The crack trap: racist penalties in ‘land of the free’

All white powders are not treated equal.Although crack cocaine and cocaine contain the same active ingredient, they do not cause the same consequences if one is caught selling, transporting or using them.

Cocaine, which is the purer form of the drug, does not pose the same societal risks that crack does.

Cocaine is the oft-glamorized drug because of its steep price tag, media promotion, the majority race of many users and socioeconomic implications of affording it.

Crack, often presented as an escapist route for plighted users of color, is frequently diluted with other ingredients and is significantly cheaper than cocaine.

Ultimately, drug usage is about the high.
However, even the highs are not achieved at the same speed.

Crack reportedly renders effects in less than 30 seconds, while cocaine takes at least 15 minutes.

Even so, crack cocaine penalties are 100 times harsher than sentences given for cocaine charges.

As a result, mandatory drug sentencing ensnared many a Black person or Latino, especially when regarding crack possession.

The 1986 and 1988 Anti-Drug Abuse Acts created harsh penalties for low-level drug offenses.

The laws also created a criminal caste system with crack users, creators and distributors being Untouchable.

African Americans form about 12 percent of the population and 13 percent of drug users, but make up 38 percent of people who are arrested for drug offenses, according to the Drug Police Alliance website.

The site also reported that 59 percent of those arrested are convicted of drug offenses.

The Alliance also reported that, “The higher arrest rates for African Americans and Latinos do not reflect a higher abuse rate in these communities but rather a law enforcement emphasis on inner city areas where drug use and sales are more likely to take place in open-air drug markets where treatment resources are scarce.”

Critics want to blame drug culture on entertainers, absentee parents and societal immorality.

While these factors can contribute to a dependent society, rappers and gangster movies did not build an addicted culture from scratch.

Movies such as Scarface and countless Young Jeezy, Clipse and Jay-Z songs offer social commentary of preexisting drug problems and the power associated with attaining material possessions with drug money.

Rappers also comment on the effects in communities from the debilitating substances.

Certainly, some easily influenced consumers associate drug culture with power because of the music and movies that affirm it.

Extreme right-wingers and passive liberals also play a role in maintaining disparate drug sentencing.

Former president Ronald Reagan popularized the phrase “war on drugs,” while supporting long sentences for nonviolent illicit drug offenders.

He likened the United States’ substance problems with international battles.

Then first lady Nancy Reagan visited elementary schools and spread a “just say no” substance abuse message to children.

The mantra did not delve into why crack cocaine infiltrated minority communities, rather it demonized participants in the illegal trade.

Neither crack nor cocaine deserves celebration in any community; however, the brown faces behind bars because of unfair consequences should be reassessed.

America continues to strive for a nonexistent post-racial society, and we are reminded daily that race and status still carry clout, even when implicated people carry a pipe or purse of narcotics.