The other day, I mentioned that it makes sense for black America to call for reparations for the War on Drugs. This misleading assault on the economic and social stability of black America has led to untold devastation in our communities, as drugs and guns were allowed to flood urban areas. This was not by accident, as the CIA looked the other way and allowed the drugs to come into our neighborhoods to fund covert and illegal wars overseas.
As a result, families were torn apart by addiction, homicide rates flew through the roof, and black America has been at the receiving end of a mass incarceration epidemic of holocaust proportions. Given that it has been proven that government officials played a direct role in the creation of this madness, I say that there is a logical argument for reparations.
I spoke with Ohio State University Law Professor Michelle Alexander, author of the book, “The New Jim Crow,” and she agrees with this assessment. Alexander’s book is a telling and riveting reminder of the horrific impact that mass incarceration has had on black America.
“I think it’s a powerful point you’re making,” she said. “Also, I think it’s worth noting that the US has spent more than one trillion dollars waging the drug war since it began-funds that could have been used for education, job creation, etc. It is reasonable that at least a trillion dollars be paid to repair the damage that has been done, reparations that could take the form of massive investments in the schools and community hardest hit by the drug war, as well as payments to individuals and families that have been destroyed.”
Are reparations practical? I am not sure, given that we live in a nation that has refused to even apologize for slavery. But the fact that an entity refuses to take responsibility for its actions does not mean that you should not accurately highlight such accountability. Those who expect America to calm itself into a sweet, kind “post-racial society” must be made aware that unforgiveable amounts of damage has been done as a result of the war on drugs, and any post-racial society must be built on accepting responsibility for wrongs that have been committed in the past.
The War on Drugs is not like slavery, which affected our great, great, great grandparents. Many children today have parents who’ve received 60-year prison sentences for drug possession. Families are mourning the loss of loved ones who’ve been murdered by weapons allowed to enter black communities as a result of the drug trade. I run into countless young people who are traumatized after growing up with parents who were addicted to drugs. The pain and misery is all around us, so it’s very simple to prove that the damage has been nothing short of crippling.
It’s time to address this matter in a series of public forums, legislation, petitions and even protests. It’s also time for all of us to promote awareness in our own communities about the dangers of drugs and mentor our young people to create better lives for themselves. Like a town that’s been ravaged by a violent tornado, it’s going to take a consistent effort by all of us to clean up the mess in our community. It’s time to start making things right.
Dr. Boyce Watkins is a Professor at Syracuse University and author of the forthcoming book, “The RAPP Sheet: Rising Above Psychological Poison.” To have Dr. Boyce commenttary delivered to your email, please click here.