The War on Drugs = The War on Minorities?
Some might say the question I pose is a stretch, but is it? Ever since the Reagan era and the birth of the War on Drugs, minorities have been prosecuted, sentenced, and imprisoned for the distribution and possession of drugs.
Black and Latino men and women are sitting in jail for the sale of small amounts of marijuana, a substance that’s now legal in four states and Washington DC. Now, I’m not arguing that selling drugs is acceptable. It isn’t. Rather, I’d like to shine a light on the unjust practice of law enforcement targeting minorities.
The War on Drugs is a Manhunt
That says it all. The War on Drugs is a manhunt. It’s an all out blitz to find drugs at any and all costs. The most precious things thrown by the wayside are individuals’ rights. As a result of numerous less-than-savory practices, the divide between law enforcement and those living in low-income areas grows.
Protected under the flimsy idea of “cleaning up the streets,” the police have lost all sight of civil rights. So how does a tragedy like Ferguson happen? Why does it seem the police feel justified in there extreme actions. For that matter, why is it that most of us assume what happened is unjust. Because police have been conditioned to distrust the citizens and take extreme action. In turn, citizens are conditioned to mistrust the police and assume they always take extreme actions. Because that’s what our police officers are trained to do.
That sounds like hyperbole, right? Well, take a look at policies like New York City’s Stop and Frisk. The New York Civil Liberties Union had the following to say,
“The NYPD’s stop-and-frisk practices raise serious concerns over racial profiling, illegal stops and privacy rights. The Department’s own reports on its stop-and-frisk activity confirm what many people in communities of color across the city have long known: The police are stopping hundreds of thousands of law abiding New Yorkers every year, and the vast majority are black and Latino. An analysis by the NYCLU revealed that innocent New Yorkers have been subjected to police stops and street interrogations more than 4 million times since 2002, and that black and Latino communities continue to be the overwhelming target of these tactics. Nearly nine out of 10 stopped-and-frisked New Yorkers have been completely innocent, according to the NYPD’s own reports.”
Yes, the NYCLU is talking about New York, not Ferguson. Still, the fact that these policies are acceptable and implemented in the first place speaks volumes. Once again, it becomes readily apparent that law enforcement’s approach to fighting the War on Drugs is one that does more harm than good.
Is the War on Drugs Really a War?
Before we go any further, let’s define what war actually is. Wikipedia defines war as “an organized and often prolonged conflict that is carried out by states or non-state actors. It is generally characterized by extreme violence, social disruption and an attempt at economic destruction…”
By this definition (extreme violence, social disruption, attempted economic destruction), the War on Drugs is, without a shadow of a doubt, a war. It’s a war on communities like Ferguson. No wonder the situation there has reached a boiling point. I’m just surprised it hasn’t happened sooner.
The citizens of Ferguson, and many other communities like it, seem to be fighting a war for their basic freedoms. That’s a fight many of us have never had to face. Riots are certainly no solution to the problem, but it’s an understandable reaction to decades of unfair police practices.
What’s the Solution?
The sale of drugs is rampant across America. The use of drugs is rampant across America. Addiction is rampant across America. So, how do we solve the problem? Well, the first step is starting to deal with addiction properly.
Instead of treating the problem, we throw people, more often that not minorities, in jail. This does nothing but compound the problem. Now, someone struggling with addiction is imprisoned with thousands of others struggling with addiction. It’s no wonder drug abuse is so prevalent in jails and prisons.
Taking a good look at the root of the problem, it’s glaringly obvious that there’s a lack of proper treatment for addiction. Okay, fair enough. Everyone knows that, though. It’s no surprise that there aren’t enough substance abuse treatment options available in the U.S.
I think this lack of treatment options ties directly in with the abuse authority figures bestow upon citizens. It’s no wonder people go to jail and come out with a chip on their shoulder. They’ve been abused by police every step of the way.
Imagine if police in our neighborhoods behaved in the same fashion they do in low-income areas. That would never stand. That would never be acceptable.
So, what’s the solution? Simple. We end the War on Drugs and start the peace treaty on drugs. We treat the problem instead of fighting it. Our current approach is brutal, barbaric, and inhumane. This is a direct result of a lack of education, understanding, and compassion. Police are trigger-happy and have grown accustomed to doing whatever it takes to “find the dope.”
If our attitudes, and those of people in positions of power, don’t seriously change, there are going to be more Ferguson, Missouri’s.