Alana-Rose Davis: From chains to bars, how the war on drugs has caused income inequality among African Americans

aImagine being a child sitting peacefully in a living room. One minute you’re watching your favorite cartoons, the next, your door is being broken by a battering ram and you’re staring down the barrel of a Colt M4 Carbine.

That has been the reality for many minorities since the war on drugs began in the 1980s. Fathers, mothers and brothers have been ripped from their homes and charged with drug offenses.

Here’s an example of inequality: Although pure cocaine is a more potent drug, if caught with it you have to have at least 100 grams of cocaine to get the same sentence as a person selling 1 gram of crack cocaine. Crack cocaine is more popular among African-Americans. Read more about the disparity here.

bSo what does this have to do with income inequality? We’ve learned that President Richard M. Nixon, who was the face for the war on drugs, targeted minorities with drug offenses. According to the John Ehrlichman, who was a part of Nixon’s Watergate scandal, said that the war on drugs was used to disrupt black communities.

“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,” said Ehrlichman. “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.” If you want your jaw to drop more, read more here.

This direct targeting ruined families, and severely affected many black families’ income. Two-parent households became struggling ones. Children dropped out of school to support their families, and never earned a good education. Many of them became incarcerated for the same reasons their family members did.

Education creates opportunity. Without opportunity, how can one make a living and build wealth? There was no one in the black community to build legitimate businesses and prosper because the majority were being shipped off to jail for 10-plus years for as little as 1 gram of crack cocaine.

Click here to see the percentage of African-Americans incarcerated for drugs compared to Caucasians. Whether you were an innocent man stopped by the police and then had drugs planted on you, or a drug dealer sentenced to an overwhelmingly long sentence, black people have been facing judicial hardships that result in income inequality. To read more about how the war on drugs affects the black community, go here or here.


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