Drug Policy

The War on Drugs and the "Crisis in Black America"


Over at The Root, Manhattan Institute Senior Fellow John McWhorter compiles an interesting list of books on race that he thinks haven't received the attention they deserve. There's some provocative stuff here, but his comments on Ethan Brown's Snitch: Informants, Cooperators and the Corruption of Justice really stand out:

Brown got a lot of press for his 2005 book, Queens Reigns Supreme: Fat Cat, 50 Cent, and the Rise of the Hip-Hop Hustler, about hip-hop and murders. Predictably, his next book, unconcerned with 50 Cent and his secrets, didn't get as much attention—but it was much more important, investigating the culture engendered by the War on Drugs. If there were no War on Drugs, I sincerely believe that within a single generation, there would be no perceptible "crisis in black America," and this book shows much of why that's true. The War on Drugs turns whole neighborhoods against the cops—with no discernible benefit after more than 30 years. Brown's book is very The Wire–except the people he writes about are real.

Speaking of The Wire, McWhorter echoes a point here that Wire co-creator David Simon made to Reason's Jesse Walker in 2004:

Look. For 35 years, you've…marginalized a certain percentage of your population, most of them minority, and placed them in a situation where the only viable economic engine in their hypersegregated neighborhoods is the drug trade. Then you've alienated them further by fighting this draconian war in their neighborhoods, and not being able to distinguish between friend or foe and between that which is truly dangerous or that which is just illegal. And you want to sit across the table from me and say 'What's the solution?' and get it in a paragraph? The solution is to undo the last 35 years, brick by brick. How long is that going to take? I don't know, but until you start it's only going to get worse.