Pubdate: Mon, 08 Mar 1999
Date: 03/08/1999
Source: Philadelphia Inquirer (PA)
Author: Larry Stevens

The controversy surrounding Gov. Whitman's ouster of her top state
police officer, Carl Williams, over his remarks about minorities and
drugs highlights a grave problem facing our society (Inquirer, March

Sadly and quite disturbingly, Whitman has said that she is "not
arguing with what he was saying." What he was saying was that
minorities are more likely to be involved in the illegal drug trade.
This is a grievous error of fact as well as an outrageous affront to
all minorities.

In reality, illegal drug use cuts across all racial and ethnic lines
fairly evenly. However, while only about 11 percent of illegal drug
users are African American, this group accounts for 37 percent of
those arrested for drug violations, 42 percent of those in federal
prisons for drug violations and almost 60 percent of those in state
prisons for drug felonies.

It becomes increasingly clear that the war on drugs is largely a war
on minorities. A cursory reading of the history of drug policy in the
United States reveals the ugly truth about the uses of race-baiting by
drug prohibitionists. Before the civil rights movement, when no social
sanctions existed to deter racist speech in the mainstream media, drug
prohibitionists regularly appealed to white, middle-class fears of
African Americans and Hispanics, fabricating scare-stories of
"hopped-up Negroes" raping white women.

Apparently, these erroneous and racist ideas endure in the perception
that exists today among many whites that minorities are more likely to
be involved with drugs. It simply isn't true.

Larry Stevens
Springfield, Ill.