U. Wisconsin Panel Focuses on Drug War, Minorities

U. Wisconsin Panel Focuses on Drug War, Minorities
Posted by FoM on April 28, 2000 at 08:02:06 PT
By Matt Ringgenberg, Badger Herald U. Wisconsin
Source: U-WIRE
On Wednesday, the University of Wisconsin Students for Sensible Drug Policy held a public lecture to discuss the War on Drugs and its effect on minorities. The discussion entitled "Just Say Know: Race and the Drug War," included a distinguished panel of local representatives along with keynote speaker Deborah Peterson Small. 
Small, who is the director of public policy and community outreach at the Lindesmith Center, a New York-based research institute that specializes in drug policy-related issues, is a leading expert on the war on drugs and its connection to race. "The war on drugs is not about drugs," Small said. "It's about the power to supress people, because if it was about drugs, we'd be prosecuting equally." Other panel members included Bill Lueders, news editor for the Isthmus, Lt. Wayne Strong, lieutenant of operations for the South District of the Madison Police Department, and Professor Walter Dickey, Evjue-Bascom professor of law and faculty director of the Remington Center for Research, Education and Service in Criminal Justice. Throughout the evening, panel members took turns discussing their viewpoints regarding the drug war and its effects and consequences, in addition to discussing the disproportional impact the drug war has had on minorites. Currently in the United States, the minority population is subject to higher rates of conviction for drug offenses than whites. According to SSDP, African Americans make up 13 percent of the national population, 13 percent of monthly drug users, 35 percent of arrests for drug possession and 74 percent of convictions. "[America's] desire to maintain privilege over others has not disappeared," said Small, pointing to America's history of connecting illegal drugs with minorities. Citing opium and its connection with the Chinese as an example, Small stated that smoking opium, most popular with Chinese Americans, was outlawed before other forms of opium that were used by European Americans. This early War on Drugs represents just one of many instances in which the drug war has taken on the face of a subliminal war on race. "We're seeing the convergence of two very powerful forces," said Lueders, "drugs and race." Furthermore, many of the panel members argued that the drug war in general, regardless of race, was an ineffective tool. "Citizens have the right to expect a certain quality of life where they live," said Dickey. "The current approach trying to respond to that demand is not satisfying the demand, but squandering resources." In addition, many panel members pointed to the startling statistics surrounding the drug war, its costs, and its benefits, and commented that the money used in funding the drug war could be better spent in the prevention of drug abuse. Rather than increasing the number of drug arrests and giving lengthier sentences, panel members argued that more money could be spent to give youths opportunities in life that they do not now possess. "The drug dealer is the only equal opportunity employer available," Small said. "The drug education that young people get today is so ridiculous. There are ways to be able to use drugs safely but we don't teach them that. What we're really doing is fighting a war against our own children." (U-WIRE) Madison, Wis. Published: April 27, 2000(C) 2000 Badger Herald via U-WIRE  Copyright  2000 At Home CorporationRelated Articles & Web Sites:SSDP Policy Forum of Wisconsin: Articles On Wisconsin News Items & SSDP:
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