Investigating the Root of Black on Black Crime: Part I

Zsyrii Ennis, Co-Editor-in-Chief

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In June 1971, President Richard Nixon declared a “war on drugs.” The war’s purpose was to stop illegal drug use, distribution and trade by increasing and enforcing penalties for offenders.

According to CNN, John Ehrlichman, Nixon’s aid, said in an interview that “the Nixon White House, had two enemies: the antiwar left (hippies) and black people.” Someone who worked closely with Nixon admitted that President Nixon realized he “couldn’t make it illegal to be against war or black” so the “war on drugs” was a method to criminalize the antiwar movement and black Americans by associating them with drugs in the media.

The war on drugs caused a long-lasting relationship with drugs in the black community, according to, the District of Columbia Police Departments’s website. In the 1967 police annual report, there were 395 drug related reports and 461 drug-related arrests for the whole department. In 1967 the current president was Lyndon B. Johnson, 4 years before the “war on drugs” was declared by President Nixon. In 1975, 4 years after the “war on drugs” was declared, the annual police report reported that there were in total 3,076 drug-related arrest with only 313 “white” suspects and 2,763 “non-white” suspects including both male and female.

Uneducated minorities were frequently arrested and falsely accused of crimes they didn’t commit, but since they were not fully aware of their rights, many pleaded guilty in the hopes of getting less jail time instead of going to trial. This caused the U.S. Prison population to go up from 357,292 in 1970 to 513,900 in 1980.

I personally don’t believe it is a coincidence that the reported amount of drug-related arrests increased by 2,615 after the “war on drugs” was declared. In 1981 just 10 years after the war was declared, President Ronald Reagan expanded the war on drugs and the number of people behind bars for nonviolent drug law offenses increased from 50,000 in 1980 to over 400,000 by 1997.

This all had a large impact on the African-American community after being flooded with drugs. With the presidents speaking on the drug issues in the black community, other people began to automatically associate African-Americans with drugs and crime, which ultimately gave them a very negative image. With the overflow of drugs in their neighborhoods, many African-Americans were being imprisoned and even more being addicted to drugs. The people who became incarcerated weren’t provided the opportunity to restart their lives after being released due to their conviction – which in some cases caused convicted felons to resort to illegal activities to make money. President John F. Kennedy also implemented the “3 strikes law” meaning that a felon who has committed a serious crime 3 times is sentenced to life in prison. In California, non-violent crimes including drug offenses were considered a “strike, which also led to the overpopulated prison system. These are all things I believe contributed to the development of black-on-black crime.


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