Phil Vischer, founder of Veggie Tales, has a powerful new video on race. After discussing racism, he calls out the “war on drugs” and policing, as potential reasons for continued wealth disparity between blacks and whites. His video doesn’t explain how drug use ravages individuals and communities.
Vischer doesn’t claim to know the solutions, but he calls upon people to “care.” But, we ask, where’s the caring for children who die in the crossfire of drug wars or gang wars? What about the children of all races killed by drug-using parents?
We should care about Mekhi James, a 3 year-old who died last weekend after being shot in a car. Gang violence, certainly related to the drug trade caused this killing. Mekhi’s father was the intended target. Drug use contributed 14 deaths in Chicago last weekend.
In fact, five of those who died by gun violence in Chicago last weekend were children. Yet, the social justice warriors of today want to defund police and keep the perpetrators of such crimes out of jail. Plus anti-tax zealots like Grover Norquist don’t want any money spent on police.
During President Obama’s term, the ONDCP director Gil Kerlikowske called “addiction a driver of violent crime” and said, “We will never get a handle on crime unless we understand its connection to drug use.” Kerlikowske oversaw a change of policy which called for treating addiction as a health issue, rather than a criminal justice issue.
Today, it’s politically unpopular to acknowledge that drugs influence bad behavior or crime, because marijuana advocates and the Drug Policy Alliance want more access pot and to all their drugs. Here’s Phil Vischer’s video:
“War on Drugs” Rhetoric
German Lopez explained why you can’t blame mass incarceration on the war on drugs. When people promote leniency for “non-violent” drug crimes, they’re usually referring to drug dealing which is not a victimless crime.
Furthermore, wealthy white drug dealers can hire expensive lawyers. They get off much more easily than black and brown drug dealers who rely on public defenders. Those who want to abolish all drug laws miss this significant reason for the racial discrepancies in sentencing.
Michelle Alexander, who wrote about this issue in The New Jim Crow, supports the legalization of all drugs. But she laments the fact that pot legalization benefits white males who are now making the profits from marijuana legalization. Black males have been disproportionately jailed for violating drug laws, both before and after pot legalization.
Those who think a “war on drugs” causes more violence than the “war for drugs” demonstrate a poor understanding of human nature. Gangs and cartels are money-making paths that bring profits quickly. Anyone can be lured into the profit motive without thinking of the harm, particularly when young and risky behaviors seem exciting. There is a certain “high” that comes from evading the law and outsmarting the police.
Criminal businesses will always be attractive to both the rich and the poor. If drug dealing were only about income inequality, rich people would not be getting into the drug trade too.
The weak points of Vischer’s understanding
Vischer is correct to call out the US’s appalling history of racism, the legacy of Jim Crow laws and white America’s lack of understanding. The death of Breonna Taylor, when police targeted the wrong apartment for drugs, is a blight on American policing. We agree that the justice system often leads to unequal sentencing. We all need to be aware of the problems and work to create a more just society.
When Vischer says that black and white Americans have roughly the same rate of drug use, it’s an oversimplification. Vischer relies too heavily on Michelle Alexander for his data; drug laws are not the primary driver of incarceration. There are several weaknesses in The New Jim Crow. Alexander does not account for plea bargaining which allows those who commit serious crimes to plea down to lesser charges such as drug possession. Plus, by including parole violations in her statistics, without explaining that a failed drug test can return parolees to jail, also skews her statistics.
One reason that marijuana was made illegal is that many crimes such as domestic violence are very difficult to prove. It may be impossible to get a conviction for domestic violence without corroborating witnesses. However, if drugs are found on the scene, it can be used for evidence of a drug violation. The drug charges may be the only way to send a wife beater to jail.
Yes, there are things we can change in criminal justice regarding justice and drugs. For example, we should rethink parole violations and how they’re handled. Events leading to the death of Rayshard Brooks may have involved fear of a parole violation. We can follow the suggestions of President Obama’s drug chief, as described above. We may never learn better ways to treat those who are very high on drugs and/or in an “excited delirium.” But, stopping the normalization and promotion of drug use will go a long way towards helping our society.