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USA Today Op-Ed: Drug war targets minorities

June 24, 2013 in Politics & Elections

Speaking at Howard University in April, I argued that big government is no friend to black Americans. The New York Times article earlier this month ‘Blacks Are Singled Out for Marijuana Arrests, Federal Data Suggests’ reminded me how true this was.
A report released recently by the American Civil Liberties Union revealed that nationally, blacks were four times as likely as whites to be arrested for marijuana possession. It also indicated that these unfortunate numbers were true despite the fact that marijuana use is about the same for both black and white Americans.
Why is this happening? Why the vast disparity?
I spend so much time battling our gargantuan federal government that I can’t possibly manage to keep up with all the damage it does, everywhere, every day and in so many countless ways. As former White House adviser David Axelrod said recently in defending Obama over the IRS scandal: ‘Part of being president is there’s so much beneath you that you can’t know because the government is so vast.’
Interestingly, neither Axelrod nor Obama have ever shown much interest in taming the federal beast. In fact, virtually every solution they offer involves making government bigger. This often leaves the individual American citizen defenseless against a ‘vast’ system that even its greatest champions can’t outline, comprehend or be held accountable for.
Black Americans are being imprisoned far more than white Americans for marijuana possession for one primary reason: the federal government subsidizes it.
The New York Times reported: ‘Federal programs… continue to provide incentives for racial profiling, the report said, by including arrest numbers in its performance measures when distributing hundreds of millions of dollars to local law enforcement each year.’
So, federal dollars are awarded to states or precincts that produce the right numbers? This alone is troubling because it incentivizes law enforcement to arrest as many people as it can. But why do black Americans get arrested far more than whites? The Times’ continued: ‘Phillip Atiba Goff, a psychology professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, said that police departments, partly driven by a desire to increase their drug arrest statistics, can concentrate on minority or poorer neighborhoods to meet numerical goals, focusing on low-level offenses that are easier, quicker and cheaper than investigating serious felony crimes.’
Professor Goff concludes: ‘Whenever federal funding agencies encourage law enforcement to meet numerical arrest goals instead of public safety goals, it will likely promote stereotype-based policing and we …read more


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