When I was a teenager, a police officer explained to me how the “War on Drugs” took place in his hometown. The officer candidly described how every policeman in the city knew what boats contained drugs and when those boats would arrive in the city’s major port. But he also knew that officers were not expected to show up on these boats to make arrests, and that they were not to deter the progress of the product when it hit the port. Instead, they were instructed to allow the drugs to get to the inner city, where they were given authorization to make as many arrests as necessary. In other words, his job was to arrest the small fish, not the big ones.
The misleading, ill-conceived and terribly racist set of drug policies which defined the Reagan era has been absolutely devastating for the African-American community. The existence of gang warfare in South Central Los Angeles has left hundreds of thousands of youth with post-traumatic stress disorder, as the CIA was oblivious to the fact that drugs and guns were being openly delivered to a community that no one cares about. The Anti Drug Abuse Act of 1986 was the product of America’s broad-stroke reaction to increased drug use of the 1980s. The law gave a sentence 100 times greater for possession of crack cocaine (more likely to be possessed by blacks) than the one given for powder cocaine (possessed in greater proportion by whites), creating a black incarceration rate of holocaust proportions.
After sitting on the books for decades, the law was finally modified this year. Democratic Senator Dick Durbin and Republican Jeff Sessions did black people the “favor” of agreeing to reduce the sentencing disparity from 100-to-1 to 18-to-1. So, instead of getting a prison sentence that is 100 times longer for the same crime, we only get one that is 18 times longer. Gee thanks. I’m supposed to be happy about that one, huh? So, we’re not good enough to demand true equality, and are instead forced to accept dysfunctional compromises with Republicans from Alabama? While some might call this political pragmatism, others might describe this outcome as the modern-day version of the Three-Fifths Compromise.
With regard to addressing the disparity in sentencing, the White House had this to say: “While the President believes this disparity should be eliminated completely, he would like to thank Senator Durbin for introducing this important bill, as well as Chairman Leahy and Senators Graham, Coburn, Sessions and Hatch for their leadership on this issue.”
I am sure the president believes that a lot of things should happen, the same way I believe I should have lost 50 pounds last year. But there is a difference between believing something should happen and having the courage to actually make your expectations come to fruition. The Democrats have failed us miserably and don’t consider this issue to be worth the political capital necessary to fix the problem. Translation of the White House statement: “We once had our foot on the necks of black people, so you should be happy that our foot is now on the crotch of your children. Black people should be happy with this adjustment, because you typically have low expectations anyway.”
Although 66 percent of crack users are white, African-Americans constitute 80 percent of the Americans who are serving prison time for selling the drug. Roger Clinton, the brother of President Bill Clinton, was arrested for selling cocaine in 1984. If he’d been arrested for selling the same amount of crack cocaine, he would have gotten ten years in prison. In 2001, Roger was pardoned by his brother and had the conviction removed from his record. The 1994 Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act signed by President Clinton, was sponsored by Jack Brooks, a Democratic Congressman from the state of Texas, a place that loves to incarcerate and execute black people. So basically, the “first black president” was the one who not only co-conspired with his fellow Democrats to create a law that led to the “three strikes” provision, he also had the audacity to pardon his own brother for a drug crime. Yes, the Democrats can be just as racist as the Republicans, and that includes Bill Clinton.
One could argue that Abraham Lincoln and the founding fathers believed that black people belong in prison, at least if you look at what history tells us. The thirteenth amendment, which abolishes slavery, provides an exclusion stating that slavery is permitted when someone is convicted of a crime. These loopholes in the law not only reflect troubling problems within our government, they also remind us that there is an historical context to the fact that our lawmakers have been hardwired to forget about the ethnic underclass of America.
Consider the U.S. Senate, which is now controlled by the Democratic Party. As an African-American male, should I be relieved or somehow empowered by the fact that the Democrats are running things? Not really. These senators begged for my vote and still think that I am only 1/18th as good as the white man down the hall. They are witness to highly disparate outcomes in drug sentencing laws, which destroy the lives of black men and ruin black families and do virtually nothing. In the eyes of Democratic lawmakers, the issues that black people are dying for are not even worth their time.
When it comes to liberal issues, such as torture, gay rights, abortion or green jobs, African Americans drop our conservative values and walk in lockstep with the Democratic Party. But when it comes to issues which matter to us, such as employment disparities, inner city education and the extensive damage being done by the criminal justice system, we are told to take a back seat. Well, I’m tired of sitting in the back of the political bus, and I grow weary of watching my lawmakers sit quietly to the side while injustice is alive and well in America.
We elected a black president with the hope and expectation that things are going to change for the better. I still think there is reason to be optimistic. But I truly believe that the Democrats supported President Obama in spite of his blackness, rather than because of it. I am quite tempted to believe that Barack Obama, the beacon of hope for the black community, was hijacked into becoming the latte-sipping liberal who would certainly close Guantanamo Bay, but who could only serve his community if he did so in private. The “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy of Democrats when it comes to Obama and African-American issues must end, because we deserve to also have our concerns on the table. Sentencing disparities must be completely eliminated, and the Democrats must be held accountable.