The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the Department of Justice agency devoted to preventing drug use and sale within the US, tells its agents not to enforce drug laws in rich white areas, according to a former employee.
Matthew Fogg, a former US Marshal and special agent for the DEA who worked his way up the departmental chain, earning the nickname “Batman” for his enthusiastic work, told the story in an interview with Brave New Films.
In the segment, Fogg makes explicit comparisons between the so-called “War on Drugs” and literal military wars. He also draws attention to the overt racist and classist nature of the decades-long internal “war” (emphases mine):
We’re talking about Gotham city. … We were jumping on guys in the middle of the night, all of that, swooping down on folks all across the country, using these sort of attack tactics that we went out on, that you would use in Vietnam, or some kind of war-torn zone. All of the stuff that we were doing, just calling it the war on drugs.
And there wasn’t very many black guys in my position. So when I would go into the war room, where we were setting up all of our drug and gun and addiction task force determining what cities we were going to hit, I would notice that most of the time it always appeared to be urban areas.
That’s when I asked the question, well, don’t they sell drugs out in Potomac and Springfield, and places like that? Maybe you all think they don’t, but statistics show they use more drugs out in those areas [rich and white] than anywhere.
The special agent in charge, he says “You know, if we go out there and start messing with those folks, they know judges, they know lawyers, they know politicians. You start locking their kids up, somebody’s going to jerk our chain.” He said they’re going to call us on it, and before you know it, they’re going to shut us down, and there goes your overtime.
What I began to see is that the drug war is totally about race. If we were locking up everybody, white and black, for doing the same drugs, they would have done the same thing they did with prohibition. They would have outlawed it. They would have said, “Let’s stop this craziness. You’re not putting my son in jail. My daughter isn’t going to jail.” If it was an equal enforcement opportunity operation, we wouldn’t be sitting here anyway.
It’s all about fairness, man. And understanding “How would I want to be treated?” Whether I’m on the one end, or the other end. How would I be treated if everything was done equally?
The Drug War is a racist class war.
Legal scholar Michelle Alexander masterfully details the overtly racist and classist origins and continued reality of the War on Drugs in her opus The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness. In it, among myriad other pieces of proof evincing this fact, Alexander documents the unmitigated racism of President Nixon, the architect of the War on Drugs.
Some conservative political strategists admitted that appealing to racial fears and antagonisms was central to this strategy [the so-called “Southern Strategy” of Republicans appealing to working-class whites in the South], though it had to be done surreptitiously.
H.R. Haldeman, one of Nixon’s key advisers, recalls that Nixon himself deliberately pursued a southern, racial strategy: “He [President Nixon] emphasized that you have to face that fact that the whole problem is really the blacks. The key is to devise a system that recognizes this while not appearing to.”
Similarly, John Ehrlichman, special counsel to the president, explained the Nixon administration’s campaign strategy of 1968 in this way: “We’ll go after the racists.” In Ehrlichman’s view, “that subliminal appeal to the anti-black voter was always present in Nixon’s statements and speeches.”