IT'S BEEN a couple of months now since that study came out about drugs and the criminal justice system in Maryland. You know, the one that said blacks are jailed and sentenced disproportionately for drug crimes and that Maryland is the nation's worst offender.
Your beloved Sun - STOP those giggles of sarcasm this instant! - ran a story on the matter. The first three paragraphs or so of Todd Richissin's June 8 article went something like this:
"Maryland ranks number one in the percentage of minorities locked up for drug crimes, according to a major national study released yesterday that suggests national anti-drug efforts have targeted blacks while paying far less attention to whites.
"The study, released by the national advocacy group Human Rights Watch, contends that, although the vast majority of people involved with illegal drugs are white, far more black people in virtually every state are sent to prison for drug crimes.
"That is especially true in Maryland. State data indicate that nine out of 10 people sentenced to prison for drug crimes are black, even though five times more whites than blacks use illegal drugs."
The Human Rights Watch report, predictably, led to much wailing and gnashing of teeth, with a rehash of how the criminal justice system is inherently racist against blacks and how institutional racism continues to rear its ugly head and yadda yadda yadda.
Let's deal with first things first. The report cited what many Americans either don't know or refuse to admit: There is as serious a drug problem among whites as there is among blacks. Most whites probably know this, but some continue to live in denial.
When I was at a news-writing seminar in St. Petersburg, Fla., in September I met a woman who edited a paper in Utah. She said her reporters were about to do a major series on the drug crisis among young whites in her overwhelmingly white state. She expected the grits to hit the fan once the series appeared, explaining that most of her readers feel drug use is an urban, inner-city, poor-black phenomenon and couldn't believe that their precious lily-white kids named Biff and Nancy and Wally and Beaver could be popping pills, snorting cocaine, smoking marijuana or shooting smack.(Commentators, looking to chide the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People for continuing to boycott South Carolina for flying the Confederate flag on statehouse grounds make this error - unknowingly, or perhaps knowingly - when they ask why the civil rights organization doesn't focus its attention on drugs in the black community, as though only blacks use drugs.)
The major drug problem among white youth in the Midwest is methamphetamine use. We should all be hard-pressed to believe that the dealer selling white kids "meth" in the Midwest is a black kid from Baltimore or West Philly or Harlem with his pants hanging down his butt. If you're talking meth, you're probably talking white dealers and users.
But the problem, alas, is not as simple as a hypocritical double standard. Law enforcement focuses on black urban drug dealers and users. The cause is not racism. It was the Congressional Black Caucus in the mid-1980s that asked for mandatory minimum drug sentences and a tougher approach to street crime to stem the crack cocaine epidemic, says author John McWhorter. Even those folks who decry the disparity in sentencing for selling crack vs. powder cocaine can't be so daft that they won't admit crack is a far more potent and dangerous drug.
McWhorter, an associate professor of linguistics at the University of California, Berkeley who happens to be black (such minutiae being important to discussions such as this one) mentioned something else in his new book, "Losing the Race: Self-Sabotage in Black America": Those laws worked.
And since we've noted that it was liberal black Democrats who supported those same laws they now claim are racist, let's ask this question: Who runs Maryland?
The executive branch of Maryland's state government has been in the hands of liberal Democrats for 32 consecutive years. It has a legislature that is overwhelmingly liberal and Democratic, with a caucus of liberal black Democrats from Baltimore City and Prince George's County that has for years helped determine which laws do and do not get passed. Those liberal black Democrats always urge black voters to cast their ballots for Democrats.
So the disparity-in-drug-sentencing mess - in the state of Maryland, at least - is the result of traditional liberal Democratic misrule. If anyone's looking for someone to blame, that's where they should cast their gaze: at those black-and-white Donkey-crats who had the gall in the 1998 gubernatorial campaign to accuse Republican candidate Ellen Sauerbrey of being a racist who opposed civil rights legislation.