San Francisco 49ers linebacker Reuben Foster may not be singing sweet home Alabama today following an arrest for second degree cannabis possession by the Tuscaloosa County Sheriff’s office. For someone who had a dilute sample at the combine, Foster putting himself in a position to get caught was an error in judgment. At the same time, he, and many black men, are victims of racist drug laws that are no doubt harsher below the Mason Dixon line.
Most NFL beat writers and those who are compelled to adhere to the status quo and inside-the-box thinking are ripping Foster for his error in judgment, reminding us all how cannabis is banned as part of the NFL collective bargaining agreement and illegal in Alabama. Their point is valid but do not consider that the institutional racism that has been integrated into drug legislation in the United States to target black people have caused much more damage to African American communities than Foster’s offense.
While some internet tough guys shared opinions like this:
I'm gonna tell you a secret but don't tell anyone else, white people get arrested for illegal drugs in alabama to
— justin lewis (@JwLewis82) January 13, 2018
A lot of people like to live in denial of how integrated racism is into some of our institutions, but the reality is that even when taking into consideration the rates of cannabis use between blacks and white, blacks are more likely to be arrested for cannabis in every state in America and over 8 times more likely to be arrested for cannabis than whites in some states, and this is because drug laws in America were devised to be racist.
Harry Anslinger was the first commissioner of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, the precursor to the modern DEA, and he was openly racist and used his racist beliefs in shaping drug legislation. Here are some quotes from the man who set the mold for American cannabis laws:
“Reefer makes darkies think they’re as good as white men”
“There are 100,000 total marijuana smokers in the U.S., and most are Negroes, Hispanics, Filipinos and entertainers. Their Satanic music, jazz and swing result from marijuana use. This marijuana causes white women to seek sexual relations with Negroes, entertainers and any others.”
Anslinger felt the main reason to prohibit marijuana was “it’s effect on degenerate races”, but creating racist drug laws did not stop there.
When crack cocaine began to plague black communities, racist lawmakers saw this as an opportunity to further target black communities through legislation. To this day, the punishment for possession or sale of crack cocaine is a 100 times more severe than the punishment for the same amount of powdered cocaine. Any internet tough guys care to guess why this may be?
While Reuben Foster is certainly to blame for his error in judgment for breaking the rules, one must also consider that sometimes the rules are dead wrong. At one point, slavery was protected by laws in this country. If someone during the slavery era said that the slave was victim of a wrongful law, they would have been correct. As recently as the 1970’s, the diagnostic manual for mental disorders said that homosexuality was a mental disorder. If someone said that homosexuals were victims of homophobic medical establishment and society, they would have been correct.
Only time can sometimes tell who is on the wrong side of history by hindsight, and there is little doubt what side these racist drug laws will fall upon. And while change is occurring in many parts of the country with regard to these laws, Alabama is not known for progress and Foster’s biggest error may have been getting caught there.