War on Drugs

Yes, the Drug War is in Practice Deliberately Racist and Classist


An interesting video interview from Brave New Films features former Drug Enforcement Administration agent and federal marshal Matthew Fogg, speaking from his experience about the class and race aspects of how the drug war is fought.

An excerpt from what he said on camera:

"When…we were setting up all of our drug and gun and addiction task force determining what cities we were going to hit, I would notice that most of the time it always appeared to be urban areas.

That's when I asked the question, well, don't they sell drugs out in Potomac and Springfield, and places like that? Maybe you all think they don't, but statistics show they use more drugs out in those areas than anywhere.

The special agent in charge, he says "You know, if we go out there and start messing with those folks, they know judges, they know lawyers, they know politicians. You start locking their kids up, somebody's going to jerk our chain." He said they're going to call us on it, and before you know it, they're going to shut us down, and there goes your overtime.

What I began to see is that the drug war is totally about race. If we were locking up everybody, white and black, for doing the same drugs, they would have done the same thing they did with prohibition. They would have outlawed it. They would have said, "Let's stop this craziness. You're not putting my son in jail. My daughter isn't going to jail."

The phenomenon Fogg discusses is more ultimately about class than race, but the two are interlinked in America so thoroughly that's an understandable conflation.

The full video:

Read Matt Welch from the Feburary issue of Reason on "It's Not Just About Race, It's About Power." Previous Reason blogging on Fogg.