This is one of the most racist remarks a contemporary politician has made about drug policy

By la fee brune · Jan 10, 2018 · ·
  1. la fee brune

    Rarely is racism by a politician so explicit.

    Asked about marijuana legalization over the weekend at a legislative coffee event, a Kansas lawmaker, Republican state Rep. Steve Alford, gave a shocking response: “What you really need to do is go back in the ’30s and when they outlawed all types of drugs in Kansas [and] across the United States. What was the reason why they did that? One of the reasons why — I hate to say it — it’s the African Americans, they were basically users and they basically responded the worst off those drugs just because their character makeup, their genetics, and that.”

    Alford later apologized for the remarks after facing criticism, saying, “I was wrong, I regret my comments, and I sincerely apologize to anyone whom I have hurt.” But he also insisted, before his apology, that he’s not racist.

    I have been covering drug policy since I was a student journalist in 2010. This is easily the most overtly racist comment I have seen a contemporary politician make on drug policy. It’s a politician saying, outright, that black people are genetically predisposed to an act that he considers negative. (Needless to say, it is absolutely untrue: Black and white people use marijuana and drugs in general at similar rates, and black and white people report similar rates of substance use disorder, according to federal surveys.)

    Although this comment and its explicit racism are more obvious to us today, this kind of racism was in fact one of the ways that American policymakers and elites justified the war on drugs in the early 20th century.

    As the New York Times explained, the federal prohibition of marijuana came during a period of national hysteria about the effect of the drug on Mexican immigrants and black communities. Concerns about a new, exotic drug, coupled with feelings of xenophobia and racism that were all too common in the 1930s, drove law enforcement, the broader public, and eventually legislators to demand the drug’s prohibition. “Police in Texas border towns demonized the plant in racial terms as the drug of ‘immoral’ populations who were promptly labeled ‘fiends,’” Brent Staples wrote for the Times.

    These beliefs extended to practically all forms of drug prohibition. According to historian Peter Knight at the University of Manchester in the UK, opium largely came over to America with Chinese immigrants on the West Coast. Americans, already skeptical of the drug, quickly latched onto xenophobic beliefs that opium somehow made Chinese immigrants dangerous. “Stories of Chinese immigrants who lured white females into prostitution, along with the media depictions of the Chinese as depraved and unclean, bolstered the enactment of anti-opium laws in eleven states between 1877 and 1900,” Knight wrote.

    Cocaine was similarly attached in fear to black communities, neuroscientist Carl Hart wrote for the Nation.

    The belief was so widespread that the New York Times even felt comfortable writing headlines in 1914 that claimed “Negro cocaine ‘fiends’ are a new southern menace.” The author of the Times piece — a physician — wrote, “[The cocaine user] imagines that he hears people taunting and abusing him, and this often incites homicidal attacks upon innocent and unsuspecting victims.” He later added, “Many of the wholesale killings in the South may be cited as indicating that accuracy in shooting is not interfered with — is, indeed, probably improved — by cocaine. … I believe the record of the ‘cocaine n----r’ near Asheville who dropped five men dead in their tracks using only one cartridge for each, offers evidence that is sufficiently convincing.”

    These prejudices help explain the skewed outcomes we see in America’s war on drugs today. Although black and white people use and sell drugs at similar rates, black people are much more likely to be arrested for drug possession.

    This is not to say in any shape or form that everyone who supports the prohibition of drugs is racist. There are sensible arguments for legally prohibiting drugs, given how dangerous these substances can be. But these policies have deeply racist roots — and Alford’s remarks offer a reminder of that history.

    Original Source

    Written by: German Lopez, Jan 9, 2018, This is one of the most racist remarks a contemporary politician has made about drug policy, Vox
    B-Man1961 likes this.

Recent User Reviews

  1. aemetha
    "Offensive comment that rightly caused outrage."
    4/5, 4 out of 5, reviewed Jan 10, 2018


  1. aemetha
    It's a good article. I am a little baffled at one part though, where the author says blacks and whites use cannabis at similar rates. What's the definition of similar because all the federal surveys I can find have around 10% or more greater prevalence in use amongst black people? It is, looking at those surveys though, a classic case of correlation does not equal causation.

    Take the SAMHSA 2013 National survey for example. This has a graphic plotting past month use incidence rates (page 27) for illicit drug use (the vast majority of which is marijuana, page 26) for various ethnicity where as I noted the black incidence is about 10% higher than that of white people. If you move down to the next page (28) though you'll find the incidence by employment status, where the rate is more than double for the unemployed. The black unemployment rate? Double that of whites.

    I guess there is a catch 22 here. It's necessary to communicate to people that there isn't a genetic racial basis making it inevitable for black people to use cannabis, and many people just aren't interested in hearing it if it's not completely clear cut. The problem is, by communicating it this way to reduce the impact of racist drug policies it fails to properly address the (racist) social problems that contribute to problem drug use. This should be a reason to work harder on getting black people as a whole into good jobs and good education, but it gets a bit lost in the background.

    I sort of feel like this politician has gone from being wrong in saying black people are genetically disposed to cannabis use to being wrong in saying black people don't historically use illicit drugs more than white people. What he should be saying is poor people use illicit drugs more than middle class and wealthy people. At any rate, he's a muppet for saying it to begin with. It's the type of comment people (and especially politicians) make when they are looking for an excuse for their failures to address the real causes of problem drug use.

    Anyway, I do get where the author is coming from and like I said it is a good article and an issue that should be talked about and brought to public attention, but I guess I would have preferred a bit more emphasis on the real causes of drug use. People should be outraged at outrageous things, but if all they do is get outraged, nothing ever changes.
  2. la fee brune
    I guess it depends on how you want to look at the data. Basically, the chart is saying that out of 100 white people in the US, 10 (let's round up) use illicit drugs. Out of 100 black people, 11 people do. I don't consider that a big difference, even if it does look statistically significant. If you break it down further by gender, the picture becomes even more complex, with a bigger gap in use between black females and males than between their white counterparts.

    Statistics that paint patterns of drug use with a broad brush are kind of tricky, period... There were huge variations in rates of opium addiction in China among different segments of the population as well, even though people often like to paint opium addiction as a monolith. The rate of addiction among some segments of the male population was really high, but among most segments of the female population (excluding prostitutes), it was pretty low. If anything predisposes a person to drug use, it isn't race, but gender. :p
      aemetha likes this.
  3. aemetha
    Absolutely, and gender heavily influences the prevalence rates of mental disorder, which heavily influences substance use, both frequency and type of drug use. Women also have quite a different pattern of addiction. One of the things that influences the gender statistics is that women progress through addiction much faster than men. They get addicted faster, more addicted faster, and make the decision to address the addiction faster.
  4. Spaceman0B3LISK
    On the note of women progressing tgrough addiction faster, I would like to make a pure speculation but remember this is from the perspective of someone from a culture where women are historically subservient and "along for the ride" so to speak (southeast US) . Its well known that a woman processes alcohol, and one can only assume most any toxin, less efficiently than her male counterpart. In my experiences I have also learned that women (typically younger women with lesser judgement due to lack of life experience) tend to have drugs thrown in their lap, almost invariably due to alterior motives as opposed to generousity, and have cheaper if not "free" access to them. So stronger effects from lower doses and easy access to drugs combined with the mindset that the man pushing them on her is one she trusts as her provider and protector in most cultures makes a nasty recipe for addiction to set in.

    Now assuming this is the scenario, which is unfortunately common i have seen it myself, they realize whats happened to them and decide to do something about it. So as far as working through the addiction faster, id almost say its akin to the age old road trip dynamic. She wants to stop for directions, but he knows where hes going. After all, hes the provider and protector with all the pride that comes with that role.

    But this is likely irrelevant, more of a case by case hypothesis based on personal observations and anecdotal crap than something to account for such broad statistical things and stuff. Could be a factor though.

    But yeah i cant believe i actually heard an elected official say that in modern America. And im from Alabama. Have you seen the shit show that is our state gvt the last 3 years? Surprised he didnt mention the jazz music.

    Aemetha, i gotta say youre right on the money regarding poor people versus saying black people. Ive preached it for years. Its not the shade of peoples skin, its their level of income. And black folks make up the majority of the low income populous in the U.S.

    Side note: vox and their journalists could stand to be more objective, although senator alford really didnt leave much up for interpretation.

    If i in any way posted incorrectly or broke the thread please politely fill me in. Im still figuring this site out. Oh and I enjoyed the post, OP
  5. gonzochef
    It frightens me how emboldened the bigoted, ignorant, xenophobic, and pig headed among us have become, how boisterously vocal and without hesitation, as if their opinion held sway. Are they just talking louder or are there really so many more of them than I thought. I mean shit, if Trump can steal an election and the best defense we had was a questionably status quo option, then anything is possible. Maybe this place really is going to the crackpots and my common sense and open mind are in a powerless minority. Super sad face.
    1. TheBigBadWolf
      I'm (edit: about to be) losing my pacifism about these facts
  6. ladywolf2012
    What an appalling statement (the first one in the article.) It is so hard for me to believe that people can still actually hold beliefs like this--this amount of bigotry--in today's "modern times. But I am naïve, I guess, having grown up in racially mixed situations most of my life.

    I do not believe that a 10% difference in cannabis use among whites and blacks is significant enough to create noticeably divergent results. This is REPORTED or observed use, I suppose. How 'bout all the white users who would never find their way into the statistics? I have a friend who is one: she is a democrat living alone in a totally republican neighborhood, and she smokes like crazy and no one will ever find out about her. How do they collect these statistics anyway?

    I think the article was well-written and fair. It did not crucify Steve Alford, but it seems to have told the truth.
      perro-salchicha614 likes this.
    1. aemetha
      It is reported use based on a stratified random sample (meaning random participants are selected in proportions that match the population demographics measured) of over 60,000 participants. The survey is confidential and names are not collected. 10% is statistically significant, but the point I had intended to make was not that black people use cannabis more than white people (though on the face of it that is what is shown), but rather that black people are over represented in the low income demographic and poor people massively use cannabis more than others.

      In other words, the methodology is good in the survey, but the conclusion by the state representative that they use it because they are black is not good, because the difference in cannabis usage is better explained by the income demographic than by the ethnicity demographic.

      Full details of the survey methodology can be found in appendix A of the survey:
      perro-salchicha614 likes this.
  7. mess clean
    I shake my head when reading this article.

    I believe Steve Alford should hear and understand that with the invention of "I'm sorry," all tact, civility and kindness went out the window.
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