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The Real Roots of 70s Drug Laws

jschlosser's picture

A recently released book, Black Silent Majority, by Michael Javen Fortner, offers a new and controversial explanation for the rapid increases in incarceration rates in the United States in the last few decades. Whereas Michelle Alexander argues (in The New Jim Crow) that drug laws simply took up the function of Jim Crow laws made illegal in the wake of the Civil Rights Movement, Fortner argues that the crucial laws of the 1970s as well as the policing practices that they prompted were strongly supported, in fact instigated by, African-Americans who wanted to "get tough on crime." As Fortner puts it in an op-ed published in the New York Times yesterday (Monday Sept. 28):

Today’s disastrously punitive criminal justice system is actually rooted in the postwar social and economic demise of urban black communities. It is, in part, the unintended consequence of African-Americans’ own hard-fought battle against the crime and violence inside their own communities. To ignore that history is to disregard the agency of black people and minimize their grievances, and to risk making the same mistake again.

Here's a link to the full op-ed:

As I said, this is a controversial argument. For a critique, read this review published last Sunday in the New York Times Sunday Book Review:

We'll talk more when we read The New Jim Crow!