color—as intended—but has been an abject failure in reducing the proliferation of drug consumption in the United States.
In 2014, nearly 1.3 million arrests were made for drug possession while nearly one-quarter of a million people were deported between 2008 and 2014 for drug convictions. The majority of those arrested and prosecuted for drug violations are people of color even though they engage in drug use at similar levels as their white counterparts. People of color also receive harsher sentences than white people for the same violations.Share this on: