Jim Crow’s Drug War: Why the War on Drugs is a War Against Black People

Attorney Michelle Alexander has been shaking things up across the nation over the past two years, yet you may not have heard of her. Her book, The New Jim Crow, Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, takes on race and the War on Drugs in ways few people would dare to approach. The point of her book is that there is a new Jim Crow system that traps many African-Americans in a permanent underclass. That system is driven by the War on Drugs which causes many young people to be stigmatized by felony records — for a victimless crime — that keep them from employment, education and housing.

"The arguments and rationalizations that have been trotted out in support of racial exclusion and discrimination in its various forms have changed and evolved, but the outcome has remained largely the same. … Rather than rely on race, we use our criminal justice system to label people of color ‘criminals’ and then engage in all of the practices we supposedly left behind. Today it is perfectly legal to discriminate against criminals in nearly all the ways that it was once legal to discriminate against African Americans."

Alexander, a former ACLU lawyer and now associate professor of law at Ohio State University, was a key player in convincing the NAACP to call for the end of the War on Drugs at its national convention in 2011. Last year, she spoke to members of the Michigan Legislature, which led Republican Rep. Rick Olson to begin writing legislation (not yet introduced) that would legalize marijuana in Michigan. This Sunday, she will be the keynote speaker at Central United Methodist Church’s Eighth Annual Peace and Justice Banquet, a fundraiser for the church’s progressive work in the community.

"We need occasions where the people who are fighting for peace and justice can gather in a place where they know they are not alone," says the Rev. Ed Rowe, pastor at Central United. "It’s a gathering of unions and peace networks and people fighting for everything from ecological issues to those trying to eradicate white racism. It looks like the struggle continues. Defeating the emergency manager law is one occasion where we know our efforts together had impact, but if we think for one minute we can stop working because of one victory, we are badly mistaken."

Rowe is not advocating for drug use, but he is advocating for justice, and it doesn’t take long when reading The New Jim Crow to understand why justice is not served by the drug war. The War on Drugs is mainly conducted as a war on black and brown people. A study of New York drug arrests from 1997 to 2006 by sociologist Harry Levine and drug policy activist Deborah Small found that 18-to-25-year-old whites are more likely than blacks or Hispanics to smoke marijuana, yet blacks were five times and Hispanics three times more likely than whites to be arrested for marijuana possession.

– Read the entire article at Metro Times.



  1. Anonymous on

    I know it is really easy to make a broad generalization as to
    why the experiences of certain peoples may cause them to believe
    they are “just being targeted”. Especially if leaders of these
    groups and media encourage the generalizations!
    But sometimes certain groups just get arrested more often because their behaviors are more risky and less smart. This doesn’t just hold true when it comes to drug issues.
    I am not talking about IQ. I am talking about dumb behavior
    or talk etc.
    King Soloman was the wisest man in world in his day. But his behavior and his attitude was really dumb and extremely
    risky. Just because we have “smarts” doesn’t mean we are inclined to use them ! Just because we may know how to
    be tactful or respectful doesn’t mean we usually are.
    I would say that the differences are decreasing more everyday in terms of dumb and risky behavior on the part of any/all
    people groups involved in lawbreaking. Just as the numbers of women/girls involved in risky or dumb or criminal behavior is on the rise.
    Much as anyone would care to dispute it or deny it what we
    believe to be true and expect to be true concerning ourselves
    often becomes the case. It is much the same as a self fulfilling prophecy or curse or vice versa blessing.
    It is power in the hands of certain persons that corrupts
    not their color. Whatever the color of certain people they
    just can’t handle power justly or wisely! It is one of the
    most addictive and dangerous drugs their is !

  2. Anonymous on

    You were smoking when you wrote this, weren’t you!!!

  3. Anonymous on

    I understand from your statements that you believe that blacks are just too childlike or weak willed to avoid the consumption and/or sale of this illegal product. That kind of goes along with their refusal to study at school because to do so would be acting white and fearing that they may have to face racism they do not look for jobs. How can poor blacks be expected to delay gratification and avoid temptation when it is all around them. That would be asking too much. The author as much as says so. (Work IS a four letter word.)
    Yup, you may have something here. We know full well that all these failures had nothing to do with choices some blacks have made when they were handed opportunities to learn and work. Noooo, that couldn’t be the reason. As long as whitie is around to blame and this author can convolute the situation to your liking it will probably work. Don’t blame the blacks.

  4. Anonymous on

    fool, a simple choice DON’T USE DRUGS!!! this is not discrimination, this is common sense, if just because blacks dope more, they will be convicted just the same!!!

  5. Anonymous on

    lol…you are so off base. you have no idea what you are talking about..do your homework before you just spit up crap and type it. Cannabis laws had nothing to do with controlling the black population..it had to do with big business…I don’t have the time or energy to fix you but stating things like.. “things haven’t changed much”…since 1920?..lol…and “colored people”..really…do you mean hispanic or black or indian?…I’m guessing you mean black because later you state that “many blacks” deal drugs because they live in the ghetto and didn’t get a good start in life..Jesus man..do your homework and quit being offensive to the rest of us.

  6. gutrod on

    While most Americans including government and DEA employees idolize many great black athletes, actors and musicians they continue to persecute black people for using drugs including weed. The irony is that many of the greatest musical classics were penned and performed by artists under the influence of marijuana. Black blues and jazz greats were hunted down like dogs and prosecuted for indulging in the sweet leaf. A very dark era in America. Things haven’t changed much since then. Justice really is a great myth and hypocritical lie.

  7. Anonymous on

    It’s not illegal for racial reasons anymore. How black is Marc Emery? They wanted him reeeeeal bad, and he’s not even slightly black as far as I can tell. The tokers, dealers, and growers aren’t all black like rap music might suggest either. Police forces love busting grow ops regardless of who’s behind them.

    The only black thing about prohibition is that black markets are very desirable to the authorities. It gives them something to do and lots of people to put in jail. It stimulates the prison economy, the weapon economy, and the police economy. It may even benefit the pharmaceutical industry by ensuring all obedient civilians will purchase only the industry’s drugs. Double whammy, profit off of the illegal and legal users. Control both, the illegal ones with fear and/or jail, and the legal ones with chemical control. Some illegal users could be said to be under chemical control themselves if they’re hopelessly addicted to a substance that limits their potential in life severely.

    I’m not totally sure about control in this case, but there’s no question in my mind that money is a factor in most of the problems our owners/rulers give us.

  8. gutrod on

    Cannabis and drug laws were introduced to control colored people. Things haven’t changed much since then, other than the majority of drug and alcohol users are white. Many blacks get involved in dealing drugs as a necessity to survive in the ghetto’s. Many of them didn’t get a very good start in life.

  9. Dave on

    Wouldn’t it be more accurate to say, “discriminates against criminalized people” instead of “discriminates against criminals”?