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Why I Support Marijuana Legalization, But Not as a Strategy for Winning Racial Justice

The recent spate of editorials in the New York Times promoting marijuana legalization has generated a lot of talk about federal action to end marijuana enforcement. The Times editorial board’s concern about this issue is summed up as follows,

The social costs of the marijuana laws are vast. There were 658,000 arrests for marijuana possession in 2012, according to F.B.I. figures, compared with 256,000 for cocaine, heroin and their derivatives. Even worse, the result is racist, falling disproportionately on young black men, ruining their lives and creating new generations of career criminals.

I agree, though that phrase “career criminals” …

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The Rubenfeld-Chua Hoohah

The controversy generated by Amy Chua and Jed Rubenfeld’s new book The Triple Package is one of the more annoying non-news events of the year.  This past weekend alone, the book was covered by the New York Times in their Book Review insert and the widely read Sunday Magazine.

In spite of all of the exploitative but it’s not racist publicity that has landed the book so much free media exposure, The Triple Package isn’t about race. It’s focus instead is on the authors’ claim that what leads to certain measures of success in the U.S. is a …

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Racism and the Threat to American Civil Liberties

Whatever you think of Edward Snowden, we have him to thank for revealing the shocking fact that our federal government is collecting data on millions of us in the name of national security. Worse, it turns out, private contractors like Booz Allen Hamilton, the firm that employed Snowden, have been doing a bunch of that spying, especially post 9/11. So, to state what is probably already obvious to most of you, private companies outside of any kind of real accountability to the public have access to our personal information, not just the government.

It seems unbelievable that a country …

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The NYPD: A “New Low” That’s Not So New

Recently news broke of the New York Police Department’s (NYPD) unbridled, secret surveillance of Muslim communities and organizations, monitoring intimate aspects of people’s lives and designating entire mosques as terrorist organizations without evidence. I reacted to this with a familiar combination of rage and fatigue.

In an interview on Huffington Post, Linda Sarsour of the Arab American Association of New York expressed a similar lack of surprise, while calling these police practices a “new low.”

The NYPD’s approach to counterterrorism policing seems to start from a place that all Muslims are inherently suspect, raising serious civil rights and safety …

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Our Turn to Dream Video Share

My friends at Project South, a member of the South to South collaboration, shared this video with me, a project of the Brave New Foundation. Together, these groups are working toward shutting down the school to prison pipeline as part of their effort to lead a new Southern Freedom Movement. I hope you check it out.

As you do, consider this:

Rates of illegal drug use are consistent across race. Approximately the same percentage of whites and blacks, for instance, use illegal drugs. But there were 223.5 million white people and 39 million black people in the U.S., according …

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Still Dreaming About Jobs and Freedom

The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom is probably best remembered today for Martin Luther King, Jr’s march address, “I Have A Dream.” That speech, along with dramatic media accounts of black struggle inspired a generation to take action, including LGBT activists, feminists, immigration reform advocates, and anti-imperialists, each of whom would also make their mark on society.

But, 50 years later, the economic demands of the marchers, including for decent housing, educational equity and school integration, full employment, and a livable national minimum wage, remain little more than dreams. Meanwhile, a growing percentage of whites believe …

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What Is Racial Justice?

I recently received this email from a reader.

Hi.  Came across your website.  What exactly do you mean by “racial justice”?  I realize the question might sound trollish, but it’s a serious question.  Does your definition include settling old scores?  Is it more focused on current injustice?   What are some policy recommendations?  Do you believe disparate impact to be racially unjust?  Is equal opportunity only truly equal when there is equal results?  Thanks for your time.

Duke of SaMo

Troll or not, the questions are interesting. So, I figured I’d try offering some answers. Here goes.

First, no, my …

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Why Are White People So Touchy About Being Called Racist?

I’ve often pondered the question, why are white people so touchy about being called out for racism?

I know some of you will say that racism is much more than the hurtful prejudice of a marginal few. Agreed. Racism is also inherited structural and political inequity by race resulting in persistent poverty, health disparities, and deficits of opportunity in communities of color. And as with all kinds of oppression, racism is ultimately kept in place by violence and the threat of violence (think in terms of lynchings, cross-burnings, KKK raids, etc. throughout our history). Simple prejudice seems pretty minor by …

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What We Talk About When We Talk About Racism

Ever notice that when we talk about racism, those of us who are racial justice advocates are often really mostly talking about ourselves? We speak out to demonstrate our knowledge. We signal that we get it, building community among like-minded people by using the right words and being in command of the right facts. We make the case for opposing racism with descriptions of how people of color suffer, often even to the extent to ranking oppressions and making suffering into a virtue.

At our best we don’t appeal to guilt as much as to compassion. But we don’t …

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Legalizing Marijuana May Be A Good Idea, But It Is Not A Racial Justice Strategy

Ever since election day, liberal pundits and activists have been buzzing about the success of marijuana decriminalization ballot measures in Washington and Colorado. The general consensus is that these election victories and polls showing that a majority of Americans support decriminalization of marijuana is harbinger of better days to come, and not just because we may one day all be able to light up without legal consequences.

Among the most frequently made arguments for legalization is that it is a step toward ending mass incarceration resulting from the war on drugs. Many also argue that the cost of marijuana enforcement …