I’ve been writing for years about the racist nature of our criminal justice system, especially in the war on drugs. A new Brookings Institution study confirms what dozens of other studies have long shown us, that black people are arrested and imprisoned far more often while white people are actually more likely to sell drugs.
Arrest data show a striking trend: arrests of blacks have fallen for violent and property crimes, but soared for drug related crimes. As of 2011, drug crimes comprised 14 percent of all arrests and a miscellaneous category that includes “drug paraphernalia” possession comprised an additional 31 percent of all arrests. Just 6 percent and 14 percent of arrests were for violent and property crimes, respectively.
The black share of people arrested for drug offenses has ranged from 23 percent (in 1980) to 41 percent (in 1991). Blacks remain far more likely than whites to be arrested for selling drugs (3.6 times more likely) or possessing drugs (2.5 times more likely).
Here’s the real shock: whites are actually more likely than blacks to sell drugs and about as likely to consume them.Whites were about 45 percent more likely than blacks to sell drugs in 1980, according to an analysis of the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth by economist Robert Fairlie. This was consistent with a 1989 survey of youth in Boston. My own analysis of data from the 2012 National Survey on Drug Use and Health shows that 6.6 percent of white adolescents and young adults (aged 12 to 25) sold drugs, compared to just 5.0 percent of blacks (a 32 percent difference).
As for drug use, just 10 percent of blacks report using illegal drugs within the last month, which is not statistically different than the rate for whites. Among college students, 25 percent of whites reported illegal drug use within the last month but just 20 percent of black students. I find a higher percentage of whites than blacks report ever consuming illegal drugs.
There are so many terrible results of this imbalance. Black families and lives are destroyed as 1/3 of all black men will spend time in prison or jail at some point in their lives. A permanent underclass is created and maintained. Michelle Alexander is right when she calls this the “new Jim Crow.” It’s a de facto system of discrimination and segregation that destroys any hope of justice and racial equality in this country.