All lives won’t matter until black lives matter. That’s a statement I can agree with.
With that said, however, I have to ask this question: do all black lives matter to Black Lives Matter?
There has been a lot of emphasis on black people killed by the police in this country. There’s no question the history of law enforcement in this country is filled with racism. However, is that the biggest threat the black community faces today?
I would suggest that illegal drugs pose a bigger threat, and have so for years. They’ve done a lot of damage in the black community, and caused a lot of suffering and death. In spite of this, you don’t see professional athletes wearing the names of black people killed by drugs on their uniforms.
Drugs destroy in more ways than one. First, there are the lives lost to addiction. There are lives lost to the violence of drug gangs fighting over “turf,” as well as crimes committed by addicts trying to support their habits. You also have people thrown in jail and left with criminal records for relatively minor drug offenses. Finally, you have the corruption of the minds. Poor young people from the ghetto wonder why they should finish their education or take a minimum-wage job when they can see from the drug dealers how much money they can make in the drug trade.
In this country, the emphasis has been on putting people in jail rather than treatment and rehabilitation when it comes to drugs. That’s because of the nature of America’s “War on Drugs.” It is a “war” whose origins are racist.
Simply put, if you think the “War on Drugs” was created solely to protect Americans from the scourge of dangerous drugs, think again.
In the 1930s, marijuana and all forms of cannabis, including hemp, were made illegal because Harry Anslinger, the head of the Bureau of Narcotics, needed to demonize something to keep the federal law enforcement dollars coming after Prohibition ended. He and newspaper publisher William Randolph Hearst used blatantly racist claims about marijuana, noting it was used by blacks and Latinos, and added it made white women want to have sex with black men.
It’s worth noting cannabis could be used to make paper and fabrics. Hearst just happened to own a lot of timberland that could be used to make paper. Chemical companies also pushed for cannabis to be made illegal because they made chemicals that turned wood into paper, and because they wanted to eliminate hemp as a competitor for the synthetic fabrics they were creating.
The modern “War on Drugs” began under President Richard Nixon. While billed as trying to protect America’s young people from drugs, that wasn’t the real intent. Former Nixon aide John Ehrlichman said in an interview in 1994 the real intent was to go after Nixon’s perceived enemies: left-wing hippies and blacks. Starting when Nixon was running for President in 1968, Ehrlichman said the whole point of Nixon’s drug policy was to go after the leftist and black leaders and put them in jail.
There’s no doubt the damage done by drugs. They are a scourge, and they are destroying lives in the black community. At the same time, it must be recognized that federal drug policies were aimed at the black community not for the purpose of protecting them, but oppressing them.
Black Lives Matter could do their community and all Americans a big favor by actively working to keep black young people away from drugs. This is what organizations like PAACE have done in places like Parker, with some real success. This is what the Nation of Islam (AKA the Black Muslims) has done.
All Americans need to recognize the racist origin of our nation’s drug policies, and demand they be changed. Mass incarcerations of African-Americans for minor drug offenses will continue until we take a treatment approach rather than an incarceration approach.
We should continue to put the dealers in jail. However, simple possession of a small amount of illegal drugs should not get someone a stiff jail sentence and a life-long criminal record.
Black Lives Matter, it’s time you stepped up and did something about the biggest threat to the black community. I suspect you’d have the support of millions of your fellow Americans, no matter what their skin color might be.