Justice Prevails with Crack Cocaine Fair Sentencing But Why Is Media So Quiet About It?

August 2, 2010  |  

by Anthony Jerrod

Despite dwindling approval numbers, President Obama has done a very good job in keeping most of his campaign promises.  Most political centrists who are independent of right-wing and left-wing talking points would agree.  The historic passage of health care reform, credit card reform, equal and fair pay, tobacco reform and Wall Street reform legislation in a two-year period is extraordinary and unprecedented.  But, if you listen to all of the cable chatter, especially from a right-wing perspective, you would not know about these magnificent accomplishments.

I found it extremely funny that neither the right-wing, left-wing nor African-American media outlets have mentioned anything about the historic passage of The Fair Sentencing Act of 2010 to reverse the sentencing disparity relative to crack-cocaine.  Finally, a public policy that Democrats and Republicans actually agreed was necessary and just and not one word has been mentioned.  For those whose hearts are centered on the poor, downtrodden and the oppressed, one has to wonder whether a good narrative that directly affects the African-American community has been intentionally been left out of the news cycle because of racial dynamics or because it is too positive.

On Wednesday afternoon, the House voted to reduce racial inequity that has historically existed relative to the sentencing of people caught with crack cocaine versus powder cocaine.  To be charged with a felony, crack users needed to possess only 5 grams of the drug to be sentenced with the same charge that powder cocaine users needed to be caught with  (500 grams).

For years, this 100-1 ratio landed many young African-Americans across the country in prison industrial complexes at a much higher rate than Caucasians caught with cocaine in the suburbs.  According to research by the Human Rights Watch, “Blacks comprise 62.7 percent and whites 36.7 percent of all drug offenders admitted to state prison, although there are five times more white users than black.  Moreover, black men are admitted to state prison on drug charges at a rate that is 13.4 times greater than that of white men.”  And, statistics continue to show that there are more Black men (between the ages of 20 and 29) under the control of the nation’s criminal justice system than the total number in college.

Although a 1-1 ratio of crack cocaine and powder cocaine would have been ideal, it brings joy to know that lawmakers put aside ideological differences and political posturing to pass a law that has been needed for a very long time.  The 18-1 ratio, which means 28 grams of crack cocaine to 500 grams of powder cocaine, is the primary tenet of the Fair Sentencing Act and is a major step forward toward social justice- a virtue that appears to have dissipated away in recent years.

Some critics and legislators believe that the reduction in crack-cocaine sentencing will actually hurt minorities and will result in a growth of apathy toward the culture of drug consumption and distribution.  Although I agree that there will logically be some growth of apathy, one cannot forfeit institutionalized racist practices based on the attitudes of individuals who will always find a way to make quick cash even if it harms their community.

By all means, this legislation is not the panacea for all injustices relative to drug trafficking and consumption.  Additional steps such as mentoring and accountability, education-based incentives, spiritual restoration and rehabilitation and job programs for former inmates are sorely needed.  But, this week, I am filled with a fair amount of jubilation.  This country should begin focusing more on public policies that lead to equal opportunities, rights and access exclusive of wealth class, race or any other anthropogenic divisions.  And, if President Obama continues to refocus on the “least of these” as represented with this legislation and as he repeatedly promised during his campaign, then he truly will have a transformational presidency that transcends time.

Anthony Jerrod is  a bestselling author, speaker, and public policy expert.

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  • Howard Thomas

    Its about time.now what do we do,where do Igo from here becuse if any one needs to no,Im one of those young black males that was sentence under those laws.Im still to this day living under a sentece that was given to me in 1992 almost 20years leter

  • Derek

    Great article by Mr. Jerrod. I disagree with the notion that this is is a small victory. There are many "small" victories that occur in our community. We have to celebrate them all, especially when they affect our community. A 1-1 ratio will never occur.

  • Lisa

    Maybe the media is quiet about it because it's only a small victory, and the disparity and inequality in sentencing between crack and coke is still there. You can't get crack without coke, therefore 18-1 is BS, just like 100-1 is BS. We need a 1-1 ratio before we start celebrating.

  • Tyler M

    I agree with the above posts and would like to include my 2 cents. Amen to the passing of this historical resolution! I have read for the last 12 years of my life about the disparities, the conspiracies, and the harm crack has caused minority communities. There are people who have deserved prison, some people need prison, and others who were either in the wrong place at the wrong time or profiled and victimized.

    You can't forget those unfortunate circumstances, and to someone who has never been there they can always point the finger. But to the last category of persons and those who need rehab, spiritual awakening, I hope this vote does indeed give hope that things may get better, but they certainly always change.

  • Wonda

    I have to say I agree with the sentence, maybe it would make more blacks less likely to utilize or sell the poison.

  • CJ

    I'm happy for equailty. My question is why didn't the harshness of the sentence alone serve as enough of a deterrent for us to make this a non-issue in our lives and communities? If you told me the police had 5 years to find out about me possessing, conspiring to obtain, produce, or move 2 ounces of anything and it would cost me 10 years of my life, I think that would have been enough information for me to make an informed decision to leave it alone. An old saying is "It takes a wiser man to learn from someone else's mistake than the fool who can only learn from his own". I feel sorry for our youth today and I feel like it's our fault. We have truly let them down by failing to demonstrate how to be good citizens and teaching them the true definition of priorities.

  • Pleezzz

    No more Free Labor!

  • MsDee