Hundreds of drug reformers gathered at the "Drug Policy and the Politics of Race" event, organised at Columbia University on Sunday, to discuss how repressive drug policies affect the lives of communities of colour. Watch our videos!
One of the reasons why I've always loved Ethan Nadelmann and the Drug Policy Alliance, is because they have never fallen victim to the temptation of becoming an elite organisation, separated from the realities of the marginalised communities who suffer the most from the war on drugs. The fact that the DPA has highlighted racial justice as the main theme of its pre-conference ahead of the UNGASS on drugs, demonstrated once again that they have not lost sight of the principles of human rights and social justice, which are at the core of this movement.
We were filming the event – watch this video showing one of the key sessions on the costs of war and solutions for peace: women taking the lead!
I learned a lot by listening to incredible stories of the victims of America's obsession with punishment: Afro-Americans and Latinos who spent decades in prison for non-violent drug offences. And not only from them, but from mothers who lost their child, wives who lost their husbands, and daughters who lost their fathers. Forget all the stereotypes about women being too sensitive and weak: these women showed admirable courage, strength and vision when they stood up for their loved ones and for themselves.
I learned that it is not enough to repeat the conventional liberal wisdom that the war on drugs is racist – systemic racism is so deeply embedded in our societies, that simply ending the war on drugs would not stop it. It's not only that the war on drugs negatively affects the lives of Afro-Americans and Latinos – the whole system was explicitly designed to suppress and discipline these communities.
I learned that the greatest perversion of racism is that it makes us, whites, believe that we have a legitimate reason to be afraid of black and brown people, despite – and in a perverse way, because of – the fact that whites have been killing, raping, beating and imprisoning them for centuries. And this doesn't only harm the victims: that false sense of moral superiority also deprives us, whites, of an essential part of our humanity.
Peter Sarosi and István Takács Gábor