For many years the US government has fought the “War on Drugs”, with virtually no success in reducing either the supply or usage of illegal substances. Probably the greatest casualties of the drug war are black males, who (if not killed) are incarcerated for dealing and possession of drugs at twice the rate of white males. Just as prohibition of alcohol turned Chicago into a playground for Al Capone, prohibition of marijuana, cocaine, heroin, etc. is the fuel that fires gang violence in cities and towns throughout the United States.
The Federal Government is the chief benefactor for drug dealers, because prohibition drives up prices and profits. Likewise, the government is the dealer’s chief nemesis, as he may end up serving a long prison sentence if convicted for drug crimes. Roughly 50% of black prisoners are convicted of violent crimes, with 23% being jailed for drug offenses. However, much of the violent crime is the direct result of gang turf wars that are standard operating procedure in the drug business. In some states, one in ten black males is incarcerated. Sadly, it has been estimated that one in four black males will spend at least some time in jail during his lifetime. By the way, most drug users (the customers) are white, not black.
Most social scientists and economists have come to the conclusion that the use of dangerous drugs is a health problem and not a crime. Governments have yet to come to this realization. Until decriminalization (or legalization) of drugs is achieved, gang violence and the terrible consequences it reaps will be proportionately high in black and minority neighborhoods. It will also increasingly affect white neighborhoods.
Over the past fifty years, politicians (black and white) have been all too willing to trade the lives of young black men to further their careers. The last great political boss, Richard J. Daley, who served as Chicago mayor from 1955 until his death in 1976, owed his political career to the support of black democratic aldermen on the south side of Chicago. He got those votes by guaranteeing these aldermen that the Chicago police would not unduly bother the drug, rackets, and prostitution businesses in their neighborhoods. It was a good deal for the mayor and the aldermen, but a lousy deal for black and other minority residents, who had to put up with shootings, muggings, and unsafe neighborhoods.
In the 2008-2009 academic school year, 36 Chicago public school students were killed. Every time a young black kid gets gunned down on the streets of Chicago, current mayor Richard M. Daley refers to the incident as a “gun crime.” They are not gun crimes; they are gang crimes that would be drastically reduced if drugs were decriminalized. Former Baltimore mayor Kurt Schmoke was way ahead of his time when he advocated decriminalization in 1987. It is too bad there aren’t more big-city mayors with the vision, guts, and understanding of Kurt Schmoke.
As a (half) black man, and a person who has worked for years in the black community, Barak Obama is well aware of gang and drug problems in Chicago and other US cities. He, of all people, should be using his bully pulpit to educate lawmakers and the public about the importance of reducing violent crime through the decriminalization of drugs. Unfortunately, instead of dealing head on with the drug issue, an area in which he has true expertise, he’s decided to spend his time “experimenting” with the US economy like a seven year-old with a brand new chemistry set.
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