Saturday, April 03, 2010

A New Drug War Book

The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness
A review from the above link:

Contrary to the rosy picture of race embodied in Barack Obama's political success and Oprah Winfrey's financial success, legal scholar Alexander argues vigorously and persuasively that [w]e have not ended racial caste in America; we have merely redesigned it. Jim Crow and legal racial segregation has been replaced by mass incarceration as a system of social control (More African Americans are under correctional control today... than were enslaved in 1850). Alexander reviews American racial history from the colonies to the Clinton administration, delineating its transformation into the war on drugs. She offers an acute analysis of the effect of this mass incarceration upon former inmates who will be discriminated against, legally, for the rest of their lives, denied employment, housing, education, and public benefits. Most provocatively, she reveals how both the move toward colorblindness and affirmative action may blur our vision of injustice: most Americans know and don't know the truth about mass incarceration—but her carefully researched, deeply engaging, and thoroughly readable book should change that.
I have to wonder though if this is not just another left wing ploy. What do I mean by that? I am in deepest sympathy with the general sentiments expressed. The Drug War is destructive and it is a latter day Jim Crow. But are the people championing the cause doing it out of a conviction of liberty or just another tactical move in the quest of our leftists for power. Are they trying to delegitimize our system or improve it?

If destruction of the system is the goal how do you defend against such attacks? It is rather simple IMO. We have to stop dragging our feet when it comes to fixing glaring problems in our system.

One of the ways to do that is to look at history. A good place to look is the history of Progressive and Democrat Woodrow Wilson.
Wilson's racist views were hardly a secret. His own published work was peppered with Lost Cause visions of a happy antebellum South. As president of Princeton, he had turned away black applicants, regarding their desire for education to be "unwarranted." He was elected president because the 1912 campaign featured a third party, Theodore Roosevelt's Bullmoose Party, which drew Republican votes from incumbent William Howard Taft. Wilson won a majority of votes in only one state (Arizona) outside the South.

What Wilson's election meant to the South was "home rule;" that is, license to pursue its racial practices without concern about interference from the federal government. That is exactly what the 1948 Dixiecrats wanted. But "home rule" was only the beginning. Upon taking power in Washington, Wilson and the many other Southerners he brought into his cabinet were disturbed at the way the federal government went about its own business. One legacy of post-Civil War Republican ascendancy was that Washington's large black populace had access to federal jobs, and worked with whites in largely integrated circumstances. Wilson's cabinet put an end to that, bringing Jim Crow to Washington.
And that is not all Wilson brought to Washington. He used his Southern power to get cocaine outlawed.
...a multiyear effort to enact a federal antidrug law culminated in the Harrison Narcotics Act of 1914. To convince conservative Southern members of Congress to accept this substantial expansion of federal power, promoters of the law exploited racist myths, depicting “cocainized” Negroes as the principal cause of rape of white women.
The question as always is "what is to be done?" I think it is a mistake for conservatives who were duped once to continue in that rut.

It was never about the drugs. It was always about the power.

It is disheartening to see Conservatives being on the wrong side of this issue. OK. They were fooled once. Shame on Wilson. But to continue to be fooled? Shame on Conservatives.

Cross Posted at Classical Values


Fredegar said...

Certainly too many on both sides of the political divide support the war on drugs, but conservatives as a monolithic group do not. William F. Buckley, to cite a prominent example, was opposed. As you know, one needn't be in favor of drug abuse to be against the draconian control of drug distribution and the incarceration of huge swaths of the public for non-violent offenses.

M. Simon said...


True about Buckley. But he hasn't had a lot of actual influence on the subject on the right. In fact National Review hardly ever brings up the subject.

From my following of the issue:

Dems 2:1 against the drug war
Indp: split
Reps: 2:1 in favor

And if Rs got out in front it might tamp down some of the "racist" stuff we see around.

Obdurate said...

Well, count me as one more Republican (albeit a libertarian leaning one) against the drug war.