One of Raw Story’s latest pieces titled, “Noam Chomsky: The Drug War is the Latest Manifestation of a Centuries-Old Race War”, highlights some poignant remarks made by the 85-year old idol of academia and political activist. Chomsky illustrated how the war on drugs is actually a vicious attack on poor folks of color. During the video conference with Foundation Degree students about the legacy of the American Civil Rights movement, he discussed the whitewashing of American History and the “the criminalizing of Black life.”
The West Philly native explains, “[Enslaved Africans] were capital, but if you could imprisoned labor, states could utilize them — you get a disciplined, extremely cheap labor force that you don’t have to pay for. Part of the whole industrial revival was based on the reinstitution of slave labor. That went on until the start of the Second World War,” he continued, “after which black men and women were able to work their way into the labor force, the war industries.”
“Then came two decades, the ’50s and the ’60s, of substantial economic growth. Also, egalitarian growth — the lower quintile did about the same as the upper quintile, and the black population was able to work its way into the society. They could work in the auto factories, make some money, buy a house. And over the course of those same 20 years the Civil Rights Movement took off.”
Chomsky continued, saying the Civil Rights movement reached a roadblock once the issue of class arose.
“There is a close class-race correlation, but as the Black and increasingly Latino issues…began to reach up against the class barriers, there was a big reaction. Part of it was reinstitution of the criminalization of the black population in the late 1970s. It’s not based on crime… The device that was used to recriminalize the Black population was drugs. The drug wars are fraud — a total fraud. They have nothing to do with drugs, the price of drugs doesn’t change. What the drug war has succeeded in doing is to criminalize the poor. And the poor in the United States happen to be overwhelming Black and Latino.”
And in unison with attorney, author and intellectual Michelle Alexander, who penned The New Jim Crow, Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, Chomsky declared, “It’s a race war. Almost entirely, from the first moment, the orders given to the police as to how to deal with drugs were, ‘You don’t go into the suburbs and arrest the white stockbroker sniffing coke in the evening, but you do go into the ghettos, and if a kid has a joint in his pocket, you put him in jail.’ So it starts with police action, not the police themselves, but the orders given to them.”
“Then there’s the sentencing, which is grotesquely disproportionate — then the highly punitive system instituted after, if anybody ever gets out of prison.” He claimed that “[p]rison’s only about one thing: punishment. They only learn one thing in prison, which is how to be a criminal…and the result is like reinstating Jim Crow,” he concludes.
Michelle Alexander shared similar harrowing findings during a speech At Riverside Church in NYC:
“Our prison population quintupled in 30 yrs, from 350,000 to well over 2 mil for reasons that have little to do with crime or crime rates. Crime rates have fluctuated over the years while the prison population (especially African American) continues to soar… Crime and prison population rates move independently of each other.”
Echoing Ms. Alexander, who also uncovered that in 2004, more black men were disenfranchised than in the year 1870, the legendary linguist and peace advocate said, “The Black population now — they don’t call it ‘slavery,’ but it’s under conditions of impoverishment and deprivation that are extremely severe, so if you look at the past 400 years of United States history, there have only been about 20 or 30 years of relative freedom for the black population. And that’s a real scar on society.”
Shouts to Raw Story