Dear President Obama: If you want to help Black America, End the War on Drugs!

Watched President speak on race today, loved what he said but was left with this urgent plea!

Dear President Obama:
If you want to help Black men have better lives and prospects – End the War on Drugs!

Like many African-Americans I was tremendously moved to watch the President of the United States speaking on national television about the pain and humiliations Black people are still dealing with in the U.S. It was inspiring and comforting to hear someone of his stature give voice to the feelings and frustrations that many of us feel, loving our country but often frustrated by the inability of our friends and neighbors to understand the unique challenges that come with being the descendants of people who were once enslaved in this country.

There were many admirable things in the President’s speech including his acknowledgment that much of the violence plaguing impoverished Black communities is rooted in our history of enslavement, subjugation and persistent racial violence.

In today’s America, the KKK doesn’t hunt Black men down, we have the DEA for that……… In today’s America, we don’t have convict leasing, we have civil asset forfeiture, mandatory minimum sentencing and post-conviction sanctions to accomplish the same result……. In today’s America clubs for white youth are called fraternal organizations, clubs for Black and Brown youth are labeled gangs……. In today’s America you won’t get 5 years in prison for stealing a pig but you will get 5 years in prison for to selling 5 grams of crack cocaine worth less on the street than a pig……..

All of these policies are pursued in the name of the war on drugs. All of these policies disproportionately impact African-Americans, particularly African-American young men. These policies have been more responsible than anything else for the breakdown in African-American families and communities; the inability of African-American men to marry and support a family; the proliferation of gun violence in poor Black communities; the flight of small businesses and community infrastructure; the hopelessness of many youth who see only two possibilities in their future – prison or early death.

All of these policies contribute to the climate of fear that paralyzes many communities and manipulation of that fear in pursuit of power and profits. George Zimmerman was the inevitable product of a media and political culture that has grown comfortably cavalier in casting blacks as objects for entertainment, observation or fear but rarely as victims of white violence or routine discrimination. Trayvon Martin’s death was the result of decades of overt and subliminal conditioning to perceive Black males as threatening, something as normal as teenage marijuana experimentation (something Obama is intimately familiar with) becomes justification for characterizing him after death as a ‘thug’ who did something aggressive that caused his own death. This is beyond travesty when we know white youth use marijuana at higher rates than black youth.

Will ending drug prohibition cure all these problems and create an overnight racial utopia? Obviously not. But in the same way eliminating Jim Crow laws in the South created a broader space for racial reconciliation and generational advancement, changing history for the entire country, eliminating Jim Crow criminal justice policies that create debilitating conditions for entire communities and generations of Americans will similarly expand the space for racial truth and reconciliation in a country that badly needs it.

Please President Obama – Help Black America – Help All America

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