Harper’s April cover story features a piece called “Legalize It All,” an argument for legalizing drug use that quotes a former Nixon aide as admitting that the drug war was specifically created to target black people.
“You want to know what this was really all about?” he asked with the bluntness of a man who, after public disgrace and a stretch in federal prison, had little left to protect. “The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and black people. You understand what I’m saying? We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.”
Asked why the quote was not included in journalist Dan Baum’s 1996 book, Smoke and Mirrors: The War on Drugs and the Politics of Failure, Baum told The Huffington Post, “There are no authorial interviews in [Smoke and Mirrors] at all; it’s written to put the reader in the room as events transpire. Therefore, the quote didn’t fit. It did change all the reporting I did for the book, though, and changed the way I worked thereafter.”