Texas Liberal

All People Matter

In This Case, Democrats Are As Willing As Republicans To Ruin The Lives Of The Urban Poor

In endorsements I have made in this campaign season, I’ve supported many Democrats.

While I’ve also endorsed a Green, a Socialist, and an independent, most of my endorsements have been of Democrats.

While I believe that many Democrats seeking public office are good and decent people, my support comes with a fair measure of reservation.

As a citizen and voter who has spent nearly every day of my life in a city, I feel that Democrats often take the votes of urban voters and offer little in return.

I feel that both liberals and minority voters hear a lot of talk from Democrats, but because the process is so bought off by big money and because so many politicians are cowards, urban policy is ignored and the poor stay poor year after year.

A recent opinion column in The  New York Times by Charles Blow about public policy regarding drug arrests brings this view home.

I’m just going to run the full piece. I subscribe to the print edition of the Times at great cost so I don’t feel guilty.

From Mr. Blow—

Attorney General Eric Holder Jr.’s recent chest-thumping against the California ballot initiative that seeks to legalize marijuana underscores how the war on drugs in this country has become a war focused on marijuana, one being waged primarily against minorities and promoted, fueled and financed primarily by Democratic politicians.

According to a report released Friday by the Marijuana Arrest Research Project for the Drug Policy Alliance and the N.A.A.C.P. and led by Prof. Harry Levine, a sociologist at the City University of New York: “In the last 20 years, California made 850,000 arrests for possession of small amounts of marijuana, and half-a-million arrests in the last 10 years. The people arrested were disproportionately African-Americans and Latinos, overwhelmingly young people, especially men.”

For instance, the report says that the City of Los Angeles “arrested blacks for marijuana possession at seven times the rate of whites.”

This imbalance is not specific to California; it exists across the country.

One could justify this on some level if, in fact, young blacks and Hispanics were using marijuana more than young whites, but that isn’t the case. According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, young white people consistently report higher marijuana use than blacks or Hispanics.

How can such a grotesquely race-biased pattern of arrests exist? Professor Levine paints a sordid picture: young police officers are funneled into low-income black and Hispanic neighborhoods where they are encouraged to aggressively stop and frisk young men. And if you look for something, you’ll find it. So they find some of these young people with small amounts of drugs. Then these young people are arrested. The officers will get experience processing arrests and will likely get to file overtime, he says, and the police chiefs will get a measure of productivity from their officers. The young men who were arrested are simply pawns.

Professor Levine has documented an even more devious practice in New York City, where possessing a small amount of marijuana is just a civil violation (so is a speeding ticket), but having it “open to public view” is a misdemeanor.

According to a report he issued in September 2009: “Police typically discovered the marijuana by stopping and searching people, often by tricking and intimidating them into revealing it. When people then took out the marijuana and handed it over, they were arrested and charged with the crime of having marijuana ‘open to public view.’ ”

And these arrests are no minor matter. They can have very serious, lifelong consequences.

For instance, in 1998, President Bill Clinton signed a provision that made people temporarily or permanently ineligible for federal financial aid depending on how many times they had been arrested and convicted of a drug offense. The law took effect in 2000, and since 2006 lawmakers have been working to soften it. But the effect was real and devastating: the people most in need of financial aid were also being the most targeted for marijuana arrests and were therefore the most at risk of being frozen out of higher education. Remember that the next time someone starts spouting statistics comparing the number of black men in prison with the number in college. Continue reading

October 26, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , | Leave a comment