Ending the Drug War: "The most meaningfully pro-black policy today"


Writing at The Root, John McWhorter argues that black Americans should stop participating in "symbolic" protests that echo the 1963 March on Washington and work instead on a very concrete civil rights project:

Every time I see one of these marches or forums covered as significant, what occurs to me is that there is one thing we should all be focused on instead. It is, of all things, the War on Drugs. The most meaningfully pro-black policy today would be a white-hot commitment to ending its idiocy.

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  1. But if we do that, how will we keep blacks in their rightful place? Clearly, this McWhorter fellow hasn’t really thought this through.

  2. white-hot commitment

    1. Nah. Hot black bodies can be white hot.

  3. But don’t drugs tear our communities apart? I think we could help black people by hiring more police officers to arrest black people.

    1. Right — true freedom means freedom from the menace of capital-D Drugs.

      1. True Freedom is the Freedom from being Free.

        1. Don’t you know that
          Free is when you don’t have to pay for nothing or do nothing
          We want to be free
          Free as the wind!

      2. Freedom is just another word for nothing left to lose.

        I thought everyone knew that.

  4. The Prohibition Wars – from the Temperance Crusade which stigmatized the Irish to the Cocaine War which stigmatized Blacks and Latinos – have always been racist.

    1. Don’t forget opium and the Chinese.

      1. How could I have missed the outstanding contribution of Emily Murphy’s The Black Candle.

        Emily Murphy, Canadian Feminist Hero.



        1. That’s the same thing they said about me when I was a Canadian Feminist Hero.

  5. I don’t know much about McWhorter, but I like what I am hearing from him.

    1. He’s a very impressive thinker.


      1. Thanks for the link!

      2. For once I agree with Gobby. McWhorter nearly always has something interesting to say.

        1. Perhaps that’s a goal you might one day shoot for.

          1. Once would be a nice start.

    2. I don’t know much about McWhorter, but I’m sure that with a name like that he had a tough time in high school.

      1. “HELLO, MCWHORTER! (knocks on head) ANYBODY IN THERE?!”

        1. I was thinking along the lines of whore jokes.
          McWhoremonger, McHo-bag, etc

    3. He’s Scottish so I suspect he drinks a lot. If he wants to legalize drugs he must also be a coke fiend.

    4. He’s a linguist too, but unlike you-know-who probably doesn’t have much of a fan-base on college campuses.

  6. “The most meaningfully pro-black policy today would be a white-hot commitment to ending its idiocy.”

    To which I say, “No shit, sir, no shit.”

    A golf clap, a slap on the back, welcome to common sense, and a lifetime of disappointment.

  7. Drugs are destroying the inner city.


    The War on Drugs Minorities is destroying the inner city.

    Pick one America.

    1. Don’t forget me!

      1. How come no one but kooks ever even mentions me anymore.

  8. I’ve had to stop watching the local news, because hearing them talk about “drug-related crime” was really getting on my ass.

    How about this for some drug related crime?

    1. Yeah, nice huh? It’s always drug-related killings, drug-fueled violence, etc. But ask Kerlikowske if legalizing weed might put a dent in cartel violence, and he’ll tell you that “narcotics is only a part” of the gang violence problem.


      1. Thomas Dalyrimple (City Journal) basically said something like – “we shouldn’t legalize drugs, because it won’t magically solve all the problems related to drugs!” Well, no shit. The fact that our current system does nothing but magnify problems related to drugs totally escapes them. That almost all of the problems we see related to drugs occurred with alcohol prohibition is also conveniently ignored.

        1. Yeah, that’s the usual straw man when this argument comes up — “just because we legalize drugs doesn’t mean these violent criminals will put on a tie and get a job at a Fortune 500 company!”

          Which means….we should continue funneling money to the criminal organizations responsible. And creating a permanent domestic criminal underclass via mass-produced incarceration. Got it.

  9. The war on drugs is an intentional slow genocide of American blacks. There is really no other way to look at it.

    1. so you think legalizing drugs would be good for blacks?
      jailing people is not genocide. There is no genocide. there are plenty of black people having kids. So that is a silly comment.

      real libertarians want drugs to be legalized so people can do what they want and take the consequences. Liberals who want legalization want it be accompanied with massive government programs to stop people from taking drugs, to get them off drugs once they begin, and other programs that are supposed to make people happy.

      I read McWhorters. He seems to think that if drugs are made legal, all the people involved in them will go and get real jobs. They will probably just turn to other crimes to get money. People who are interested in doing legal things or real jobs or education don’t get involved in drugs in the first place. Any person who looks around and says I am involved in drugs because you (society, the white man) never showed me an alternative is not telling the truth. There are alternatives, though perhaps not as exciting as the drugs game.

      one consequence will be that more people take drugs. Communities will then have to deal with that and do their best not to be injured by those on drugs.

      the consequences will not be pleasant. Not that drugs should not be legalized, but it’s wrong to think that will lead to some heavenly result.

      1. I was going to say the same thing. Libertarians shouldn’t pander to special interests. I happen to think it WOULD be good for “blacks” (really, it should say “inner-cities”). It’d probably also be good for trailer park white people. But I could be wrong. Regardless, who cares? It’s their life, they can do what they want with it.

      2. “People who are interested in doing legal things or real jobs or education don’t get involved in drugs in the first place. “

        I’m sorry, but that is just utter horseshit.’

        So is much of the rest but I could not let that particular nonsense slide.

        1. …that is just utter horseshit.

          Well put. Alcohol, nicotine and caffeine are all drugs. Alcohol is quite poisonous – 4 or 5 times the effective dose can be lethal. Nicotine is probably the most addictive drug on the planet.

          The fact that nicotine has no real crime associated with it is due to its legal status, not with any properties inherent in the drug. Make tobacco illegal, and plenty of “law abiding” citizens would start changing their behavior to get a fix.

          In the mid 19th century, opium use (and addiction, although it wasn’t called that then) was common in England among farm laborers. These people didn’t become thieves or killers, because opium was cheaply available, and could be used while working.

        2. everyone does not take drugs.
          of those who take drugs,most don’t become nuisances to society. if all who took drugs were non nuisances, this would not be an issue.

          the more self restraint that society requires, and the more work it requires of the kind that produces what we call a good economy, and liberal democracy requires alot, it can’t afford to let alot of people walk around high, drive high, not work, and act the way drug addicted people act.

          people taking drugs cause problems. that is why it is an issue to begin with. alcohol also causes problems, which is why people wanted to ban it.

          if you want to argue regardless of problems it is not of the gov’s business, that is one thing. to attempt to argue drug taking is not harmful is ridiculous.

          one way or another society will police it, through the government or in other ways.

          1. “to attempt to argue drug taking is not harmful is ridiculous.”

            Why Do Heavy Drinkers Outlive Nondrinkers?

            One of the most contentious issues in the vast literature about alcohol consumption has been the consistent finding that those who don’t drink actually tend to die sooner than those who do. The standard Alcoholics Anonymous explanation for this finding is that many of those who show up as abstainers in such research are actually former hard-core drunks who had already incurred health problems associated with drinking.

            But a new paper in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research suggests that ? for reasons that aren’t entirely clear ? abstaining from alcohol does actually tend to increase one’s risk of dying even when you exclude former drinkers. The most shocking part? Abstainers’ mortality rates are higher than those of heavy drinkers.
            (See pictures of booze under a microscope.)

            Moderate drinking, which is defined as one to three drinks per day, is associated with the lowest mortality rates in alcohol studies. Moderate alcohol use (especially when the beverage of choice is red wine) is thought to improve heart health, circulation and sociability, which can be important because people who are isolated don’t have as many family members and friends who can notice and help treat health problems.

            But why would abstaining from alcohol lead to a shorter life? It’s true that those who abstain from alcohol tend to be from lower socioeconomic classes, since drinking can be expensive. And people of lower socioeconomic status have more life stressors ? job and child-care worries that might not only keep them from the bottle but also cause stress-related illnesses over long periods. (They also don’t get the stress-reducing benefits of a drink or two after work.)

            But even after controlling for nearly all imaginable variables ? socioeconomic status, level of physical activity, number of close friends, quality of social support and so on ? the researchers (a six-member team led by psychologist Charles Holahan of the University of Texas at Austin) found that over a 20-year period, mortality rates were highest for those who had never been drinkers, second-highest for heavy drinkers and lowest for moderate drinkers.


        3. Yeah. All those college professors and PhD students smoking pot don’t have a real education, nor any interest in one.

          Get a life jail-industrial-complex fucker.

      3. I’m involved in drugs because I likes to get high. And I do many legal things, and I have a bachelor’s degree and a full time job.

        1. you are like people who argue that children don’t need fathers because some turn out okay regardless. Fathers not having their children children not having their fathers causes lots of problems, serious ones. It may not seem like that when there are a few, but there is a tipping point when the problem becomes obvious.

          the basic libertarian problem is that libertarians are not content to say reduce government control. They want to argue that the things that government wants to control are not bad things and are in fact good things. that is a whole other argument, when you start advocating drugs or prostitution. Or people selling their own organs, or whatever it is. Libertarians confuse law with morality. Less of one means more of the other

      4. You are right that the real reason drugs should be legalized is that it is nobody’s fucking business what drugs other people want to do. But I think that you are underestimating the impact the WOD has on society. Just the changes that would come in the way people interact with the police would make a huge difference in the opportunities people would have.
        Crime, just like any other enterprise, obeys the laws of supply and demand. It is ridiculous to assume that there would be just as many criminal opportunities if the largest, most popular source of criminal income were removed.

      5. I think the impact that War On Drugs has and is having on the future of Africans in America, makes dealing with it a priority for us. Capital has targeted black as a commodity for exploitation since the 1400’s. It’s form has changed but it’s core operating principles have remained the same. Humanity and morality get manipulated to serve the interest of capital every time. The culture of exploitation is what this country has thrived on. In this economic system there is a slot for everyone, according to the American Dream. Capitalism is musical chairs with the capitalist and their policy makers spinning the jams. When they decide to stop the music, unfortunately,lots of folks are left standing. This is of course, by design. These folk must by necessity make a way that is outside the main stream American Dream ideal. Those who have wealth have benefited from this system that provides them with the right and the opportunity to exploit others. Depending on how much evil one can stomach, people will allow horrific things to be done to the “others” especially if they can externalize the work and don’t have to see those they impact. The history of slavery and America’s foreign policy supports this fact. In the recent history public education has been dumbed down, Capital (Multi-national corporations) moved manufacturing jobs out of America to exploit cheaper labor in other countries,then imported better trained foreign laborers, forcing American workers to compete in a highly technical and dwindling job market,leaving low paying service jobs for American workers. To further exacerbate the problem of no jobs, there are corporations heavily invested in private prisons that lease prison labor (Slaves according to the 13th Amendment) to manufacturing concerns here. The same corporations are also owners of Gangster Rap artists record companies that promote crime as a justifiable option for Black youth. In locations where there used to be manufacturing jobs people now compete to be prison guards. Blacks are 80% of the prison population while only 14% of the countries population. Most are convicted of felony drug charges with mandatory sentences for non-violent possession of Pot. This is the New System of Slavery. Not to mention how having a felony record marginalizes one’s possibility of successful re-entry into society (“The New Jim Crow”). In fact America has, through out it’s history maintained a slave population. This is a systemic problem that morphs to keep the focus on the victims as the cause. Again,I think the impact that War On Drugs has and is having on the future of Africans in America makes dealing with it a priority for us.

  10. Why are you weak on crime?

  11. this doesn’t sense……people who are cosmopolitan understand that true racism can only be faught by having a I also read some scholarly CATO work that explained that people who don’t say three apologies a day for slavery are the real racists. So the national review that loves Bill Bennett is good, but lew rockwell that wants to end the drug war is racist…these are cosmotarian bedrock ideas.

    1. Cosmotarian Overlord –
      You are very tiresome. Please cease your lame attempts at sardonic wit.

      1. I faught the tortured syntax and lost.

  12. people who are cosmopolitan understand that true racism can only be faught by fighting racist states righters and supporting Lincoln ideals of a strong central govenment.

    1. *cough* Spooner *cough*

      1. SSSSHHHH! They keep track of everyone who types or mentions that name.

        1. One can only hope…

  13. “The war on drugs is an intentional slow genocide of American blacks. There is really no other way to look at it.”

    Please conspirator nut, my friends at Reason have explained many times that Gary Webbshot himself in the head 4 times…he was not murdered! The CIA has nothing to do with drugs and his angry ex-wife said he was of low character so that pretty much proves that he was just making stuff up.

    When we are in the heat of an election it does make sense to just back Obama over Ron Paul because it seemed like pretty good odds that Obama would stop the drug war. Reaso nis sophisticated, they know it makes sense to back one of the two major parties during big elections.

  14. In a musical mood today.

    And in the end, the Loeb you make,
    is equal to the Loeb you take.

    1. Maybe you’ll be in a post-comments-in-the-correct-thread mood later today.

  15. We mustn’t legalize drugs. That would send the wrong message.

    You see, as long as drugs remain illegal then it is clear that your freedoms originate from the government.

    Instead of being free to do that which is not prohibited, drug laws enforce the idea that you are free only to do that which is allowed.
    Having an arbitrarily categorized list of drugs sets up a system where one looks to the rules not for what they cannot do, but for what they may do.

    “It used to be the boast of free men that, so long as they kept within the bounds of the known law, there was no need to ask anybody’s permission or to obey anybody’s orders. It is doubtful whether any of us can make this claim today.”

  16. Totally agreed–though unfortunately I bet a surefire way to get conservatives enthusiastic about the drug war again would be to have Al Sharpton and Barack Obama on TV talking about it as a civil rights issue.

    1. And a good way to get Sharpton pissed off would be to bring up states rights as it pertains to states setting their own drug policies, which is what they SHOULD be doing and SHOULD be able to do.

      1. That would be better than blanket federal prohibition, but I think it’s pretty clear that the drug market is an interstate one, not to say a cross-border one. Wouldn’t national decriminalization be the best thing?

        1. Why yes, Tony. Yes it would.

        2. Actually, national legalization would be the best thing. Decrim would be right behind that.

          1. Baked,

            I find that there’s a really awful undertone to legalization: it means that someone has to say what you can explicitly use. I think decriminalization means that it’s just removed from the list of things they say you CAN’T do. Am I splitting hairs here?

            I would rather not set a precedent for creating a list of things you can do. I’d rather just be able to do everything (ideally), or everything NOT on the restricted list (horribly pragmatic).

            1. I’ve been hoping for a sensible drug policy for 40 years. I’m tired of just hoping. Decriminalization, while not the best policy, would be a start.

              If only for the fact that there are far too many people in jail for less drugs than were present at parties in my student days.

            2. I find that there’s a really awful undertone to legalization: it means that someone has to say what you can explicitly use.

              I’m with you there.

              The whole idea of “Free Country” is that the list of rules are things you cannot do, and you’re free to do anything else.

              That is my understanding of “American exceptionalism”, or what made this country different from the rest of the world.

              Now we’re becoming like the rest of the world where if there is no rule that says you’re allowed to do something, then by default you can’t do it.

            3. Decriminalization doesn’t mean that’s drugs are removed from a CAN’T list. It just means that you can’t be arrested for it (within certain boundaries). You just get a ticket, like speeding.

              Legalization means it’s removed. However, legalization policy proposals are typically combined with taxation/regulation proposals, so it’s not 100% free to use, but it’s better, and superior to basic decriminalization.

              1. Yeah, essentially there is no such thing as true freedom at this point. The closest thing would be complete repeal of the federal CSA, replaced by nothing. Let states handle it. That’s not going to happen though.

                We’re stuck with a “this is okay” list guys. I say we might as well make that list as inclusive and as reasonable as possible.

            4. I don’t think you are using the term “decriminalization” the way most people do. It is generally used to refer to a situation where the substance in question is still contraband, but criminal penalties for possession are removed. Legalization usually means changing the law so that the substance is no longer contraband. Yes, legalization will probably come with restrictions on age and place of sale and use, as with alcohol and tobacco, but that is sure a better situation than the status quo or some half-assed decrim policy where production and distribution are still in the black market.

              I see your point, but you are using the terms in a non-standard way.

              1. Spencer & sarcasmic – I really don’t get what you’re saying. Legalization would mean an end to laws that say what substances you can put in your body. I don’t get how you can say that decriminalizing (which is really just a huge reduction in the penalty for use) is superior to that.

                I am pragmatic enough to realize that decriminalization will almost certainly occur before legalization, and that’s fine. Baby steps. But to say that having mild penalties is better than no penalties is something I find confusing.

                1. Zeb is correct, I am using the terms in a different way. I was simply stating that when taken away from the drug concept, and focusing on the words themselves, that to legalize something implies that you have given permission on high for it’s use. However, strictly looking at the word, decriminalizing something would mean that you make it a non crime. That you don’t need permission from on high, as it isn’t a crime at all.

                  1. Ok, I understand what you’re saying. But yeah, “decriminalization” as it’s generally used only means that you won’t go to jail – and even then, you might if it’s not your first offense.

      2. But, but, but states’ rights is code for racism!

        You’re racist!

        1. If only people were smart enough to understand that, they would agree. The problem is all the people who are just too stupid to understand the code.

      3. “And a good way to get Sharpton pissed off would be to bring up states rights as it pertains to states setting their own drug policies, which is what they SHOULD be doing and SHOULD be able to do.”

        I don’t agree with that. That’s a constitutionalists position. Fine as a stepping stone, but states shouldn’t be able to tell people what they can or can’t put in their bodies any more than the national government.

        1. Baby steps, my friend. Baby steps.

          Having states makes calls is a far better situation than blanket laws by the federal government.

          From there we work on true liberalization.

    2. Jesse Jackson is reliable controlled opposition as well. Look at his stance on MLK assasination …”lone nut”…if you believe that then I also have a free subscription to Time magazine for you.

  17. I always thought it was completely unfair that one black man who used coke and pot gets to be president, but so many others are sitting in jail. And the only difference is the first one had enough sheer, dumb luck to not get caught.

    1. Luck has a lot to do with political success.

      If it weren’t the for luck of having a rich dad who was successively Director of the CIA, VPUSA and POTUS, a guy with the management talents of a Walmart greeter would not have gone to an Ivy League school, actually served in Vietnam instead of being a make-believe flyboy, and eventually become POTUS himself.

      1. being the head of the CIA does not help you get your son put in as president…that is just a conspiracy theory. Please stick to the facts. It was just unfortunate bad luck that W was ever president. Lets talk about something more important like gay marriage.

        1. What about legalizing gay marriage and DRUGS?! That would lead to some of the most historic weddings ever!

  18. What is the official Reason line on
    Gary Webb ?

  19. we can’t talk about G Webb?

  20. What is left out in this article is that a lot of middle class black people are big supporters of the war on drugs.

    1. the distinction between cocaine and crack sentencing was asked for by black elected officials, because of what crack was doing.

      it is not just middle class people. It is working class and poor, and many who are not on drugs who are negatively impacted by others using them.

      the drug problem for people who live next to it is not that it is illegal. It is that people take drugs and the fear that more would take drugs if it was legal.

      to have drugs legal means you have to have (at least this is best case scenario) strong mores that stop most people from using them, at least from using them more than once or twice in a lifetime. Here, we have a very strong lobby against self control and a determined desire to break down all traditional morality and at the same time, an insistence that many things be legalized that are injurious to society.

      1. That would be a great argument, except that 30 years of all-out war has not affected drug use. All we really have to show for it is more people in jail, more power (and firepower) for the police, and less freedom.

      2. I did a lot of drug trials as a prosecutor in the military. Used to voir dire the juries about their experience with drugs. The juries were always at least a third or more black. And every jury had someone, usually a black person, who had some horrible story about a family member whose life was totally ruined by drugs. Those people hated drugs and drug users. And had no problem sentencing soldiers guilty of drug distribution to long sentences.

        1. And then did you go home an cry in the shower for sending people away for something that shouldn’t be a crime?

          1. If we had had a draft yes. But they chose to go in the military and knew the rules. You can’t sell drugs in the military. Everyone knows that. And if you want to do drugs like college kids, don’t join. Unlike the rest of the country, they made a conscious choice to accept the rules.

            And for the record, I have no desire to be a civilian prosecutor because I don’t see how I could in good conscience prosecute drug cases.

            1. An attorney with a conscience?

              That’s pretty good!

              I’ve got one for you – Santa, the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny walk into a bar…

              1. Some do. They are just not very successful attorneys.

                1. Good thing, too. I don’t want my attorney to have a conscience. I want him to get me off.

                  1. I did that to for a while. And I got a few people off (no homo). But I never liked the pressure of being a defense attorney. As a prosecutor if you have a bad day, the judge or jury will probably do the right thing anyway and if they didn’t, it wasn’t the end of the world if someone got less punishment than they deserved. But as a defense attorney I felt responsible for every day my guy served in jail. I constantly second guessed myself thinking if I had just done something a little different at trial he would have gotten off easier. And that will drive you crazy.

                    1. 99% of attorneys give the rest a bad name.

                    2. 99% of attorneys give the rest a bad name.

                      That sounds oddly familiar…

        2. I have been repeatedly asking for an argument to keep drugs illegal that could not also be used as an argument to reinstate Prohibition.

          1. That is an argument that doesn’t exist in any logical state.

      3. Oh yes!
        If we decriminalize drugs then everyone is going to run out and get wacked!
        I know the first thing I would do if drugs were made legal is dump my entire paycheck on crack and heroin!

        1. I think you’d have much better time if you dumped it all on ecstasy and lsd, but that’s just me.

          1. Youth is wasted on the young.

          2. Aw hell yeah, psychedelics FTW.

      4. the drug problem for people who live next to it is not that it is illegal. It is that people take drugs and the fear that more would take drugs if it was legal.

        This is a misconception, but yes, a very common one. Having a “drug user” next door is no more pernicious than having an alcohol drinker next door, absent prohibition.

    2. As in any political debate, the side that spins their version most successfully usually wins the debate. (see: health care). So in this case, as long as the drug warriors successfully equate legalization with wanting dealers to sell at nursery schools, or not caring that people get addicted, we will be on the losing side.

      More than ever, though, I think that is changing.

    3. A lot of people actually believe that if a problem exists, all that is needed is the right application of government force to eliminate it. They are not open to the idea that some problems are immune to this response, or that the response may actually make the problem worse. They just see the harm done by drugs and want someone to get rid of the apparent cause of the harm.

  21. Nah, it’s funner to harp in institutional racism by finding unemployed guys in Montana who yell the ‘N-word’ at their televisions at night.

  22. I totally agree! Millions – Millions!! – in jail for non-violent victimless “crimes”. so evil. legalizing drugs will end the violence here and overseas too. we must free these prisoners today! please join the facebook “drug legalization movement” here: http://www.facebook.com/#!/group.php?gid=49539527239&ref=ts THANK YOU FOR ALL YOUR HELP. TOGETHER WE WILL SAVE THE WORLD!!!! -F

    1. Uh… ok then.

      Please sign me up for, uh… nothing.

  23. Ending the Drug War: “The most meaningfully pro-black policy today”

    …and they might start to think they’re as good as whites.

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