In the latest Learn Liberty video, titled “We are not equal under the law,” Aaron Bosset, founder of the Black Cannabis Commission, offers his perspective on the War on Drugs and its devastating impact on African American communities. Students For Liberty interviewed Bosset just days before the shooting of Breonna Taylor by police officers in Louisville, Kentucky. Her death occurred during a no-knock raid in her apartment, as police searched for drugs which they did not find.
Several months later, with the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, the conversation surrounding police brutality continues to be as relevant as ever. To a large extent, many of the issues involved in relations between African American communities and both the judicial system and law enforcement stem from the failed War on Drugs.
The Failed War on Drugs
Decades of draconian government drug policy has led to a tense environment in many neighborhoods. Aaron Bosset explains that this system of enforcement, involving a heavy police presence, widespread profiling, and serious questions around equal treatment under the law has created a significant amount of trauma within African American communities. He emphasizes that these systemic problems are being perpetuated rather than addressed.
Policy and Police Accountability
The current situation has heightened public awareness around police accountability. It has also drawn attention to the matter of how different individuals are treated under the law in practice. This must serve as an opportunity to reflect on a tragic reality in 21st-century America that cannot be ignored: a persistent racial disparity. A number of alarming statistics highlighting this issue can be found in the video.
Questions must be asked about why, depending on their ethnic background, an individual’s experience with the law can vary to such a great extent.
- According to the Washington Post, of the 933 people who were shot and killed by police in the United States in 2019, roughly 29% of those whose race was reported were black, and around 45% were white. When taking into account the fact that these two groups make up 13% and 64% of the total population respectively, it is clear that fatal police shootings are significantly more likely to affect black Americans.
- Recent studies would suggest that, on average, African-Americans are 2.5 times more likely than white people to be killed by police. This significant racial disparity also translates to far higher rates of incarceration for black Americans, who make up a slightly larger proportion of the United States prison population than whites, despite their vastly different shares of the overall population.
- Reports have highlighted a racial disparity in the length of sentences for the same crimes. One study showed that, accounting for many variables, between 2012 and 2016, black men were given sentences that were 19.1% longer on average than those given to white men.
These concerning statistics would certainly suggest a significant disparity in the treatment of black and white suspects by both law enforcement and the judicial system. Such a disparity raises questions around the prevalence of prejudice and discrimination, whose influence in a free society must be firmly confined to history.
Over a million people are arrested each year in the U.S. for non-violent drug offenses. The majority of these arrests are for simple possession of drugs. One in five people held in U.S. prisons are incarcerated for drug offenses. To a large extent, mass incarceration is made possible by policies such as mandatory minimums and the three-strikes law implemented in 28 states.
In order to create a freer society, it is vitally important that these policies are placed under further scrutiny.
The serious issues raised by Mr. Bosset in the latest Learn Liberty video must be addressed.