As we face the rugged terrain ahead, our marching orders must be the sobering words that speak presciently from the grave of the late Coretta Scott King: "Struggle is a never ending process. Freedom is never really won, you earn it and win it in every generation."
As we witness the drug and criminal justice policies of the "greatest democracy in the world" lag behind those of an ever expanding list of other countries around the world, more and more are coming down on the right side of history.
On one side of this discussion are those who are holding up the shooting of Michael Brown as an example of the racial inequality in this country and in the justice system in particular. On the other side of this discussion are those who see racism as a hoax to be disproved.
This move could result in the release of thousands of low-level federal inmates caught up in the drug war. For a president who, hitherto, had the most conservative pardon record in recent history (e.g. in Obama's first term, he pardoned 1 in 50 applicants, while Ronald Reagan pardoned 1 in 3), such a shift is noteworthy.
What changes have come about since our #EndMassIncarceration petition? Well, there's been about 20 developments and victories in the way of criminal justice reform (not including changes at the state/local level), at least 6 of which that are having or will have measurable impact.
The international drug control regime is broken. Past approaches premised on a punitive law enforcement paradigm have failed, emphatically so. They have resulted in more violence, larger prison populations, and the erosion of governance around the world. The health harms associated with drug use have gotten worse, not better. The Global Commission on Drug Policy instead advocates for an approach to drug policy that puts public health, community safety, human rights, and development at the center. I have listed the five pathways to ending the drug war recommended by the Global Commission on Drug Policy that I chair. (Other members of the commission, ranging from Kofi Annan to Paul Volcker to former Mexican President Ernesto Zedillo are listed after the recommendations.)
At the core of all of this is an ignominious reality at odds with one of the nation's most (publicly) cherished ideals, and one of our Constitution's most sacred laws: the Fourteenth Amendment right to "equal protection of the laws."
We who work in the field have known and railed against this unfair scenario for many years but what is different now are the incremental changes we are seeing in government attitudes that I believe are partly being driven by a growing change in attitude in the general community.
In a town where Republicans and Democrats cannot agree on light bulbs or cafeteria utensils, legislation to address overcrowding in the federal prison system had the backing of both President Obama and Senator Ted Cruz.
It's impossible to delineate every way race affects us every day, but a cursory examination of major structural racial problems can give us a feeling for how far we still have to go.
Just look at the facts, and it becomes clear that America's egregious rates of incarceration of blacks and Latinos stem from the enforcement of unfair sentencing laws -- laws that are grounded in racist policy, and that are desperately in need of reform.
While we do not know all the facts on the ground in Ferguson, we know that militarization on a national level can often do more harm than good. It has eroded trust between law enforcement and ordinary citizens, and it certainly hasn't eradicated the drug scourge from our communities.
Underlying marijuana prohibition is a familiar philosophy: to preserve social order and white supremacy and secure profits for an influential few, it is permissible, even advisable, to construct profit-bearing institutions of social control.
Aggressively punitive and extreme drug policies are steeped in racism. Inherent in the response to drug law enforcement is a biased approach and stark double standards in the perceived threat of drug use by marginalized people.
Imagine: A health crisis claiming over 16,000 lives each year. Then imagine a prescription drug that could be made widely accessible to save those lives, but isn't. Except, this is not a hypothetical situation.
Haring painted Crack is Wack without asking for permission. One morning, during the summer of 1986, he drove a rented van -- loaded with some ladders from his studio and some new fluorescent orange paint he had bought -- up to Harlem to paint.