Why the Drug War Has Been a Forty-Year Lynching
by Bob Fitrakis and Harvey Wasserman
The Drug War has been a forty-year lynching….
…the corporate/GOP response to the peace and civil rights movements.
It’s used the Drug Enforcement Administration and other policing operations as a high-tech Ku Klux Klan, meant to gut America’s communities of youth and color.
It has never been about suppressing drugs. Quite the opposite.
And now that it may be winding down, the focus on suppressing minority votes will shift even stronger to electronic election theft.
The Drug War was officially born June 17, 1971, (http://www.drugpolicy.org/new-solutions-drug-policy/brief-history-drug-war) when Richard Nixon pronounced drugs to be “Public Enemy Number One.” In a nation wracked by poverty, racial tension, injustice, civil strife, ecological disaster, corporate domination, a hated Vietnam War and much more, drugs seemed an odd choice.
In fact, the Drug War’s primary target was black and young voters.
It was the second, secret leg of Nixon’s “Southern Strategy” meant to bring the former Confederacy into the Republican Party.
Part One was about the white vote.
America’s original party of race and slavery (https://zinnedproject.org/materials/a-peoples-history-of-the-united-states-updated-and-expanded-edition/)was Andrew Jackson’s Democrats (born 1828).
After the Civil War the Party’s terror wing, the KKK, made sure former slaves and their descendants “stayed in their place.”
A century of lynchings (at least 3200 of them) (http://www.yale.edu/ynhti/curriculum/units/1979/2/79.02.04.x.html)efficiently suppressed the southern black community.
In the 1930s Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal social programs began to attract black voters to the Democratic Party. John Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson’s support for civil and voting rights legislation, plus the 24th Amendment ending the poll tax, sealed the deal. Today blacks, who once largely supported the Party of Lincoln, vote 90% or more Democrat (http://blackdemographics.com/culture/black-politics/).
But the Democrats’ lean to civil rights angered southern whites. Though overt racist language was no longer acceptable in the 1970s, Nixon’s Republicans clearly signaled an open door to the former Confederacy (https://www.thenation.com/article/why-todays-gop-crackup-is-the-final-unraveling-of-nixons-southern-strategy/).
But recruiting angry southern whites would not be enough for the Republicans to take the south. In many southern states more than 40% of potential voters were black. If they were allowed to vote, and if their votes were actually counted, all the reconstructed Democrat Party would need to hold the south would be a sliver of moderate white support.
That’s where the Drug War came in.
Reliable exact national arrest numbers from 1970 through 1979 are hard to come by.
But according to Michelle Alexander’s superb, transformative The New Jim Crow, and according to research by Marc Mauer and Ryan King of the Sentencing Project, more than 31,000,000 Americans were arrested for drugs between 1980 and 2007 (http://newjimcrow.com).
Further federal uniform crime report statistics compiled by www.freepress.org indicate that, between 2008 and 2014, another 9,166,000 were arrested for drug possession.
Taken together, than means well over 40,000,000 American citizens have been arrested for drugs in the four decades since Nixon’s announcement.
It is a staggering number: more than 10% of the entire United States, nearly four times the current population of Ohio, far in excess of more than 100 countries worldwide.
A number that has gutted the African-American community. A national terror campaign far beyond the reach of even the old KKK.
Justice Department statistics indicate than half of those arrests have been for simple possession of marijuana.
According to US Bureau of Justice statistics, between 1980 and 2013, while blacks were 12% of the population, blacks constituted 30% of those arrested for drug law violations and nearly 40% of those incarcerated in all U.S. prisons. Thus some 20,000,000 African-American men have been sent to prison for non-violent “crimes” in the past forty years.
If the Hispanic population is added in, as much as 60% of drug arrests are of racial or ethnic minorities. \
On the 40th anniversary of the Drug War in 2010, the Associated Press used public records to calculate that the taxpayer cost of arresting and imprisoning all these human beings has been in excess of $1,000,000,000.
Sending them all to college would have been far cheaper. It also would have allowed them to enhance and transform their communities.
Instead, they were taken from their families. Their children were robbed of their parents. They were assaulted by the prison culture, stripped of their right to vote and stopped from leading the kind of lives that might have moved the nation in a very different direction.
Nixon also hated hippies and the peace movement. So in addition to disenfranchising 20,000,000 African-Americans, the Drug War has imprisoned additional millions of young white and Hispanic pot smokers.
Thus the DEA has been the ultra-violent vanguard of the corporate culture war.
In 1983 Ronald Reagan took the Drug War to a new level. Using profits from his illegal arms sales to Iran, he illegally funded the Contra thugs who were fighting Nicaragua’s duly elected Sandinista government.
The Contras were drug dealers who shipped large quantities of cocaine into the US—-primarily in the Los Angeles area—-where it was mostly converted to crack.
That served a double function for the GOP.
First, it decimated the inner city.
Then Reagan’s “Just Say No” assault—-based on the drugs his Contra allies were injecting into our body politic—-imposed penalties on crack far more severe than those aimed at the powdered cocaine used in the white community.
In 1970 the US prison population was roughly 300,000 people. Today it’s more than 2.2 million, the largest in world history by both absolute number and percentage of the general population. There are more people in prison in the US than in China, which has five times the population (http://www.bjs.gov/index.cfm?ty=tp&tid=11).
According to the Sentencing Project, one in seventeen white males has been incarcerated, one in six Latinos, and one in three blacks.
By all accounts the Drug War has had little impact on drug consumption in the US, except to make it more profitable for drug dealers (http://www.bjs.gov/index.cfm?ty=tp&tid=11). It’s spawned a multi-billion-dollar industry in prison construction, policing, prison guards, lawyers, judges and more, all of them invested in prolonging the drug war despite its negative impacts on public health.
For them, the stream of ruined lives of non-violent offenders is just another form of cash flow.
Like the Klan since the Civil War, the Drug War has accomplished its primary political goal of suppressing the black vote and assaulting the African-American community.
It’s shifted control of the South from the Democrats back to the Republican Party. By slashing voter eligibility and suppressing black turnout, the Drug War crusade has helped the GOP take full control of both houses of the US Congress and a majority of state governments across the US.
But the repressive impacts hit everyone, and ultimately enhance the power of the corporate state.
Toward that end, the southern corporate Democrat Bill Clinton’s two terms as a Drug Warrior further broadened the official attack on grassroots America. Clinton was determined to make sure nobody appeared tougher on “crime.” He escalated the decimation of our democracy far beyond mere party politics, deepening the assault on the black community, and the basic rights of all Americans for the benefit of his Wall Street funders. Obama has been barely marginally better.
In political terms, the Nixon-Reagan GOP remains the Drug War’s prime beneficiary. Today’s Republicans are poised to continue dominating our electoral process through the use of rigged electronic registration rolls and voting machines. That’s a core reality we all must face.
But no matter which party controls the White House or Congress, by prosecuting a behavior engaged in by tens of millions of Americans, the Drug War lets the corporate state arrest (and seize assets from) virtually anyone it wants at any time. It has empowered a de facto corporate police state beyond public control.
Regardless of race, we all suffer from the fear, repression and random assaults of a drug-fueled repressive police force with no real accountability.
In the interim, the Drug War is not now and never has been about drugs.
Legalizing pot is just the beginning of our recovery process.
Until we end the Drug War as a whole, America will never know democracy, peace or justice.
THE SIXTH JIM CROW: ELECTRONIC ELECTION THEFT & THE 2016 SELECTION will be released by Bob Fitrakis & Harvey Wasserman by January, 2016. Their CITIZEN KASICH will follow soon thereafter. Bob’s FITRAKIS FILES are at www.freepress.org; Harvey’s ORGANIC SPIRAL OF US HISTORY will appear in 2016.