Pubdate: Tue, 22 Apr 2003
Source: Tallahassee Democrat (FL)
Copyright: 2003 Tallahassee Democrat.
Author: John Chase


Cynthia Tucker (syndicated column, April 14) excoriates black leaders who 
avoid talking about the epidemic of black incarceration. I think they 
accept the belief that the people sent to prison brought it on themselves, 
especially for drug offenses. There is some truth to that, but drug felons 
had a lot of help in bringing it on themselves.

A few months before President Nixon declared his so-called war on drugs, 
his chief of staff, H.R. Halderman, wrote in his diary, "(President Nixon) 
emphasized that you have to face the fact that the whole problem is really 
the blacks. The key is to devise a system that recognized this while not 
appearing to." Then, in 1996, the author of the book "Smoke and Mirrors" 
interviewed Nixon's other key aide, John Ehrlichman. Ehrlichman told him, 
"Look, we understood we couldn't make it illegal to be young or poor or 
black in the United States, but we could criminalize their common pleasure. 
We understood that drugs were not the health problem we were making them 
out to be, but it was such a perfect issue for the Nixon White House that 
we couldn't resist it."

Nixon could not have imagined his success: that drugs worth $2,500 to 
$3,000 per ounce would attract poor males to come get some; that black 
males would be demonized as the pushers of drugs, addiction and AIDS; or, 
best of all, that black leaders would accept the idea that blacks brought 
it on themselves.

John Chase  
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