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6 J. Gender Race & Just. 381 (2002)
Race, Crime and the Pool of Surplus Criminality: Or Why the War on Drugs Was a War on Blacks

handle is hein.journals/jgrj6 and id is 387 raw text is: Race, Crime and the Pool of Surplus
Criminality: Or Why the War on Drugs
was a War on Blacks
Kenneth B. Nunn*
The War on DrugsI has had a devastating effect on African American
communities nationwide. Throughout the drug war, African Americans have
been disproportionately investigated, detained, searched, arrested and charged
with the use, possession and sale of illegal drugs.2     Vast numbers of African
Americans have been jailed and imprisoned pursuant to the nation's tough drug
trafficking laws, implemented as part of the War on Drugs.3 Indeed, in some
* Professor of Law, University of Florida, Levin College of Law.
1. By War on Drugs I mean the anti-drug policies and law enforcement practices
commenced by the Reagan administration in the fall of 1982 and continued by the Bush and Clinton
administrations until at least the end of the year 2000. This period is only the most recent
manifestation of America's ongoing war against drugs. Clarence Lusane states that [n]early every
President since World War II has declared a 'war on drugs.' CLARENCE LUSANE, PIPE DREAM
BLUES: RACISM AND THE WAR ON DRUGS 77 (1991). Steven Witsotsky has identified three wars
against drugs in American history. See STEVEN WITSOTSKY, BEYOND THE WAR ON DRUGS:
OVERCOMING A FAILED PUBLIC POLICY xvii-xviii (1990). The first began with the passage of the
Harrison Act in 1914 and includes the period of its enforcement by the Department of the Treasury.
Id. at xvii. President Nixon commenced the second in the late 1960's. Id. at xviii. Nixon's total
offensive against drugs set the pattern for the drug war waged by Reagan, Bush and Clinton. See
id. For more on America's earlier drug wars, see EDWARD J. EPSTEIN, AGENCY OF FEAR (1977)
(examining anti-drug campaigns from the turn of the century through the Nixon presidency). It
remains to be seen whether the younger Bush will continue the federal government's drug war
policies, since law enforcement resources and priorities have shifted to the war against terrorism.
2. 1 discuss the ways the War on Drugs has impacted African American communities in
Section I (A)(2). See infra notes 74-215. For sources that address racial disparities in drug
enforcement practices generally, see Floyd Weatherspoon, The Devastating Impact of the Justice
System on the Status of African American Males, 23 CAP. L. REV. 23, 27-43 (1994) (detailing the
disproportionate investigation, arrest, charging and sentencing of Black men within the criminal
justice system); Ira Glasser, American Drug Laws: The New Jim Crow, 63 ALB. L. REV. 703 (2000)
(detailing racial disparities in the prosecution of drug laws); D.J. Silton, US. Prisons and Racial
Profiling: A Covertly Racist Nation Rides a Vicious Cycle, 20 LAW & INEQ. 53, 61 (2002) (reporting
that between 1976 and 1989 the total number of drug arrests of Caucasians grew by 70%, compared
to a 450% increase among African Americans and that the number of Caucasians incarcerated for
drug offenses increased by 50% from 1986 to 1991, while the number of African Americans
incarcerated increased by 350%).
3. See Silton, supra note 2, at 61(While African Americans are 13% of the U.S. population
and 13% of drug users they are 35% of drug arrests, 55% of drug convictions, and 74% of drug

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