Thursday, July 15, 2010

The Politics of Fear, By Alice A. Huffman

This is a message to speak directly and respond to the criticism put forth about the mission of the NAACP State Conference of California. In addition to hearing from me today, we have a prestigious group of religious leaders and advocates that will speak to why they support the NAACP’s efforts to oppose failed punitive marijuana policies and pass Prop 19.

There was a press conference earlier today by a few local ministers calling for me to resign my position at the NAACP. All who know me know that my answer is a resounding NO. I will not resign and I will not falter. However, I will issue a challenge to my brethren. First they should do a full disclosure that they are officially working with the opposition campaign, this is not a spontaneous community reaction. Secondly, that many of those in his campaign are the same ones who opposed Proposition 8. A conservative religious coalition. Therefore, I caution my brethren to not be like the house slaves were who fought the abolitionist because they thought they were better off in slavery. They must stop being reactionary and become proactive.

As for the substance of the criticism, it is unfortunate that in all of the criticism we have been hearing, we have not heard about solutions. They exist in income, health, employment, education and in the criminal justice system. They should not waste their time making this important issue all about me personally. Instead of operating out of fear and asserting, without fact, that the NAACP or that marijuana is going to destroy our communities, they should look at the data. What will they propose to stop the flow of our young people into the criminal justice system by law enforcement who target them?

I challenge them to tell us how we can begin to save our children and change the status quo for the better. I also believe my critics should have to speak to why they are silent on the racial discrimination that is in the Drug Policy Alliance’s report on marijuana enforcement in California.

As Blacks use marijuana at less rates than whites but in some places are arrested at 4x’s the rate of whites, my opponents are silent?

To go directly to saying, Alice Huffman must resign, without holding law enforcement accountable for such blatant discrimination really causes me to question their motives.

Lastly, this will be our only response to their accusations. We will not respond to anyone else from this group until solutions are put forth that address the marginalization and over incarceration of young African Americans in California.

To be clear, the taxation and regulation of marijuana is not responsible for the current state of our community. All of the fears and concerns over what will and will not happen are not based on what people know about living in a state that taxes and regulates marijuana. They are based on people’s opinions of what they think will happen. Unsubstantiated and unsupported fear tactics of what will happen when we regulate marijuana should not be seen as a serious attempt at solving community problems.

On the other hand, what we are responding to is what is happening right now. Right now! We have a criminal justice system that has grown nearly 400% in 30 years. Right now! We have more resources going to stop low level drug offenses than we have to stop more serious crimes. Right now! We have young people that get caught on a marijuana charge and their lives are all but destroyed as their efforts to find employment and housing are undermined because of a criminal drug record.

The issue of Prop 19 is not about me. Prop 19 is about eliminating enforcement practices that are targeting and creating a permanent underclass of citizens of African Americans caught in the criminal justice system while other people, a more privileged class, go free. So many people in their youth have dabbled in the use of marijuana including our President, former Presidents Clinton and Bush. If these people we know and respect have used it why should we allow the system to lock up our children? For me and the NAACP, Prop 19 is about creating opportunities for the hundreds of thousands that, like Barack Obama, may have chosen the wrong remedy to calm their pain but unlike Barack, are paying for this bad decision for the rest of their lives.

We at the NAACP are saying that we cannot sit by and lose another generation of young people, so that we can continue to hold up the illusion that the war on drugs is being waged and being won, without confronting the system that is really a war on our community.