by Dr. Boyce Watkins
Sir Richard Branson has spoken up and out against the War on Drugs in the United States. Branson recently noted that the policies are racist and represent a “war on black people.” The billionaire made the remarks during an interview with the Metro newspaper.
“The fundamental difference [in drug policy] in America is that it is a war against black people. 85 percent of people who go to prison for drug use in America are black people. They don’t take more drugs, but it’s a racist law against black people in America,” he said.
“The law should be changed. You’ve got something like 1.5 million people in American jails languishing for taking drugs and that is wrong,” said Branson, a member of the Global Commission on Drug Policy (GCDP). “Those people would be much better being out in society, being helped if they have drug problem, getting off the problem.”
Branson was the guest editor of the newspaper during a trip to New York City. This week, writing for “The Week,” he called for an end to the failed War on Drugs. President Obama has agreed that the policies are biased and must come to an end. But in the first term of his presidency, he was only able to reduce the crack-to-powder sentencing disparity from 100-to-1 to 18-to-1. This means that a five year sentence for powder cocaine translates to a 90-year sentence for crack, which continues to represent a huge disparity.
“I am part of the global commission on drugs, and it consists of 15 ex-presidents from South America, it consists of people like Kofi Annan, Paul Volcker, George Schultz, and ex-presidents from Switzerland and Greece and other places,” Branson said.
“And we just spent two years looking at the war on drugs and it is obvious it failed. Thousands of people in South Africa are killed every year, more and more people are sent to prison and the amount of people using drugs increases year over year.”
Branson has been working to convince the Obama Administration and Congress to stop wasting taxpayer dollars on failed policies from the drug war. He notes that the US spent $51 billion fighting the War on Drugs.
“That’s double what Apple profited last year. It’s a horribly depressing number when you think how far even a fraction of that money would have gone if invested in prevention and rehabilitation efforts.
Branson makes a good point. There is nothing that has done more to destroy the black family in America than the War on Drugs. I spoke to a grown woman the other day who told me that her father has been in prison for her entire life. He wasn’t a killer, and he had no criminal record before his conviction. But he was given 14 life sentences for selling drugs.
As a result of not having her father in the household, the girl said that she grew up without enough food to eat, her brother was murdered, and another sibling is on his way to the very same prison system that has kept his father in cage for the last quarter century. Although she agreed that her father should have been punished for his crime, she rightly felt that 25 years was enough.
Mr. President, you MUST do something to end the drug war. It’s time for all of us to demand that the laws be changed so that our nation can heal from one of the most devastating eras in the history of black America. It’s hard to build strong families when so many of our black men are in prison, on their way to prison or coming home from prison. While it’s important to teach kids to make good decisions, we must also realize that inequity which comes from forcing some kids to pay a lifetime price for their mistakes, while allowing others to have a second chance.
If anyone were to do a drug raid on nearly any college campus across the nation, they would find drugs, drug addicts, and drug dealers all over the place. Yet, we don’t see white college kids going to prison, only young black men. It’s time to end the nonsense.
Dr. Boyce Watkins is the founder of the Your Black World Coalition and creator of the Building Outstanding Men and Boys Family Empowerment Series. To have Dr. Boyce commentary delivered to your email, please click here.