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Drugs, the Black community and the American judicial system 


By Reverend Rahelio Soleil


A year ago after Hurricane Katrina destroyed most of New Orleans, Kanye West awkwardly and emotionally blurted out "George Bush doesn't care about black people" on live television, it did more than rattle Mike Meyers and draw the usual indignation of media talking-heads.


More notable black personalities should grow a Kanye-sized pair and start telling the truth.


It might seem a little radical, but it exposes a basic truth we should state openly and often, in even broader terms: Indeed, white America doesn't care about black people.


No need to put sugar on it or wish it weren't so.  It's true, get over it!


Black reality is stark, buck-naked, real and rarely found in feel-goodie benefits like the one made infamous by Kanye.  The act of delivering a little commercial for black reality to all of America equates with tossing a pie at David Horowitz or Ann Coulter.


America's party line says slavery was good for black people; 30 years of affirmative action repaid 400 years of dehumanization, and women with short skirts deserve rape (unless they are white women, in which case a national boycott against Aruba is best).


The talking points paint this picture: After several decades of unexplainable welfare dependency, self-induced cultural pathology, and social irresponsibility, blacks magically arrived in the new millennium behind whites in every possible way.   


We created our problem, history is dead, and the record is whitewashed so clean that the stains of blood, sweat and tears can't be detected even with the best forensic DNA testing.


That's the story in most of Middle America and the Beltway and they're sticking to it.


For those of you not suffering from political amnesia it might be helpful to recount the story differently. By "differently" I mean to say "the way it actually happened." Observing reality is a sign of good health. For black folks it's a sign of rebellion and courage.


If the dual America created by Reaganonomics weren't enough to turn the lights of hope off in the post-industrial waste land of urban America, the introduction of cheap Colombian cocaine was. 


Drugs have been a fact of life since the days when early American presidents grew their own supply, but cocaine was not common in black neighborhoods.


        Kids as criminalsCrack smoker

 Dealing and smoking crack cocaine have put thousands of young black men in prisons (Pic:Infoimagination)


It was fortunate for us that the cost was too high. Sure, some multi-service inner city drug dealers sold it, and even learned to convert it to crack, but no one could get wholesale cocaine consistently in high quantities.


America does not want to deal with the fact that the crack industry was started by three individuals, one American and two Latin Americans with ties to the CIA.  The American, Rick "Freeway" Ross, got a life sentence.  His major cocaine supplier was protected by the American government and now lives a plush life in freedom - paid for by the United States


I let you guess which one is black and which one is not.


Crack was a godsend for law and order Republicans, who decided in the mid-1980's to send punishment for crack possession into the stratosphere, making it 500 times more punishable than powder cocaine.


"For the better part of a decade, a San Francisco Bay Area drug ring sold tons of cocaine to the Crips and Bloods street gangs of Los Angeles and funnelled millions in drug profits to a Latin American guerrilla army run by the CIA." - Gary Webb, San Jose Mercury.


This wasn't based on science that proved a link between crack and higher rates of violence. It was strictly an emotional response with racial implications. 


It was known then (as it is now) that powder cocaine has a white consumer base and crack had a minority consumer base. Elevating the punishment for one while not addressing the other logically has an uneven racial effect.


I let you guess which color, white or black, comes out worse in that judicial imbalance.


Without powder cocaine you cannot make crack, but you can have cocaine without crack. Stomping out the powder ends the whole story so why wouldn't you focus most attention there?  The answer is that aggressively punishing powder cocaine does not put millions of black people in jail.


After a decade of racist drug laws had decimated a major portion of black life, in the middle of the Clinton years, the government started asking for more answers about crack.   





Fagan and Chin considered crack cocaine development during a concurrent decline in the lawful economy of inner-city neighborhoods. 


Citing evidence of heavy inner-city job loss during a time of job creation in surrounding suburbs and the fact that small-scale sellers were able to participate in the income-generating crack cocaine market, the authors observed that crack cocaine distribution attracted participants at a time when economic and social counterweights to the underground economy were seriously diminishing. - U.S. Sentencing Commission, Report to Congress 1995.


The social implications of locking up non-violent first time offenders for long federally mandated prison terms was like a cluster bomb.  The effects went beyond the lives of those locked up.  It affected family life, neighborhoods, the lives of children, and even male/female relations. 


And, almost no one talks about the implications of what happens when fresh faced kids go into prison and come back to their hoods with a long term criminal education courtesy of the State.


You and I know that the young and weaker men face humiliation, abuse, and rape in prison.   


"The horrors experienced by many young inmates, particularly those who, like petitioner, are convicted of non-violent offences, border on the unimaginable. Prison rape not only threatens the lives of those who fall prey to their aggressors, but is potentially devastating to the human spirit. Shame, depression, and a shattering loss of self esteem, accompany the perpetual terror the victim thereafter must endure." - Justice

Blackmun, Farmer vs. Brennan


You and I know that prison is to "rehabilitation" what George Bush is to articulating.  It only produces an annual bumper crop of men in our community who find rape and abuse to be vehicles for expressing negative emotions once they return home. 


But, America, silently, might prefer the thought of black men being raped as just punishment.


While righties spend all their time talking about welfare having destroyed black life, and ignoring the economic vacuum that made neighborhoods ripe for crack enterprises, some responsible folks started addressing the drug issue head on.   


In 1989, when Senator John Kerry released a report condemning U.S. government complicity with Contra-connected drug traffickers, the Washington Post ran a brief report loaded with GOP criticisms of Kerry, while Newsweek dubbed Kerry a "randy conspiracy buff." - Common Dreams


And this from the United States Sentencing Commission.... 

Commissioners voting in the majority were particularly struck by the words of police officers involved in fighting the drug "war" on a daily basis in the streets of our cities.  They could see no reason to make a distinction between powder and crack cocaine - their words in effect were "they (the drugs) are all bad" and should all be prosecuted severely; however, the greater penalties in their view should go to offenders who traffic in larger quantities of powder cocaine as opposed to crack. 


This should come as no surprise:  the basic theory in drug enforcement is to prosecute and seek punishment at the highest levels for offenders dealing in the greatest quantities. - STATEMENT OF THE COMMISSION MAJORITY IN SUPPORT OF RECOMMENDED CHANGES IN COCAINE AND FEDERAL SENTENCING POLICY

You have to wonder why nothing has changed to make drug sentencing guidelines fair, especially since everybody knows the laws are unjust.


The fact that it continues to be a destabilizing factor for blacks makes it impossible for anyone to be a friend of black progress without fighting against the war on drugs.  To pull from a line from the president, you're either with us or against us on this one.


I can hear the response, what about personal responsibility?


Nobody puts a gun to black heads and demand they smoke crack.  We don't have to participate.  We don't have to kill each other.  We can move out of the depressed areas and find opportunity in the newly suburbanized America. Isn't it really our fault?


Since that response is intended to remove the spotlight from a system irrationally structured to produce an outcome of caged blacks and free whites, I refuse to answer with anything other than the truth.


America doesn't care about black people, but I do!


Rev. Rahelio Soleil is a writer and commentator on American politics. He blogs as American Hot Sausage


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