DoseNation Podcast

Weekly news, talk, and interviews. More »


Dear Mr. Carolla: Institutional Racism and the War on Drugs

James L. Kent
I will admit for the record that I am a fan of the Adam Carolla show, I listen to it almost every day. But lately it has become very difficult to listen because of Mr. Carolla’s heated dismissal of the Black Lives Matter movement, and the doubling down on the notion that institutional racism is no longer a factor in the struggle or policing of impoverished inner cities. This trend is exacerbated by booking guests like Ben Shapiro and Milo Yiannopoulis, pundits that claim to be rational intellectuals but are clearly flacks working for the Republican establishment and the biggest troll of all the Republican media outlets, Breitbart News.

Listening to the August 8, 2016 episode of the “Adam Carolla Show”, it is clear that Mr. Carolla agrees with Ben Shapiro’s statements that the problems with impoverished black communities are due to “cultural factors” like crime and single motherhood, and that claims of institutional racism are a whiny and finger pointing way of blaming the problems in the black community on someone else. Mr. Shapiro smugly rattles off a list of facts indicating how black communities have decayed since the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s, and seems to imply that in the years since black people won right to vote they all just went crazy, became criminals, and started having as many illegitimate children as possible. Mr. Carolla happily doubles down on his sentiment and argues that if black people could just raise their children as a family instead of as a single parent then all their problems would magically be solved. Indeed, Carolla’s single solution to the problem of impoverished black communities is “family and education,” which he shouts to the heavens as if nobody in the history of the world had come up with this simple platitude. Also, he rudely dismisses anyone who would argue that the problem is more complex than that.

What Mr. Shapiro fails to mention in his statistics of the black community is that in the years after black people won the right to vote, their leaders and their communities were targeted with one of the most devastating and racially based social programs ever, the War on Drugs. We all know the War on Drugs is a misguided and failed public policy, but what is almost never mentioned is that from inception the War on Drugs was intended to criminalize and control black leaders and minority populations. I understand that this sentiment sounds horribly diabolical, and nobody in America wants to own up to this ugly truth, but facts are facts. The War on Drugs and the following decades of aggressive policing in black communities led to the largest mass incarceration of black people in the history of the world. And the architect of this policy was Richard M. Nixon, a white man and the President of the United States. Institutional racism does not get any higher than a sitting President of the United States implementing a policy specifically to keep minorities out of power by making them all criminals and putting them all in jail.

President Nixon did not like black people, this is clear from the offensive language he uses on his secret tapes. Nixon was paranoid of all opposition, but in an era of Civil Rights and the Black Panther movement he was especially concerned about black people, and devised the War on Drugs as a means to discredit black leadership as well as political opposition in the hippie and anti-war movements. People have long suspected that the War on Drugs was racially motivated, but this policy was admitted by John Ehrlichman, a senior advisor to Nixon, in an interview with Harper’s magazine published in April of 2016.

"The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and black people," former Nixon domestic policy chief John Ehrlichman told Harper's writer Dan Baum for the April cover story published Tuesday. "You understand what I'm saying? 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," Ehrlichman said. "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."

Report: Aide says Nixon's war on drugs targeted blacks, hippies

Admittedly, the War on Drugs was not only targeting black people, they were going after anyone who would threaten Nixon’s hold on power. Which brings me to my larger point, and one that is often lost in heated rhetoric about race relations: Institutional racism is not about hate, it is about holding on to power. Nixon did not implement the War on Drugs because he hated black people, it was because he feared their power and wanted to keep them from organizing into a competing political force. This is a far shadier form of racism than we normally think of, but this is the form that institutional racism takes. Republicans don’t hate black people, they just don’t want them to vote because they vote overwhelmingly Democratic.

If the story of institutional racism ended here that would be diabolical enough, but sadly it does not end here. In the 1970s urban black communities were flooded with heroin from China and Afghanistan. In the 1980s urban black communities were flooded with crack cocaine originating in Colombia and South America. During this time jail sentences for low-level drug offenses were made extremely strict, meaning that a black man found with a few grams of cocaine or heroin could be thrown in jail for ten or twenty years. With the three strikes law they could be thrown in jail for life. Also during this time the country’s prison system was privatized, meaning that corporate interests who voted overwhelmingly Republican were suddenly making record profits for the job of locking up black people. This picture, when you see all of it, is nothing less than shameful.

In the two decades after the biggest Civil Rights victory in American history, black neighborhoods across the US were flooded with heroin, cocaine, and guns. We all know that heroin and cocaine do not come from black neighborhoods, nor do guns, but somehow urban black neighborhoods became the primary markets and distribution centers for illicitly obtaining these items. We all know that black leaders from the inner city were not flying to Colombia or Afghanistan every month to smuggle wholesale quantities of drugs, nor were they cutting deals with arms manufacturers to illegally distribute handguns. Instead, the drugs were being imported by the US military and CIA operating in South America and Asia, often in exchange for US weapons traded to local militias fighting Soviet or communist forces. The massive movement of drugs and arms by the CIA and US military has been documented in various reports that have been summarily covered up or downplayed by corporate media. And what did the US military and CIA do with these drugs that were traded for weapons? They were sold to high-level dealers in urban black communities to blanket these areas with addiction and crime. To what end? To give the police the just cause to lock up more black people.

Key Figures In CIA-Crack Cocaine Scandal Begin To Come Forward

During the ‘70s and ‘80s policing tactics in urban black areas became more militant and more violent, specifically because of the “hard on crime” stance dictated by the War on Drugs. Black communities and black families were gutted as their young men started to going to jail in record numbers. The children in the black communities of this era often grew up without a father, they were the lost children of the street, and in almost all cases their fathers were beaten and dragged away from them by white police officers. The only recourse for these lost children was to form street gangs which acted as de-facto militias for protecting themselves from rival gangs and from the police. By the 1990s the children of War on Drugs generation had grown up into fully-formed inner city gangs, armed gangs who stood in direct opposition to the oppressive policing forces tearing their communities apart. By 2015, after two terms of the first African American president, the lingering drug and crime problems, the systemic violence, and the unrelenting police harassment in the black community have only come into a sharper focus. Now enter the Black Lives Matter movement. In light of these harsh policing practices created by the War on Drugs do you think the black community might have a legitimate reason to be pissed off?

Of course, all Mr. Carolla and perhaps all Mr. Shaprio sees is the decades of decay in the black community, and when Black Lives Matter activists claim that their communities have been ravaged by institutional racism Mr. Carolla scoffs and pats Mr. Shapiro on the back for calling this a cultural problem. Mr. Shapiro begs listeners to explain how racism has affected black communities since the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s, and then smugly claims that nobody can explain it because there is no racism here, it is a problem of black people having too many illegitimate children. Well I have just explained it, it is not that hard to explain. The reason there are so many illegitimate children in the black community is because those communities are flooded with drugs, drug addiction is rampant, women turn to prostitution to fuel their drug habit, and black men go to jail for drug crimes in greater numbers than all the other races combined. And, beyond that, black communities under siege by crime, drug addiction, and police forces have more children as a response to the fact that many of their children will not live to adulthood. Their only weapon against cultural attrition is to breed more children, or “soldiers” as they are often referred to in gang communities. And how does Mr. Carolla respond to this horrifying and desperate truth of life in bombed out urban communities, he yells at people to “Stop shitting out kids!”

Mr. Carolla often cites other minority communities that succeed in America as evidence that racism doesn’t exist. “Asians are kicking ass,” he will say, as if that proves a point. However, other minority communities do not suffer the generations of targeted oppression seen in urban black communities. Other minorities come to the US with their families in tact and money in their pocket. They have the luxury of focusing on family and education because their communities have not been flooded with drugs and guns and hostile policing. African immigrants to the US since the Civil Rights movement do not face the same problems as the lingering communities of black people who lived through slavery, Jim Crow, segregation, and the War on Drugs, and they do not face the same rampant drug crime and hostile policing seen in urban black communities. Barack Obama is black, but he is not from urban black communities descended from slavery, he was raised in Hawaii by a white mother and was not exposed to hostile policing or being jumped into criminal gangs as a teenager. This demonstrates that racism is not always about color, it is about power, and the Republican establishment does not fear or hate black people, they fear organized black people with a powerful voting block, which is exactly what you see in urban black neighborhoods.

It is worth mentioning that since the Civil Rights movement black Americans from urban areas have had a harder time than other races when it comes to owning property, getting a bank loan, paying for an education, or finding a decent paying job. There are still neighborhoods in America where black people are not allowed to buy or rent homes, not as a law but as an unspoken rule. This is because black Americans from urban communities have been stigmatized as gangsters and criminals, specifically because of the War on Drugs. The intent of the War on Drugs was to discredit power structures in the black community and put young black leaders in jail. The War on Drugs also targeted hippies and anti-war activists, but these were young white people, often college educated or college students, with strong multi-generational families that owned property and had money to hire lawyers. The hippies took their share of beatings and arrests, and the hippie and anti-war communities were ultimately broken into insignificant factions, but because of their generational safety net, often referred to as "white privilege", their counter-culture was able to endure an onslaught of adversarial policing. In contrast, the black communities faced with the same kind of oppressive policing were not college educated, did not have money, and did not have the support of families with money and connections to keep them out of jail. And, on top of that, their communities were flooded with drugs that kept them addicted, jobless, and totally reliant on criminal means to maintain their fix.

My request to Mr. Carolla is that he might dig a little deeper into the roots of the systemic problems facing black communities, specifically drugs, crime, poverty, illegitimate children, hostile policing, and mass incarceration. These problems did not spontaneously arise from these communities as a “cultural problem” as Mr. Shapiro and others might suggest, these problems were manufactured by a sitting President of the United States, a white man who saw nascent power structures in the black community as a threat his position. Nobody in the United States likes to look at the history of the War on Drugs, the influx of drugs into black neighborhoods, and harsh legal policies like the mandatory minimum sentencing guidelines as a political ploy to undermine black power and keep the black vote down, but this is exactly what the policy intended and this is exactly what it did. These policies continue to this day, as well as other voter suppression policies that specifically target impoverished black people, like denying convicted felons the right to vote, or forcing a person who can’t afford a car to take a six week driving class and pay hundreds of dollars to get a driver’s license they’ll never use just so they can vote.

It is ugly out there Mr. Carolla, and like many people you scoff at the term “racism” because you associate it with hate, and you know in your heart that Americans are generally good people and they don’t hate based on things like skin color. However, this is not racism based on hate, this is racism based on fear. Specifically, racially motivated policies implemented by the Republican party of the United States to disrupt black power structures and keep black people from voting because they know that if black people are allowed to organize the Republican party will become a thing of the past. I would invite any one of your smug Republican flacks to come on your show and deny or debate these facts. In the face of the War on Drugs, the wholesale dumping of addictive narcotics into their communities, the hostile policing actions that followed, and the corporate prisons that rely on a steady stream of new bodies for their profits, even you must see that there is something wrong here. Institutional racism does not go any higher than a plan hatched by a sitting president to keep an entire race of people down. You cannot deny this is a sad fact of our history continuing into our present day.

Lastly, Mr. Carolla is often harsh on liberal voices that seek to highlight institutional racism because he thinks they only exacerbate the problem by exposing it to the light of day, and condemns them for not having any other solutions than trying to throw taxpayer money at the problem. I agree this is a shortcoming of the liberal left, but not because they are wrong, but because there are no easy solutions to this problem. You cannot just yell “family and education!” louder and louder and hope this message takes hold, this is a problem that will take generations to fix. I will highlight what I think are the best solutions to this problem, but will do so with the caveat that they are not politically popular, and no politician espousing these solutions will ever be elected, which is why “chickenshit politicians” cannot propose these solutions and ever hope to stay in office.

1. Legalize all Drugs. The War on Drugs has to end, and in doing so it will remove the problem of criminal gangs controlling the drug markets in urban neighborhoods. It will also remove hundreds of thousands of black men from jail who are currently being held on unjustly long sentences. Ending the War on Drugs will allow communities ravaged by addiction to seek treatment without fear of incarceration, will take power away from the criminal gangs, and will put a dent in the hostile policing practices plaguing these communities. Legal drug problems are far easier to deal with than illegal drug problems, this is simply a fact. Nothing will change in these communities as long as the War on Drugs continues.

2. Implement Nationwide Gun Buyback Programs. Because of our Second Amendment, passing laws that prohibit gun ownership are impossible. However, guns must be removed from the streets to limit the deadly criminal activity in poor urban neighborhoods. Gun buyback programs are the most effective way to get handguns off the street. If drugs are legalized and neighborhood gangs no longer need to control territory or protect themselves from hostile policing, their guns will no longer be needed. For the low cost a few billion dollars all the illegally obtained and unregistered handguns in America can be repurchased and destroyed without the need to pass any new legislation. These buyback initiatives should be implemented within the context of inner city gang disarmament talks, a discussion becoming increasingly urgent in areas plagued by chronic gun violence, but cannot move forward in the face of drug crime or hostile policing practices.

3. Legalize prostitution. After drugs, the other major market controlled by inner city gangs is prostitution. Illegal prostitution is the primary cause of drug addiction, incarceration, and illegitimate children among young black women. If prostitution were legal then sex workers would have better access to birth control and abortion and would not be held in the power of pimps and gangs that want to keep them powerless and addicted to drugs. Minority women in inner city communities should have child care and educational and vocational resources that allow them to move away from a life of institutionalized sex and drug slavery.

4. Adopt, foster, or mentor a black child. The problem of single motherhood and illegitimate children in the black community will not go away overnight, it will take generations to undo the damage done to urban black families over the last few decades. In the meantime, black children raised by single mothers have a higher chance of winding up dead or in jail than any other people in our country. The only way to solve this generational problem is to have people of means adopt a black child or adopt a black family to provide a generational safety net and mentorship outside of the reaches of criminal gangs. If you are not willing to adopt a black child, there are plenty of criminal gangs looking to take that child and turn them into a street soldier at the age of 10 or 11. The best way to keep these children from turning to gangs for support is to give them a way out, give them a multi-generational family support system that is more attractive than a gang seeking to burn them out to death or incarceration by the age of 21.

Mr. Carolla, you will not hear anyone on the left or right proposing these solutions because they are not politically popular, they are difficult and likely to spark outrage from liberals, conservatives, gun activists, black activists, religious people, and generally anybody prone to political outrage. Nobody wants difficult solutions, they only want easy solutions. Sadly, there are no easy solutions to the multi-generational problems created by the War on Drugs. Even if the politicians buy in and do as you say, shouting “family and education” louder and louder will not work, we are past the point of shouting easy solutions. We must first face the truth, that the drug and crime epidemic in the black community is not a "cultural problem", but is in fact a problem manufactured by a paranoid President of the United States seeking to cling to power. And then, after admitting the hard truth, we must take the hard steps to undo it.

I invite Mr. Carolla to address the racial motivations of the War on Drugs on his podcast, and would be happy to appear as a guest to elaborate these points. I am by no means an expert on institutional racism, but I am an expert on the sad history of America's drug war. Too often we dismiss racism as a thing that people are guilty of, just a few people with hate in their hearts that do not speak for us. But sometimes racism is a thing that happens not as a matter of hate but as a matter of policy, and this kind of racism cannot be denied simply because you do not like calling people racist. I'm sorry Mr. Carolla, but the Republican party is racist, not because they hate black people, but simply because they want to keep their jobs. Even you must understand the difference here, it is not personal racism, it is institutional.

Posted By jamesk at 2016-08-09 14:58:50 permalink | comments
Facebook it! Twitter it! Digg it! Reddit! StumbleUpon It! Google Bookmark technorati Furl Yahoo! Bookmark
» More ways to bookmark this page