Jay Z Calls The War On Drugs An ‘Epic Fail’ That Targets Black Americans

By la fee brune · Sep 16, 2016 · ·
  1. la fee brune
    Hip-hop artist and business mogul Jay Z narrates a new video that traces the history of the war on drugs and highlights the way that it has disproportionately targeted black Americans.

    “Rates of drug use are as high as they were when Nixon declared this so-called war in 1971,” he says in the video published by The New York Times on Thursday. “Forty-five years later, it’s time to rethink our policies and laws. The war on drugs is an epic fail.”

    The video, which features illustrations by New York artist Molly Crabapple, begins by looking at how former Presidents Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan focused on drugs instead of larger social issues affecting cities.

    “No one wanted to talk about Reaganomics and the ending of social safety nets. The defunding of schools and the loss of jobs in cities across America,” says Jay Z, who has previously spoken about about dealing drugs as a teenager. “Young men like me who hustled became the sole villain and drug addicts lacked moral fortitude.”

    The video goes on to highlight the way that a federal distinction between powder and crack cocaine unfairly targeted black Americans and how the adoption of mandatory sentencing laws caused the prison population to soar.

    “Then the Feds made distinctions between people who sold powder cocaine and crack cocaine — even though they were the same drug. Only difference is how you take it,” Jay Z says. “And even though white people used and sold crack more than black people, somehow it was black people who went to prison. The media ignored actual data. To this day, crack is still talked about as a black problem.”

    “The war on drugs exploded the U.S. prison population, disproportionately locking away black and Latinos,” he continues. “Our prison population grew more than 900 percent. When the war on drugs began in 1971, our prison population was 200,000; today it is over 2 million.”

    President Barack Obama has called for an overhaul of mandatory sentences for drug offenders and in August commuted the sentences of 214 federal prisoners incarcerated on drug charges.

    Politicians have talked about needing to treat addiction more humanely, but they typically don’t use the same language when referring to drug dealers, the video says. No politician may illustrate this better than Maine Gov. Paul LePage (R), who has claimed that “guys with the name D-Money, Smoothie, Shifty” were coming to his state to deal drugs and impregnate white women. He has urged residents in his state to shoot drug dealers.

    The war on drugs lives on. More than 80 percent of the 1.5 million drug-related arrests in 2014 were for possession, and half were for marijuana, Jay Z says. In New York, where you can no longer be arrested for having marijuana, citations for possession in black and Latino neighborhoods are more common than they are in white ones.

    “Kids in Crown Heights are constantly stopped and ticketed for trees. Kids at dorms in Columbia, where rates of marijuana use are equal to or worse than those in the hood, are never targeted or ticketed,” he says.

    There are also still racial disparities within the legal marijuana industry, a BuzzFeed investigation pointed out in March. Felony drug convictions have prevented many black Americans from opening licensed dispensaries. Although there are no official statistics on ownership of storefront marijuana dispensaries, BuzzFeed estimated that about 1 percent of them are owned by black people. The industry is expected to be worth $50 billion in 10 years.

    The New York Times’ video was the result of a collaboration between Revolve Impact, a social impact agency, and the Drug Policy Alliance. Dream Hampton, the co-author of Jay Z’s book, Decoded, approached the alliance last year about doing a project to highlight how white people were poised to profit off of drugs when black Americans had long been targeted for possessing them.

    Sam Levine
    Image taken from video
    The Huffington Post

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    Author Bio

    la fee brune
    Opium fiend, bon vivant, and all-around pain in the ass.

    Annoying others since 1982.


  1. Nosferatus
    While many would agree that the War on Drugs does not fulfill it's purported purpose, do instances like this indicate racism or drug use being more damaging at certain economic levels than others, inner city blacks actually widely supported treating crack differently due to the havoc it wreaked in their neighbourhoods.


    Further, you can disagree with the law all you like, but if you choose to break it, you choose to assume the risks of doing so.
  2. Illdan
    What isn't considered to be a 'war on blacks' anymore?

    I think the 'war on drugs' is more so a war on those that the establishment deem undesirable rather than only black people.

    The race card being pulled over every injustice that happens to people in this country is getting really played out.
  3. Nosferatus
    ^^Politics is all about creating boogeymen for the populace to rail against, drugs are one such boogeyman, various groups of people are other ones, the fact that actions against these occasionally intersect is nothing but happenstance. My point is that few things the government does are deliberate and calculated, one overreaction simply follows another.
  4. aemetha
    That might be true Nos, but the fact that the war on drugs was at least partially racially motivated is a matter of public record. It's also irrefutable that the war on drugs has disproportionately affected black Americans.

    Illdan is right that it does target other demographics disproportionately as well, but that may just be collateral damage in a law that was at least partially enacted to provide a means of persecuting black people in the wake of the civil rights movement. Perhaps black Americans are complaining about some things that aren't specifically targeting them, I'm not going to get into that particular debate because it's erroneous to this article, but the war on drugs did specifically target them and that has not changed because the war on drugs is still moving ahead full steam.
  5. Nosferatus
    ^^But that's also happenstance, society became much more polarized in the mid '60s, race relations and drugs were both major polarizing issues, their relation to each other was incidental. I've never denied the existence of racism, I just see it as more of an aggravating factor than a catalyst. Unfortunately racial agitators like Al Sharpton make it difficult to assess the actual pervasiveness of racism, especially racism of the institutional variety, because they paint every negative thing that happens to a member of their demographic of choice as racially motivated to their own ends.
  6. la fee brune
    That brings up an interesting question, nos. Does it really matter if race is the catalyst or an aggravating factor in the war on drugs? The result is the same--the perpetuation of social and economic inequality.
  7. aemetha
    It wasn't incidental at all though. It was a major motivation for the declaring of the war on drugs.

    “We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the [Vietnam] war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities,” Ehrlichman continued, according to Baum. “We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.” Source.

    This from Nixon's domestic affairs adviser, John Ehrlichman.
  8. Nosferatus
    You're both absolutely right that racism was somehow involved and that it's level of involvement is secondary, but the fact remains that an unjust law is still a law, as I said, if you choose to break the law, you choose to accept the consequences.
  9. aemetha
    That's an awfully simplistic view of it. This particular law was enacted to unjustly imprison parts of society. It was enacted to disrupt communities, and in doing so further disenfranchise them. By creating disillusionment with the law they only create more law breaking. The law works as a deterrent only as long as the citizenry respect it. If the law is not just that is known as oppression, and it's commonly held in western society that oppression is not an acceptable state of governance. Law is not a synonym for right or correct.

    “Unjust laws exist: shall we be content to obey them, or shall we endeavor to amend them, and obey them until we have succeeded, or shall we transgress them at once?”
    -Henry David Thoreau
  10. Nosferatus
    If you disagree with a law, there are lawful ways of changing it, but so long as it remains a law you are obligated to obey it. One could find a reason that any law is unjust if they're sufficiently motivated to look. On a somewhat tangential note, the criminally inclined saying that whatever law they broke is unjust is a blatant case of blaming someone else for the consequences of your own decisions.
  11. aemetha
    This applies to laws prohibiting homosexuality? Laws that allow men to rape their wives? What about laws that prohibit peaceful protesting against the law?

    There is a difference between a moral obligation and a legal obligation. In some cases they may conflict. If the law is based on an intention to discriminate against certain segments of society, it's not hard to argue there is a moral obligation to not follow that law.
  12. Nosferatus
    Like I said, there's an argument for any law being unjust, and yes, the fact you believe a law to be unjust, no matter how reasonable your belief is, does not give you license to break it.
  13. la fee brune
    What should people do when they have little hope of being able to elect people who will implement sane drug policies, though? Most Americans believe the war on drugs to be a failure, yet it continues because we never realistically have the option to elect anyone who will end it. In theory, we do, but in reality, we don't.
  14. Nosferatus
    ^^The government does nothing quickly, what choice is there but to be patient?
  15. aemetha
    Well you know what Marx would say. Was he wrong? The system seems pretty broken right across the board now.

    My first boss told me when dealing with people ask once, ask twice, if they still don't listen, tell them. Government isn't listening right now and a revolution has already begun. Black lives matter, unprecedented support for Trump and Sanders, Brexit, all revolts against a ubiquitous problem... government is corrupt. The choice for government is change, or be removed.

    Marx wasn't wrong about any of it, people just like to interpret his words to mean violence, but revolution comes in many forms. Civil disobedience is a valid form of revolution.

    "Democracy is the road to socialism"
    -Karl Marx
  16. Nosferatus
    Corruption and greed are inherent to humanity, which is why communism never works in practice. Fighting one fault of humanity only opens the door for another flavour of the same thing, was Stalin markedly better than the Romanovs? Was Castro preferable to Batista?
  17. aemetha
    Capitalism isn't working in practice either here. I'm not necessarily advocating a move to communism here though, I just got a little carried away with my reference. When I talk about Marx in this case I mean he predicted the events we're experiencing right now, including the persecution and division of the proletariat of which the war on drugs is an example of, particularly as it applies to black Americans.
  18. Nosferatus
    I agree, capitalism is a terrible system, the only thing worse is everything else that's ever been tried. Seriously, communists aren't exactly saints in regards to human rights, and communism is perfect for fostering megalomania, it depends too much on everyone playing by the rules.
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