A Modern Story of Pervasive Racism: America's War on Drugs


Black and Behind BarsToday’s story of racism against black Americans isn’t a common topic of dinner conversation or pundit debate…. it’s an underlying issue that hasn’t received much buzz, but it’s affecting a vast number of black Americans. Whites use and sell drugs in America more than blacks, yet blacks are arrested and incarcerated more than whites.

According to a Human Rights Watch report, 82.6 million white people in America have used an illicit drug in their lifetime compared with 12.5 million black people. This isn’t the case just for one drug, or most drugs… this is the case for all drugs. A surprise to the conventional wisdom, 5.6 million whites have used crack cocaine compared to 1.5 million blacks. It’s not just use either that is disproportionate in this way; between 2005-2006 2.5 million whites sold illicit drugs compared with 712,000 blacks.

A study by The Sentencing Project, however, shows that a black person is 3.4 times more likely to be arrested for drugs than a white person. The discrepancy between blacks and whites arrested for drug crimes transcends all 43 major US cities; more black people (per capita) are arrested that white people (per capita) in all 43 major US cities.

Former New York Police Commissioner Lee Brown attempted to explain this.

“In most large cities, the police focus their attention on where they see conspicuous drug use… Conspicuous drug use is generally in your low-income neighborhoods that generally turn out to be your minority neighborhoods…. It’s easier for police to make an arrest when you have people selling drugs on the street corner than those who are in the suburbs or in office buildings. The end result is that more blacks are arrested than whites because of the relative ease in making those arrests.”

Blacks are also incarcerated more than whites for drug crimes. The Drug Policy Alliance Network shows that blacks constitute 13 percent of drug users, but are 38 percent of people arrested for drug offenses, and 59 percent of those convicted. The Human Rights Watch supported this claim as well, stating that of blacks convicted of drug crimes 71% are incarcerated, compared with 63% of convicted whites.

The discrepancy between blacks and whites incarcerated for drug crimes transcends all 50 states; every state has more blacks incarcerated for drug crimes (per capita) than whites and by huge margins. My home state of Illinois is a terrible example of this: 613 blacks per 100,000 are in prison for drug offenses compared with 26 whites per 100,000.

This questions the effectivness of laws against racial profiling. At least 16 states have laws prohibiting racial profiling of motorists and pedestrians, yet every state has more blacks (per capita) in prison than whites.

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  • HenryW


  • GatorTee

    You can’t just go about throwing raw numbers out. Yes, 82 billion whites is a lot compared to 12 billion blacks, but according to the 2000 census 74.1% of the country is white in comparison to only 12.4% black. If you put those numbers into percentage of the population you get approx 35% of whites will use drugs while approx 32% blacks will. I’m not saying your theory is untrue, I believe blacks in this country are unfairly targeted for crimes, however it is dangerous and irresponsible to just throw out numbers without putting them into a great perspective. In my opinion one of the biggest problems with the media in our country is the fact that many viewers take what they read at shock value and don’t check to see where the information is coming from. This adds more work on the journalist to make sure his/her information is fair and doesn’t lean opinion in one way or another.

  • HenryW

    This was a very well sourced article and its point is perfectly valid. Far from “throwing out raw numbers,” the author used several different reference points to surround the issue.

    You may not like the conclusion, but it seems unfair to attack the author because he used a multitude of statistical sources to support himself.

  • GatorTee

    I am in no way attacking the author. I am just offering my opinion on what he wrote and offering what I feel are constructive suggestions. I did choose to state an opinion of my own on what I see as a problem with many of our media outlets.

    I agree that he used a number of sources with good information, I’m just saying that the information doesn’t hold up as well when presented differently. I also feel the best way to come up with the best solution is to get everyone’s opinion out and go from there. I apologize to the author if he felt as though I was attacking, I had no intention to do so.

  • HenryW

    “Attack” was a poor word choice on my part.

    The information holds up perfectly well, even when you extrapolated the point is clear. While black people are FAR more likely to be arrested for a drug crime, they are actually less likely to use drugs.

    I don’t give a crap whether white or black people use more drugs, that is a non-issue. The drug war is targeting poor people and brown people. There is no question that these statistics support that conclusion.

    Sprague isn’t responsible for the missteps of “the media.” After all this is a story you will never see in the MSM.

  • markadamsjdmba

    Drug laws are used to control the populace. However, most people think that such laws are used to prevent dangerous behavior while such laws actually encourage dangerous behavior and give the government an ability to control those who might oppose its actions or the actions of those who can influence it.

    First, with a victimless crime such as possession of a controlled substance, it becomes a question of the “law” enforcement officer’s word against the “criminal’s.” “Law” enforcement officers create reasons to make arrests every day. There is even a term for it, “testilying.” As a result of the drug laws, anyone who dares rock the boat, can be set up by having drugs planted on him, portrayed as a criminal and locked away. There are many examples of this ranging from people who just drove through the wrong neighborhood to people who refused to sell their homes to a connected developer. Those in power realized that prohibition gave them virtually unlimited power to control those who question authority.

    Second, our rulers learned during alcohol prohibition that prohibition creates a black market which generates an endless source of revenue both legitimate, taxes to fund more cops, prosecutors, judges, and prisons, and illegitimate, bribes and booty, for those in power. The power hungry in government who saw this sought to criminalize the production and possession of other substances in order to expand their power without even bothering to seek any Constitutional amendment to authorize it because they knew that the people would not be fooled into voting for something like that again.

    Drug prohibition has been perpetuated through a combination of a pervasive propaganda campaign and by undermining the Constitution especially the rights provided to us to control our government. For more on that, see Why Does the Government Ignore Our Wishes? at http://dailycensored.com/2009/09/11/why-does-the-government-ignore-our-wishes/ and don’t miss my 18 minute speech.

    If you take a look, you’ll learn what fundamental rights have been stolen and the horrible abuses which have occurred as a result. My article on torture even includes a link to the U.S. Supreme Court case which explains how one of our stolen rights makes the difference between justice and injustice, between freedom and slavery.

  • Sprague

    RE: GatorTee

    Although I agree that information (in general) shouldn’t be taken at face value, I think putting these numbers into context of percent of population misses the point. The raw numbers represent actual people who actually use/sell drugs. If there are more actual white people using and selling drugs than actual black people… you’d think that this would be represented by arrests and incarceration, but it’s not. I think using percent of population to display this data would cloud the issue (something that the MSM is really good at). For example, if 3 million non-drug using Africans immigrated to the US, your figures would change drastically… mine would not.

  • Joshua

    I think what he’s trying to say is that the percentages of use between Anglo Saxons and African Americans is pretty equal. Of course African Americans are targeted for these crimes, most crimes are pinned on minorities. Just for the simple fact that African Americans are a minority (and a tiny one at that, 20 million people mean NOTHING to the fed, especially when its run by mostly white folks) they get treated unfairly. Unfortunately that is the values our country is built upon, we did it to the Native Americans, now Blacks and Hispanics are getting the brunt of the punishment. It is unfair, but then so is the rest of the way the country is built, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that.

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