Finally admitting to a fact that hundreds of thousands of profiled, disenfranchised Black and Brown men across the United States — and their families — have known for decades, former President Bill Clinton has revealed in a new Sam Branson documentary, “Breaking the Taboo,” that the so-called War on Drugs did not work.
“What I tried to do was to focus on every aspect of the problem. I tried to empower the Colombians for example to do more militarily and police-wise because I thought that they had to. Thirty percent of their country was in the hands of the narcotraffickers,” Clinton says in the film, which is available free online.
In the film, narrator Morgan Freeman says, “the U.S. spent billions of dollars funding military operations” in Colombia to cut of cocaine coming into America.
Clinton later says: “Well obviously, if the expected results was that we would eliminate serious drug use in America and eliminate the narcotrafficking networks — it hasn’t worked.”
Former President Jimmy Carter also weighed in on the pivotal issue:
“President Reagan and his wife [Nancy] adopted the drug program as the No. 1 issue for her to proclaim. She had a phrase: Just say, ‘No,’” Carter says in the film. “She made it clear that her prohibition against drugs included marijuana and everything else. So I don’t think that there’s any doubt that President Reagan made a profound impact then on the consciousness of our country, and I think that he also shaped the opinion of many members of our Congress.”
According to a 20-page Human Rights Watch report released in 2009, “Decades of Disparity: Drug Arrests and Race in the United States,” every year between 1980-2007 Black people were arrested on drug charges 2.8 to 5.5 times as high as those of Whites.
“About one in three of the more than 25.4 million adult drug arrestees during that period was African American.”
Michelle Alexander, author of the riveting tome, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration In The Age Of Colorblindness, addresses just how much the “War on Drugs” didn’t work:
- There are more African Americans under correctional control today—in prison or jail, on probation or parole—than were enslaved in 1850, a decade before the Civil War began.
- As of 2004, more African American men were disenfranchised (due to felon disenfranchisement laws) than in 1870, the year the Fifteenth Amendment was ratified, prohibiting laws that explicitly deny the right to vote on the basis of race.
- A black child born today is less likely to be raised by both parents than a black child born during slavery. The recent disintegration of the African American family is due in large part to the mass imprisonment of black fathers.
- If you take into account prisoners, a large majority of African American men in some urban areas have been labeled felons for life. (In the Chicago area, the figure is nearly 80 percent.) These men are part of a growing undercaste—not class, caste—permanently relegated by law to a second-class status. They can be denied the right to vote, automatically excluded from juries, and legally discriminated against in employment, housing, access to education, and public benefits, much as their grandparents and great-grandparents were during the Jim Crow era.
With Black and Brown men being funneled into the Prison Industrial Complex like chattel, the “War” has paid socio-political and financial dividends to politicians and corporations who have invested in the failure of the Black community. From that perspective, maybe the real war, the one that many don’t even know we’ve been fighting, has been won.