The Corner

Re: Blacks & Drugs

I offer this anecdote in support of Jonah’s position that the “war on drugs” is not anti-Black . . . and as a cautionary tale on how easily moral situations in minority communities can be mischaracterized.

During the administration of first President Bush — I forget the precise year — there was an enormous push to generate local matching funds for the “war on drugs” to access federal match grants. The authorities of Jackson County, Missouri (which includes much of Kansas City) duly designed a segregated (heh, heh) tax dedicated to more drug cops on the street, and more treatment programs for addicts.

My weekly paper, the K.C. Jones, fought the anti-drug levy. Our editorialists assailed the proposal not as legalizers, but as committed anti-taxers. We asked: what next? A dedicated levy for aggravated assault? For check-kiting? For jaywalking? Shouldn’t law enforcement be a priority commitment of the county’s general fund?

Anyhow, in the denouement, we got our heads handed to us — the tax passed by better than 60-40. But in one section of town, the margin was far greater: the “Freedom” wards (so named after the dominant political club), which are, demographically, 90-percent-plus African American. There, the margin favoring a tax to arrest, prosecute, and incarcerate drug pushers garnered nearly 80 percent of the vote — despite the wailing of some “leaders” that the tax would increase profiling.

The moral: Don’t presume that the high incidence of a vice in a community signals that the vice is widely approved. Communities plagued by substance addiction, violence, and sexual illegitimacy are also laden with angry victims of the same.  Hands-on evangelicals understand this, and send their saints among the sinners. Political conservatives often do not.

— Richard Nadler is president of the Americas Majority Foundation, a public-policy think tank in Overland Park, Kan. 

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