The New Jim Crow

It all started (in modern times) with Richard Nixon

"You have to face the fact that the whole problem is really the blacks.

The key is to devise a system that recognizes this all while not appearing to."

Richard Nixon as quoted by H.R. Haldeman, supporting a get-tough-on drugs strategy.

Thus begins the Fort Worth Star Telegram review of Michelle Alexander's book The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness. They go on to look at how she came to write the book.
Michelle Alexander was an ACLU attorney in Oakland, preparing a racial profiling lawsuit against the California Highway Patrol. The ACLU had put out a request for anyone who had been profiled to get in touch. One day, in walked this black man.

He was maybe 19 and toted a thick sheaf of papers, what Alexander calls an "incredibly detailed" accounting of at least a dozen police stops over a nine-month period, with dates, places and officers' names. This was, she thought, a "dream plaintiff."

But it turned out he had a record, a drug felony -- and she told him she couldn't use him; the state's attorney would eat him alive. He insisted he was innocent, said police had planted drugs and beaten him. But she was no longer listening. Finally, enraged, he snatched the papers back and started shredding them.

"You're no better than the police," he cried. "You're doing what they did to me!" The conviction meant he couldn't work or go to school, had to live with his grandmother. Did Alexander know how that felt? And she wanted a dream plaintiff? "Just go to my neighborhood," he said. "See if you can find one black man my age they haven't gotten to already."

She saw him again a couple of months later. He gave her a potted plant from his grandmother's porch -- he couldn't afford flowers -- and apologized. A few months after that, a scandal broke: Oakland police officers accused of planting drugs and beating up innocent victims. One of the officers involved was the one named by that young man.

They go on to look at some of what she found.
Others have written of the racial bias of the criminal injustice system. In "The New Jim Crow," Alexander goes a provocative step further. She contends that the mass incarceration of black men for nonviolent drug offenses, combined with sentencing disparities and laws making it legal to discriminate against felons in housing, employment, education and voting, constitute nothing less than a new racial caste system. A new segregation.

She has a point. Yes, the War on Drugs is officially race-neutral. So were the grandfather clause and other Jim Crow laws whose intention and effect was nevertheless to restrict black freedom.

The War on Drugs is a war on African-American people and we countenance it because we implicitly accept certain assumptions sold to us by news and entertainment media, chief among them that drug use is rampant in the black community. But. The. Assumption. Is. WRONG.

According to federal figures, blacks and whites use drugs at a roughly equal rate in percentage terms. In terms of raw numbers, WHITES are far and away the biggest users -- and dealers -- of illegal drugs.

So why aren't cops kicking THEIR doors in? Why aren't THEIR sons pulled over a dozen times in nine months? Why are black men 12 times likelier to be jailed for drugs than white ones? Why aren't WHITE communities robbed of their fathers, brothers, sons?

The answer is pretty simple. If the laws were equally enforced the Drug War would be over in a few months. White people wouldn't stand for it.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon on 06.27.10 at 01:12 PM










Comments

Excellent post. There should be little doubt that selective enforcement (and selective sentencing)perpetuate the status quo of modern prohibition.

That the current state of such things also keeps the 'lines' clearly drawn so that the entrenched politicians (of both flavors) can continue to capitalize upon them with little risk needs to be mentioned. Sticking to a successful script being the most reliable way to retain one's elected office.

ThomasD   ·  June 27, 2010 1:34 PM

Consider, however, that a very large number of drug crime prosecutions are resolved by guilty pleas. Protesting innocense after being convicted and locked up on a plea of guilty doesn't sound like a winning strategy. On the other hand, if every drug arrest resulted in a contested trial, we'd find the cops mostly sitting in the halls of the courthouse under subpoena to testify. And considering all the guilty pleas, what's the chances that there is really a lot of drug crime out there, after all, and it isn't all only a mere pretext for persecution of racial unworthies, as suggested?

Walt   ·  June 27, 2010 1:34 PM

Consider, however, that a very large number of drug crime prosecutions are resolved by guilty pleas. Protesting innocense after being convicted and locked up on a plea of guilty doesn't sound like a winning strategy. On the other hand, if every drug arrest resulted in a contested trial, we'd find the cops mostly sitting in the halls of the courthouse under subpoena to testify. And considering all the guilty pleas, what's the chances that there is really a lot of drug crime out there, after all, and it isn't all only a mere pretext for persecution of racial unworthies, as suggested?

Walt   ·  June 27, 2010 1:34 PM

Sorry about double mouse clicking.

walt   ·  June 27, 2010 1:37 PM

Walt,

Prisoners dilemma. Do you want to take your 5 or 10 or go to trial and get 30?

M. Simon   ·  June 27, 2010 1:45 PM

Point of order: the Startlegram is in Fort Worth, not Dallas.

Phelps   ·  June 27, 2010 2:31 PM

ANY involuntary adversarial involvement in the US legal system means you have already lost. It is not about right and wrong, or legal or illegal. Like all Gov employment, it is make-work for Democrat voters.

Take the plea, avoid the can, save the atty fees.

Let them have a finger, save your arm.

dr kill   ·  June 27, 2010 2:40 PM

Phelps,

Thanks! Fixed it.

M. Simon   ·  June 27, 2010 4:07 PM

I don't know, guys. Surely some people take the plea to a lesser charge so as to avoid the risk of conviction on a greater charge. But I gotta say that in my experience, (admittedly a few years back) a goodly number of defendants want to "own up" to the charges. Drug convictions don't get 30 years. It takes repeat offenses or serious violence to get 30 years. That's the ones who bargain to give up a finger to save their arm.

Walt   ·  June 27, 2010 7:28 PM

Odd. But I see prison records on a daily basis now, because of my job. There are almost no black people in Idaho. And yet, we have a lot of white people in prison for possession of a controlled substance (usually meth), usually because the offender has been unable to handle any non-prison strategies.

Whites are, in much of the country, the primary target of enforcement for drug crimes because there are no blacks there. And yet the drug laws are still enforced--against white people, and for the same reason that they are enforced in inner cities against black people. There are severe problems associated with intoxicant abuse, and most Americans believe that the evils associated with this are worse than the evils associated with prohibition.

You believe differently, but most Americans are not persuaded--and it is not like the intoxicant problem and the prohibition problem are something that takes place far away, with which we have no contact.

Clayton E. Cramer   ·  June 28, 2010 12:12 AM

Clayton,

Not persuaded "yet" is a better characterization. The numbers are moving in my direction.

And Calif may very well legalize pot this Nov. I have a retired LEO friend who says that the Drug War will be over 5 years after the first state legalizes.

M. Simon   ·  June 28, 2010 4:33 AM

Clayton,

May I add that you have not explained the disparity. All you have said is that where the police have no other targets they go after whites. But not in enough numbers to alter the ratios much.

I think if your police put more of their time and your money (a lot more offices would be good too) into policing the Drug War you might be able to move the ratio some. And have a Drug Free Idaho in the bargain. Except for prescription drugs.

You are the "Baptist" that gives the bootleggers the political support they need to maintain profitability.

May I suggest a very good video on baptist/bootleggers here:

http://www.classicalvalues.com/archives/2010/06/sinners_and_sco.html

M. Simon   ·  June 28, 2010 4:43 AM

Let me add that (government) guns are the last refuge of the kind of people who believes you can solve many problems with guns. I'm more of the opinion that there are rather few social problems that can be solved by force.

"Institutions will try to preserve the problem to which they are the solution." -- Clay Shirky

The Innovator's Dilemma

M. Simon   ·  June 28, 2010 4:49 AM

I think you need to look at violence in the context of the drug trade. Ignore the drugs themselves, who is doing the murders, rapes, and robberies that surround the drug trade? Urban blacks. I'll believe this is all motivated by racism when blacks get their house in order and stop doing violence at several times the rate of whites and asians. In the mean time, it's sound policing policy to ignore non-violent drug offenders while there are violent drug offenders to be caught.

Bob Smith   ·  June 28, 2010 8:46 AM

Bob,

I think what you propose is called legalization. You then avoid the induced murders (ever hear of alcohol prohibition?) and the police have no ability to go after drug crime. Which is really prohibition crime.

You also eliminate most of the 2,000 a year killed in the crossfire.

M. Simon   ·  June 28, 2010 12:00 PM

Tyranny, thy name is the WOD.

Randy   ·  June 28, 2010 12:24 PM

Hmmmm.

"And Calif may very well legalize pot this Nov. I have a retired LEO friend who says that the Drug War will be over 5 years after the first state legalizes. "

You think heavily armed criminals with a taste for an expensive life and without the minimum skills necessary to get a job flipping burgers are going to do ... what? Oh hey pot is legal now, guess everyone is going to buy a suit, go to college and become an actuary.

Don't tell me. The Crips and The Bloods will get together, sing Kumbaya and form an accounting firm promoting specialized services for IT startups?

My problem with legalization isn't the legalization itself. It's the starry-eyed retards who think legalization will suddenly solve every problem ... and won't create a tidal wave of new ones.

If you get what you want and drugs are legalized ... then no bitching about the unintended consequences.

memomachine   ·  July 1, 2010 1:12 AM

memo,

Of course not. We will have the same bad hangover we had after alcohol prohibition. But you know. Don't you think we ought to stop drinking the drug war kool aid before it kills us?

I suppose that is one way to avoid a hangover. Drink yourself to death.

Why should I bitch about what I already expect?

But I do see your point. We are now so bad off that we HAVE to subsidize criminals else they turn on regular folk.

M. Simon   ·  July 1, 2010 1:35 AM

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