"Law school is an unlikely option, she said."
January 4, 2007 11:32 AM   Subscribe

Flour in Condoms Sent Her to Jail. An arguably boneheaded move combined with faulty field test results sent a Bryn Mawr College student to jail for three weeks for carrying a flour filled condom through airport security. A year later she has settled her case with the Philadelphia police department for $180,000.
posted by The Straightener (168 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
A prison guard recognized her from a Bryn Mawr volunteer job at Overbrook High School and took pity on her. The guard told Lee that she believed her and that the whole thing was probably racial. The guard got her a trashy romance novel to help kill time.

Lee acted tough to protect herself. She did modern-dance moves to keep limber. Inmates saw this and gossiped: "Everyone thought I knew karate because I'm Asian." She certainly didn't discourage the stereotype.

posted by The Straightener at 11:33 AM on January 4, 2007


Lots of asian drug smugglers around there? wtf?
posted by beerbajay at 11:37 AM on January 4, 2007


$180,000 for spending three weeks in jail doesn't sound all that bad a deal, really.
posted by Faint of Butt at 11:38 AM on January 4, 2007


Not spending three weeks in jail for completely bullshit charges sounds like a better deal, though.
posted by cortex at 11:39 AM on January 4, 2007


Well, I guess I'll think twice the next time I start to fill condoms with flour to put in my suitcase.

I recall feeling bad for this girl when this originally went down, but seriously, WTF was she thinking?
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 11:40 AM on January 4, 2007


Bryn Mawr is one of the seven sisters, formerly the female version of the Ivy League. How did she get in to Bryn Mawr? "I think I will put flour filled condoms in my suitcase and take them on an airplane, won't that be a hoot?"
posted by fixedgear at 11:41 AM on January 4, 2007


I guess if she is really that naive, she had no clue that people often use condoms to smuggle drugs.

And yea, $180,000 over 3 weeks is $357/hr. Not too bad. At least her college is now paid for.
posted by SirOmega at 11:42 AM on January 4, 2007


$180,000 for spending three weeks in jail doesn't sound all that bad a deal, really.

No kidding. It reminds me of a story I heard about in Texas. This guy would hire illegal aliens to drive a truck full of bags of gypsum powder to certain locations, then he would tell the police that a drug deal was in progress. The illegals would get picked up, and the guy would get an informants fee. Some of the illegals were held in jail for years before one of the state provided defense lawyers got a chance to test the drugs for real. The guy made hundreds of thousands of dollars as a paid snitch.

Unlike this girl, the Mexicans didn't get any money, they were immediately deported after release.

(And of course, all the "field tests" turned up "positive")
posted by delmoi at 11:42 AM on January 4, 2007


Not spending three weeks in jail for completely bullshit charges sounds like a better deal, though.

Are you kidding? Spending three weeks (in a woman's prison, rather then a men's) for $180k? I'd do it. I can't help feeling the girl would have gotten a lot less money if she'd been of a lower "class", and she probably would have spent a lot more then three weeks if her family couldn't afford anything other then a state lawyer.
posted by delmoi at 11:45 AM on January 4, 2007


I guess if she is really that naive, she had no clue that people often use condoms to smuggle drugs in their ass.

Not in their luggage.
posted by Big_B at 11:45 AM on January 4, 2007


It was just part of a phallic gag at a women's college, she told them, a stress-reliever, something to squeeze while studying for exams.

Multiple choice response:
1. What?
2. Yikes.
3. If you say so.
posted by Brown Jenkin at 11:47 AM on January 4, 2007


What the cops put her through was horrible and I hope this brings light to what seems to be an obvious issue of tampering to secure convictions based on racial and preconceived notions. That said, Jumping Jesus H. Tap-Dancing Christ on a Pogo Stick how fucking braindead do you have to be to not even consider the remote possibility that a place where you get nail clippers confiscated might take issue with condoms filled with white powder.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 11:47 AM on January 4, 2007


"...an arguably boneheaded move?" I think the word you're looking for is "admittedly" This move was very much boneheaded, and I somehow doubt that anybody would argue that.
posted by koeselitz at 11:48 AM on January 4, 2007


anybody with a magnifying glass can tell that a white powder is flour and not a crystal like cocaine or meth.
posted by Megafly at 11:53 AM on January 4, 2007


I was just trying to be kind to the dumb girl, Mr. Persnicketty.
posted by The Straightener at 11:54 AM on January 4, 2007


What an outrageous story. So, she was naive and foolish, that's not worthy of being arrested, jail time and a year dealing with lawyers, the court system, and public humiliation on a global scale.

It's scary that the flour was made to look as if it tested positive for three drugs. yikes.

It reminds me of the person hauled off a plane after 9/11 because they had a paperback whose title wasn't liked by a security guard.

At least she didn't have purple flour in a condom, she could have been jailed for being a terrorist.
posted by nickyskye at 11:54 AM on January 4, 2007


Are you kidding? Spending three weeks (in a woman's prison, rather then a men's) for $180k? I'd do it.

I'm not talking gameshow or rhetorical exercise. You'd want to do it if it meant going to jail for no good reason, without warning, having potentially your entire family/social circle develop raised eyebrows, and not getting paid until a year and a goddam legal battle later?

1. What?
2. Yikes.
3. If you say so.


Eh. My sister went to a snooty-ish women's university. Flour-in-condom stress relievers sound about par for the course. Taking it on the plane was unquestionably foolish, but I think it's a mistake to assume that she and her friends made these specifically as a pre-flight exercise. It was finals week.
posted by cortex at 11:55 AM on January 4, 2007


Did the condoms test positive for spermicide? That's poison, you know. It poisons the poor defenseless sperm that would one day become a beautiful baby. Lock her up for murder!
posted by papakwanz at 11:55 AM on January 4, 2007


I guess if she is really that naive, she had no clue that people often use condoms to smuggle drugs.

By swallowing them. No real smuggler would forget this importent step and that might have been a clue to the flatfoots in Philadelphia.
posted by three blind mice at 11:56 AM on January 4, 2007 [1 favorite]


...and the punctuation I'm looking for is a period after "admittedly."
posted by koeselitz at 11:56 AM on January 4, 2007


...a stress-reliever, something to squeeze while studying for exams.

I believe her. Well, we usually used balloons instead of condoms.

Three weeks? She should have been there for 24 hours, tops. Maybe a weekend, before a lab, I don't know, examined the freaking evidence.
posted by muddgirl at 11:57 AM on January 4, 2007


What the cops put her through was horrible and I hope this brings light to what seems to be an obvious issue of tampering to secure convictions based on racial and preconceived notions.

It's complete speculation that this has anything to do with her race, and it's probably a disservice to the real issues at hand here: this is an issue of evidence tampering, police misconduct, and a misguided and destructive war on drugs.

If anything, the "preconceived notion" on the part of law enforcement is that white powder in a condom necessarily fits the pattern of drug trafficking.

That said, if you still want to play race speculation, try this on for size: if she were a black male instead of an upper-class Asian-American female, chances are she'd still be behind bars.
posted by kid ichorous at 11:59 AM on January 4, 2007


My sister went to a snooty-ish women's university. Flour-in-condom stress relievers sound about par for the course.

Really? Weird. But don't tell me any more. Most of my ideas about all-girl schools come from here and I'd hate to destroy that.
posted by jonmc at 12:00 PM on January 4, 2007


there's a lot more leghair at the real schools, jon
posted by cortex at 12:02 PM on January 4, 2007


Let's not lose sight of the fact that while what she did may have been foolish, what was done by the people who are supposed to enforce and uphold the law was either criminal or negligent or both.

That is the point that should be noted in this story; not the fact that college freshmen do dumb things.
posted by leftcoastbob at 12:02 PM on January 4, 2007


I told you not to tell me that, cortex
posted by jonmc at 12:04 PM on January 4, 2007


Nice to know that the field tests are so accurate that you can end up in jail for flour.
Criminy, and I bake a lot. Note to self: Wash all my clothes at least one extra time before flying anywhere. Note that in the article it said that the cops became suspicious when they saw "white powder in her suitcase".
Another note to self: Use liquid detergent.
*grumble grumble stupid War on Drugs*
Seriously though, this is just ridiculous.
posted by eparchos at 12:06 PM on January 4, 2007


they still have pillowfights sometimes tho
posted by cortex at 12:06 PM on January 4, 2007


At least she didn't have purple flour in a condom, she could have been jailed for being a terrorist.
Wow. I guess we'll never see the reverse peristalsis painters again either, then. Some kids at my college stages a protest -- they split into thirds and each ate batches of mashed potatoes, dyed red, blue and plain. Then the lined up to make a red-white-blue patter and took syrup of ipecac just before then-VP Quayle was going to give a press conference in town. They made the evening news, crediting themselves as the Reverse Peristalsis Painters.

The lesson here, I guess, is that college students will do extremely weird things.
posted by Karmakaze at 12:10 PM on January 4, 2007


What's this field test BS? Crockett just sticks his finger in and licks it, then says, "It's pure uncut Colombian".
posted by Mister_A at 12:11 PM on January 4, 2007 [3 favorites]


Did she learn nothing from The 40 Year Old Virgin? Sand is the proper medium for such projects.

Also, I believe the word you were looking for is bone-handed.
posted by InfidelZombie at 12:12 PM on January 4, 2007


XQUZYPHYR has it right.
posted by brain_drain at 12:15 PM on January 4, 2007


What's this field test BS? Crockett just sticks his finger in and licks it, then says, "It's pure uncut Colombian".

We're talking about narcotics here, not prostitution.
posted by jonmc at 12:20 PM on January 4, 2007 [1 favorite]


cortex: I'm not surprised that college students devise interesting ways to relieve stress, but what would Freud say? He might tell her to find a new dealer, for one thing.
posted by Brown Jenkin at 12:20 PM on January 4, 2007


This move was very much boneheaded, and I somehow doubt that anybody would argue that.

Sure, I'll take you up on that. I'm not a bonehead, but I've forgotten to remove nailclippers and forks from my bag before heading to the airport. Do most of you guys, every time before you leave, ask which of your innocent items might be mistakable for something illegal? What if you hadn't slept for four days?

This woman got shafted -- no buts.
posted by escabeche at 12:21 PM on January 4, 2007


but what would Freud say?

"dongs gerofl"
posted by cortex at 12:24 PM on January 4, 2007


Three weeks is insane. Just...three weeks? Flour versus drugs? Are drugs that indistinguishable from the crappy flour from ACME?

Still, Bryn Mawr students always seem to be getting arrested for stupid things. I knew some people back in 2002 who got held (not fully charged) for taking photos of the transit system in DC. Not to mention the girl who got arrested in Italy during the G8 protests. There's a lot of 'whoops, I wasn't thinking about the real world' that goes on.

This does not extend to jonmc's ideas of women's colleges, mind you. Sorry, man.
posted by cobaltnine at 12:27 PM on January 4, 2007


1. What?
2. Yikes.
3. If you say so.


1. Attempt to smuggle flour-filled condoms onto plane.
2. ???
3. Profits!
posted by ZenMasterThis at 12:28 PM on January 4, 2007


I'm not talking gameshow or rhetorical exercise. You'd want to do it if it meant going to jail for no good reason, without warning, having potentially your entire family/social circle develop raised eyebrows, and not getting paid until a year and a goddam legal battle later?

Sure, it would be pretty scary, but in retrospect, at the end of the ordeal, I would rather have the $180k then not have it happen. But then that's the purpose of the money, isn't it?
posted by delmoi at 12:39 PM on January 4, 2007


but I've forgotten to remove nailclippers and forks from my bag before heading to the airport.

Forks? Seriously?
posted by fixedgear at 12:40 PM on January 4, 2007


Do most of you guys, every time before you leave, ask which of your innocent items might be mistakable for something illegal? What if you hadn't slept for four days?

this guy got arrested over a rubber band ball... Also on trumped up "drug" charges. (the cops decided he looked "high" so they had him arrested.)
posted by delmoi at 12:42 PM on January 4, 2007


It was stupid, yes, but even then it should have been one night in prison at most. Three weeks is nuts, any drug officer worth his or her salt knows what cocaine, meth, flour, and heroin look like Not every white powder is the same.
posted by Betty_effn_White at 12:44 PM on January 4, 2007


re: It's complete speculation that this has anything to do with her race

No it's not. Statistics are widely available that demonstrate it is absolutely not speculation that American drug laws are primarily an excuse to persecute your minorities while pretending you are a nation that doesn't persecute minorities.

How is it possible for a representative democracy to have harsh laws against a substance that close to half of its citizens use at least once in their lives? Simple: said citizens know very well exactly how those laws are actually going to be applied.

A black person in America is 4.5 times more likely to spend time in prison than a black person in apartheid South Africa.

Disgusting.
posted by lastobelus at 12:45 PM on January 4, 2007 [1 favorite]


I recall feeling bad for this girl when this originally went down, but seriously, WTF was she thinking?

She was probably thinking the same thing I thought when I flew from Chicago to Los Angeles with two plastic wall-walker things in my bags -- which is to say she wasn't thinking about them. Because we're taught to trust science, and officers of the law, and when we're carrying something that we know to be harmless in our luggage (and let's face it, until the government said "nail clippers bad" we all considered nail clippers harmless, too) we assume that nothing will come of it.

Pinning the problem on the girl, in this case, is a distraction. The real issue, plain and simple, is: why are people being arrested and detained purely on evidence produced from a faulty test?
posted by davejay at 12:50 PM on January 4, 2007 [2 favorites]


Do most of you guys, every time before you leave, ask which of your innocent items might be mistakable for something illegal?

Yes and no. While frustrated with having to give up a pair of scissors once, I learned from my mistake to be more careful. As a result, I've never accidentaly left multiple condoms filled with white powder in my luggage, innocent to the idea they might be construed as drugs - despite the zeroes of people that had made that mistake in the past.

Amazingly, I have also always remembered to get rid of similar items that overzealous cops may have misconstrued for dangerous items before boarding as well, such as an alarm clock duct-taped to some road flares I purchased at a lovely street market in London and the authentic Faberge egg I picked up in Moscow that I carefully packed for safety in a padded styrofoam container with a label saying "WARNING - ANTHRAX" pasted on the side.

I guess I'm just meticulous in my packing, and by meticulous, I mean not a goddamn idiot.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 12:56 PM on January 4, 2007


I'm sorry, but this isn't a boneheaded move or whatever ridiculous term you want to use to denigrate Ms. Lee's intellect and actions!

We live in a purportedly free (to a "reasonable" extent) country in which we shouldn't have to have an encyclopedic knowledge of symbols and objects which--though legal to posess--might get us popped by the police or other governmental enforcers.

In her mind I'm sure she never made the connection between some humorous dorm project and drug smuggling.

She shouldn't need to.

There's no reason we should live in fear of being mistaken for criminals, the criminal justice system is designed to weed out innocents from criminals.

That would be why she got a $180k settlement.

(And if I were making such a device, I would use corn starch.)
posted by Matt Oneiros at 12:57 PM on January 4, 2007 [7 favorites]


"why are people being arrested and detained purely on evidence produced from a faulty test"

simple, it's all here: http://www.sentencingproject.org/pdfs/pub9036.pdf

so Americans can send 1 out of 8 of their black males to prison while pretending they are not a nation guilty of systematic persecution of their minority population.

Well, we don't buy it. War on Drugs == Apartheid. Worse actually. South Africa never incarcerated black people at anywhere even close to the rate Americans do.
posted by lastobelus at 1:02 PM on January 4, 2007


"Dude, I load bags all day. I know better than to check them."

Dang, and this rubber ball guy situation happened just a month or so ago?

While returning from Canada some years ago I overheard the customs agent saying that if anyone smelled of patchouli or some alternative smelling perfume, they would be hauled over for a thorough check.

What's ridiculous about the Mr. Beans and Inspector Clouseau types at the airport is these lame brains are attacking innocents, while not knowing how to spot a real criminal who wouldn't put flour filled condoms in their suitcase, a smelly old bubber ball or wear patchouli.

And cornstarch is cool.
posted by nickyskye at 1:03 PM on January 4, 2007


properly linked:

Report on American incarceration practices
posted by lastobelus at 1:03 PM on January 4, 2007


RE: Racism.

Citing statistics about black people in prison, while I'm sure it's edifying to the less aware people here, has no clear relationship to this story. She is an asian college student.
posted by eparchos at 1:08 PM on January 4, 2007


Ahh, the War on Drugs meets the paranoia of airport security. What could possibly go wrong?

Of course, it's company policy never to imply ownership in the event of a condom full of flour. We have to use the indefinite article "a" condom full of flour, never... "your" condom full of flour.

posted by quin at 1:11 PM on January 4, 2007


War on Drugs == Apartheid. Worse actually.

The next time you see some monstrous quote from an anonymous LGF poster, and feel like the entire conservative world has completely gone off the deep end, I want you all to remember this moment.
posted by Simon! at 1:14 PM on January 4, 2007


lastobelus writes "Simple: said citizens know very well exactly how those laws are actually going to be applied."

And they're typically not applied to upper-middle-class Korean-American college students. Really.
posted by mr_roboto at 1:14 PM on January 4, 2007


Simon!:

So tell me:

a) What was the likelihood of a black male spending part of his life in prison in apartheid South Africa.

b) What is the likelihood of a black male spending part of his life in prison in current-time United States.

and, c) if I'm off the deep end, what is your explanation for these statistics


I predict you will either ignore this post, or post some non-sequitur answer which ignores the actual numerical answers to a) and b)
posted by lastobelus at 1:17 PM on January 4, 2007


"I've looked at thousands of these cases, and in the context of trained narcotics officers, it almost never happens"

"Almost" is a bitch, ain't it?
posted by mr_crash_davis at 1:19 PM on January 4, 2007


lastobelus writes "War on Drugs == Apartheid. Worse actually.
"


Bullshit. It's worse than the Holocaust, and I'm not settling for anything less.
posted by mr_roboto at 1:24 PM on January 4, 2007


a) What was the likelihood of a black male anyone spending part of his life in prison in apartheid South Africa.

b) What is the likelihood of a black male anyone spending part of his life in prison in current-time United States.

I'm not disagreeing with your argument per se, but drawing your attention to your apparent disregard for lies, damned lies, and statistics.
posted by muddgirl at 1:24 PM on January 4, 2007


simple, it's all here: http://www.sentencingproject.org/pdfs/pub9036.pdf

Thank you, a very interesting and useful link. Much appreciated.

Citing statistics about black people in prison, while I'm sure it's edifying to the less aware people here, has no clear relationship to this story. She is an asian college student.

eparchos, that cite was not in reference to this specific case; it was made in reference to my distillation of the case into a core question of "why are people being arrested and detained purely on evidence produced from a faulty test." In the context of my question and the content contained at the link destination, the cite was appropriate and reasonable.
posted by davejay at 1:25 PM on January 4, 2007


lastobelus: No it's not. Statistics are widely available that demonstrate it is absolutely not speculation that American drug laws are primarily an excuse to persecute your minorities while pretending you are a nation that doesn't persecute minorities.

American drug laws exist primarily as an excuse for persecuting minorities? I always thought they existed for the same reason as the prohibition of alcohol: to control the perceived damages to society posed by an intoxicating substance, with the "benefit" of expanding the coffers and powers available to the police and the government. Some of the strongest, and most misguided, proponents of this War on Drugs are the very residents of crack-beleaguered minority neighborhoods, just as many early temperance advocates were suffragettes eager to reduce the toll of alcoholism on the family unit. Should I entirely ignore the actual politics and history involved in favor of your theories about institutional American racism?

But let's assume that drug laws exist primarily for the sake of persecuting minorities. With this assumption, it should be trivial to find some language in drug law that clearly violates the Equal Protection Clause, or to find statistics demonstrating that low-income white males receive lighter drug sentencing than college-educated Asian-American females.

I think trying to phrase the War on Drugs as a matter of Identity Politics is a distraction - it's a matter of civil rights.
posted by kid ichorous at 1:28 PM on January 4, 2007


She got a $180K settlement because the city did not want to be put in the positon of putting officers on the stand they knew would perjure themselves or invoke the 5th, which could have caused the whole rotten operation to break open.

The tipoff that the whole case was intentionally dirty is the fact that her powder tested positive for cocaine, opium, and meth. No drug dealer would mix those three, but a field tester might put all three of those down on a form in order to give the person who would later plant real drugs in the evidence for the purpose of a prosecution as much scope as possible to add whatever was most available, or was consistent with the case as a whole.
posted by jamjam at 1:29 PM on January 4, 2007


Where would sitting on a plane near someone marinating in patchouli rate on the historic atrocity meter?
posted by Brown Jenkin at 1:35 PM on January 4, 2007


"War on Drugs == Apartheid. Worse actually."

The next time you see some monstrous quote from an anonymous LGF poster, and feel like the entire conservative world has completely gone off the deep end, I want you all to remember this moment.


Well, I'd have said "The New Jim Crow", but the sentiment is about the same, and I'd say it's accurate. There are five times more white people who use drugs than black people who do, but somehow black people make up more than a third of those arrested for it. A much higher percentage of them also get sent to prison for drug felonies than whites arrested for drug felonies do.

On preview, I don't think that drug laws "exist primarily as an excuse for persecuting minorities" -- the money angle is where it's at -- but they are certainly used that way, in a widespread and disgusting manner.
posted by vorfeed at 1:36 PM on January 4, 2007


"American drug laws exist primarily as an excuse for persecuting minorities? I always thought they existed for the same reason as the prohibition of alcohol"

Read the link I posted. From an outsider's perspective, viewing America as an entity, the answer cannot be more clear.

The individual motivations of the people who vote for representatives who institute the war on drugs policies are irrelevant.

As a non-American looking at your country, it is unimportant to me what the motivation of individual Americans is for supporting War On Drugs policies. What is important is the net effect. The net effect is that you (America) are systematically persecuting your minorities. This is a statistic. It is not an opinion. It is a numerical fact.

Incarceration for drug usage is 8-10 times higher for black Americans as opposed to white, although drug usage is identical among the two populations. It is therefore a statistical fact that the War on Drugs policies are being used to persecute black people, irregardless of whether there is any explicit or even implicit conspiracy to do so.

Once you are aware of these numbers it is incumbent on you (individual American citizens) to vote against those policies, irregardless of your feelings on the morality of drug usage. Otherwise you are culpable for the ongoing persecution of minorities that is happening in your nation.
posted by lastobelus at 1:43 PM on January 4, 2007


@muddgirl:

OK, so post the statistics.

Post the statistics you refer to and lets discuss whether my accusation holds up when we look at the ratios and not at the raw incarceration rates.

Trust me. It still does. I know the numbers.

But let's see YOU post the numbers, since you brought up the objection. Let's see that you consider taking the time to familiarize yourself with the facts an important part of stating a dissenting opinion.
posted by lastobelus at 1:46 PM on January 4, 2007


What's the maximum jail term for smuggling flour?
posted by dayvin at 1:52 PM on January 4, 2007


mr_roboto: "lastobelus writes "War on Drugs == Apartheid. Worse actually.

Bullshit. It's worse than the Holocaust, and I'm not settling for anything less."

This is exactly the sort of comment I was expecting. Get's you out of having to discuss the numbers I quoted and the study I linked to quite neatly, doesn't it?

How shall we measure whether War on Drugs is worse than Apartheid or not? If we measure it by the ratio of the likelihood of a black/white American citizens being put in jail, compared to the ratio in South Africa under apartheid, it IS worse.

Now, mr_roboto: mock my position using statistics and facts and social analysis instead of Godwin. Can you? I don't think you can.
posted by lastobelus at 1:54 PM on January 4, 2007


Jesus fucking Christ. You cannot use fucking statistics to measure the relative suffering of minority groups during two different historical episodes of governmental oppression. Was my fucking point. The very attempt is absurd. You're a self-parody.
posted by mr_roboto at 1:57 PM on January 4, 2007 [4 favorites]


I hear flour in condoms is a freaky sex thing. It's like fucking a kaiser roll, but without the irritating hard crust. The kids call it bunjamming.
posted by Astro Zombie at 1:57 PM on January 4, 2007 [3 favorites]


"until the government said 'nail clippers bad' we all considered nail clippers harmless"

Until and after, even.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 2:03 PM on January 4, 2007


lastobelus: You completely misinterpreted my point. Since YOU obviously have these numbers at your fingertips, please present them to the rest of us, in support of your argument. You can't just cite "3 times as many black americans are imprisoned as black South Africans during apartheid" or even "In apartheid South Africa, 1% of blacks were imprisoned, while in the US, 10% of blacks are imprisoned" because those are useless statistics, since they don't take into consideration the percent of the total population that was imprisoned.

Also, what mr_roboto said. It's a specious argument. I can say that more jews are imprisoned now than in Moorish Spain, but that doesn't mean anything at all about relative anti-semitism.
posted by muddgirl at 2:04 PM on January 4, 2007 [1 favorite]


Oh, and regardless how much black men suffer in the drug war (and they do, they do), Janet Kim is not a black man, so I don't see how any of this is relevant to the topic at hand.
posted by mr_roboto at 2:05 PM on January 4, 2007 [1 favorite]


Or Lee. Whatever.
posted by mr_roboto at 2:06 PM on January 4, 2007


Wow, that was incredibly stupid of her but double Wow, what a nice payout for a three week stay in the pokey.

This post reminded me of the episode of Miami Vice when Crockett and Tubbs bust the confectioner's sugar smugglers.
posted by fenriq at 2:08 PM on January 4, 2007


It is therefore a statistical fact that the War on Drugs policies are being used to persecute black people, irregardless of whether there is any explicit or even implicit conspiracy to do so.

Absolutely true. But this doesn't mean that persecution of black people will end if the War on Drugs is stopped. Surely the police can find some other excuse...
posted by equalpants at 2:08 PM on January 4, 2007


Lastobelus, I think your Gestalt approach to this question leaves a great deal of complexity unresolved, including the role that economic class plays in the American justice system. Consider that statistics like:

Thirty-three percent (33%) of convicted white defendants received a prison sentence, while 51% of African-American defendants received prison sentences.

take on new meaning when you account for variance in wealth, and the consequent differences in sentencing for those who can afford private counsel over public defenders. This is especially important in drug law, where charges are normally stacked, and sentencing often hinges upon the number of charges that stick through to conviction.

It's also quite a leap of faith to suggest that statistics comparing sentencing rates for white and black males, and failing to factor in economic class, have bearing on the case of a wealthy Asian-American woman.
posted by kid ichorous at 2:09 PM on January 4, 2007


I'd spend some time in prison for $180,000. I'd be willing to spend more than three weeks, but I'm not sure what my upper limit would be.

I'll skip the legal battle, tho', and payment upon my release would be fine.
posted by deborah at 2:11 PM on January 4, 2007


A young woman I knew casually confessed to me that she was attending 12-step program meetings to deal with a severe addiction disorder.

I naturally asked if she would tell me what substance she was addicted to.

With a straight face she whispered the answer, "White Flour."
posted by squalor at 2:13 PM on January 4, 2007


mr_roboto:

1. I assure you, outside of America among college-educated professionals the statement "War on Drugs is as bad or worse than apartheid in it's negative affect on American blacks" is as likely to be met with nods of agreement as scorn. The cat is out of the bag.

2. Let's say you are entirely correct that you cannot use statistics to measure the relative suffering of minority groups during two different historical episodes of governmental oppression. How do you intend this statement? As some sort of absolution? you can't use statistics, blah blah blah, so therefore the fact that America locks up it's black people at a rate 4.5 times greater than apartheid at it's height is irrelevant and of no concern?

I don't mind being a self-parody. Do you think it is not transparent -- to non-American readers, at least -- that you focus on attacking my little equivalence, which was intended merely as a postscript to foment discussion, and do not attempt to address the actual content of my argument?

Because you cannot. You have nothing to say which can absolve you or your nation of the great wrong it is committing.
posted by lastobelus at 2:15 PM on January 4, 2007


Much like corporations who write the cost of illegal-dumping fines into their yearly budgets, the police will just pass the costs onto the taxpayers and continue to tamper with and falsify evidence. After all, when you can seize innocent people's cars and homes by uttering the magic word "narcotics," $180,000 is chump change.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 2:15 PM on January 4, 2007


Well said kid ichorous.
posted by peeedro at 2:16 PM on January 4, 2007


I guess this is in bad taste then - white flour
posted by Towelie at 2:27 PM on January 4, 2007


You know, I was going to comment on the drug war/aparthid thing since I have a real bug up my ass about the War on Some Drugs but this derailed me:

I hear flour in condoms is a freaky sex thing. It's like fucking a kaiser roll, but without the irritating hard crust. The kids call it bunjamming.

I actually am completely undecided if I should take that seriously or not. I have obviously been on the internet too long.

Are you kidding? Spending three weeks (in a woman's prison, rather then a men's) for $180k? I'd do it.

Who are you kidding, delmoi? You might PAY $180k to stay 3 weeks in a women's prison.
posted by phearlez at 2:28 PM on January 4, 2007


vorfeed says: "I don't think that drug laws "exist primarily as an excuse for persecuting minorities" -- the money angle is where it's at -- but they are certainly used that way, in a widespread and disgusting manner."

I think this is exactly correct. The original intent was not to oppress minorities. It may not even have been to expand police powers directly; it may really have been to try to stop drug abuse.

But, as has been demonstrated over and over and over, every time the police are given new powers to accomplish a particular thing, they will use that power for OTHER things not related to the original grant. The War On Terror, for instance, is being used as justification for mass illegal surveillance of the populace, and the expanded search powers are being used to prosecute other crimes, ones completely unrelated to terrorism at all.

America is a police state; it became one during Bush Senior's administration, when he decreed that the Constitution could be suspended for drug cases. As soon as that happened, this was no longer a free country. We continue headlong down that slope, extending our collective wrists and begging for the chains, frightened by the Scary People Du Jour.

This case is just an example of the very, very nasty fangs the police state now has... we all agree that this particular girl shouldn't have been bitten. But, apparently, it's okay for the fangs to bite other folks, as long as they're today's Scary People.

If you have the temerity to lack American citizenship, the fangs are extra-sharp.
posted by Malor at 2:30 PM on January 4, 2007


Tangents:
- I now know what "obelus" means. Neat! The shared root with obelisk is a bonus.
- Welcome aboard, Towelie.

posted by cortex at 2:30 PM on January 4, 2007


Lastobelus: your argument, while statistically-backed, presumes that only one factor - percentage of jailed blacks - is enough to equate apartheid South Africa with the US. This is an oversimplification. If apartheid was about denying blacks a voice and power in government, and the US government is worse than apartheid, then how do you explain this, for example? There are around forty African-Americans serving in the current Congress.

If you want "to foment discussion," but then make a grossly hyperbolic claim, people are likely to respond in kind.
posted by taliaferro at 2:31 PM on January 4, 2007


Do you think it is not transparent -- to non-American readers, at least -- that you focus on attacking my little equivalence, which was intended merely as a postscript to foment discussion, and do not attempt to address the actual content of my argument?

We agree with your argument. We don't agree with your use of hyperbole. That's all there is to it.
posted by equalpants at 2:32 PM on January 4, 2007


Um, can we get back to the part about licking uncut Colombians?
posted by papakwanz at 2:34 PM on January 4, 2007


lastobelus: You have nothing to say which can absolve you or your nation of the great wrong it is committing.

The "great wrong" of our nation is massive, unjustifiable disparity in income. It has *some* correlation with demographic talking-points such as race, but it is by no means an equivalence. It might be more equivalent should you choose to ignore a majority of white Americans living beneath the poverty line, but this feeling of abandonment from the Left is part of what drew them to the grand mirage of "Compassionate Conservatism" seven years ago. But, by all means, persist in your too-tidy worldview if you want another GWB to be carried into power on the backs of the under-employed and under-understood.
posted by kid ichorous at 2:34 PM on January 4, 2007


Is it unusual for a sample of white powder found in a law enforcement search to test positive for both opium and cocaine? I guess the security guys could've been thinking it was a speedball, but how often do they come across one of those? I'm thinking that if the results were unusual, this may have been a tip-off that the test was in error.
posted by Clay201 at 2:36 PM on January 4, 2007


On the other side of the "war on drugs" two cops in LA see an odd looking bag, check it out, and laugh when they find out it was just catnip.

Link here.

As for this girl.. well, at least she uses condoms!
posted by drstein at 2:41 PM on January 4, 2007


“Lee's lawsuit seeks to answer a central question: Why did the police field test initially conclude that the white powder contained drugs?’

Yeah, that’d be a pretty key question here. Kinda got lost in the money.
“So, uh,...howzcome you guys said it was cocaine and opi...”
“HERE’s $180,000!”
“um...oh, ok. Thanks!”
posted by Smedleyman at 2:50 PM on January 4, 2007


"Lastobelus, I think your Gestalt approach to this question leaves a great deal of complexity unresolved, including the role that economic class plays in the American justice system"

of course it does. Mind you, if you are going to discoount the incarceration rates by considering income, you'd want to factor back in the impact that spending part of your life in prison has on income. I haven't tried to do any math with the statistics, but looking at it the income numbers it seems unlikely that adjustment for income is going to come anywhere close to eliminating the race factor.

But who cares? Who cares if it is complex? There were lots of complexities in apartheid, too. The world did not care.

It does not matter whether it is by how drug laws are applied based on race or by discrepancies in defence capabilities of people of various races based on their average income levels.

A great wrong is being perpetrated by your country against black people. Whether or not it's the direct cause, the "war on drugs" is clearly the greatest current agent of that wrong.

Stop.

If the wrong is still there after the War on Drugs has been eliminated, THEN figure out what the next step in the equation is.

There is no way to pass social policies which change the insides of people. Dismantling the system of apartheid did not magically change South Africans into non-raciststs. Instead what you must do is identify the policies which are allowing the greatest expression of wrong, and change those. Over time, this does result in attitude change as well.
posted by lastobelus at 2:53 PM on January 4, 2007


Lastobelus, is the *worst* thing you can say of an institution that destroys countless lives that, for arguable reasons - economic, or inherent bias - it is destroying a disproportionate number of lives of a certain race? Do you think that other social justice issues are dwarfed when the spectres of bias or race enter the argument?

Or, better: If the War on Drugs were an Equal-Opportunity Destroyer, a leviathan with no taste for color, would it continue to be such a "Great Wrong?"
posted by kid ichorous at 3:15 PM on January 4, 2007


"then how do you explain this"

Here is how I explain it:

America's policies on voting rights are far better than apartheid South Africa's policies on voting rights. Black people in the U.S. have far greater representation in the government than black people in apartheid South Africa.

The following statement is also true: a black male in the U.S. is more than 4 times as likely to spend part of his life in prison than a black male in apartheid South Africa.

There you go. No hyperbole.

Now, Americans that have responded to me thus far: similarly eschewing hypebole, why is a black male in your country 4 times more likely to spend part of his life in prison than a black male in apartheid South Africa, and what do you intend to do about it?
posted by lastobelus at 3:15 PM on January 4, 2007


America's policies on voting rights are far better than apartheid South Africa's policies on voting rights. Black people in the U.S. have far greater representation in the government than black people in apartheid South Africa.

The following statement is also true: a black male in the U.S. is more than 4 times as likely to spend part of his life in prison than a black male in apartheid South Africa.


That seems a bit fallacious to me.

Crap, my ride is here. More later.
posted by CitrusFreak12 at 3:23 PM on January 4, 2007


why is a black male in your country 4 times more likely to spend part of his life in prison than a black male in apartheid South Africa

lastobelus, have you read any of my previous posts? This is a useless statistic. Off the top of my head, with absolutely no research, I can come up with one: apartheid South African justice focused more on undocumented punishments, such as vigilatism, deportment away from white areas to black areas, and so on. I have no idea whether or not this is true, because it doesn't matter. Look, we all agree with your main points: a disproportionate number of african americans are jailed in the US legal system. Also, a disproportionate number of poor americans are jailed in the US legal system. If we drew a venn diagram, these two populations would intersect. I don't know why you keep bringing up apartheid South Africa. It's trollish, just like bringing up the Holocaust can be trollish.
posted by muddgirl at 3:25 PM on January 4, 2007 [1 favorite]


hmmm... You know, I think a really good present for the pilots of the flight would be a chocolate revolver. But, since they are really busy, you'd have to run up to them and give it to them real fast.
posted by Kudos at 3:30 PM on January 4, 2007


@ichorus: Do you think that other social justice issues are dwarfed when the spectres of bias or race enter the argument?
Or, better: If the War on Drugs were an Equal-Opportunity Destroyer, a leviathan with no taste for color, would it continue to be such a "Great Wrong?"

No, I don't think the other social issues are irrelevant. But I have an agenda. I actually hope to accomplish something. I'm a very strong believer that shame is a huge weapon in social change. I hope to make some small number of people who are morally opposed to drugs feel ashamed about supporting "War on Drugs" policies. I use Apartheid because it has a stigma.

Trust me when I tell you that many people outside of America feel a similar disgust about American policies and the people who support them as they felt about apartheid and its supporters. It is disgusting that the United States imprisons 1 in 8 of its black males. It is revolting. You don't get out of it by arguing that it's almost as much about income levels as race. So what.

You also don't get out of it by saying it's not something that you personally support. So what. America IS still a representative democracy. The fact that the United States imprisons 1 in 8 of its black males is representative of the attitudes, values and wishes of the American people. That's what being a representative democracy means.
posted by lastobelus at 3:33 PM on January 4, 2007


Lastobelus has certainly kicked up a debate! Fuck the war on drugs, and yes, the American judicial system tends to throw that book at minorities (especially blacks) more than others... but my real problem is with this word!.

[/nitpick]
posted by krash2fast at 3:51 PM on January 4, 2007


but my real problem is with this word!.

For reals. I'm taking it to metatalk.
posted by cortex at 3:53 PM on January 4, 2007


"That naivete, she said, began when screeners at Philadelphia International Airport inspecting her checked luggage found three condoms filled with white powder."

I would have never tried to take that through security in a carry on bag but this was checked luggage.

You can argue the "war on drugs" is racist or not but the first drug laws were very much based on race.

1869: The first laws against opium smoking were passed in San Francisco and Virginia City. Opium itself was not outlawed and remained available in any number of over-the-counter products. Only the smoking of opium was outlawed, because that was a peculiarly Chinese habit and the laws were specifically directed at the Chinese. The white people in the communities feared that Chinese men were luring white women to have sex in opium dens.
posted by whatever at 3:55 PM on January 4, 2007


...being used to persecute black people, irregardlessx2020; of whether there is any explicit or even implicit conspiracy...
posted by lastobelus at 4:00 PM on January 4, 2007


But I have an agenda

Glad you told us that. No one had noticed it so far.
posted by qvantamon at 4:01 PM on January 4, 2007



You guys, the American drug laws are demonstrably linked to racism in every instance.

It always amazes me that anyone thinks they were passed after reasoned policy debate-- if that were true, why would we end up with tobacco and alcohol legal and marijuana illegal? It's all about cultural biases, moral entrepreneurs and often, raw economic interests.

First law against cocaine? Passed by a Southern state (I forget which) because they believed it made blacks impervious to bullets and likely to rape white women. At the height of Jim Crow, I believe.

First law against opium? Passed in San Francisco, hyped by fears that opium-smoking Chinese men were going to seduce white women.

Prohibition of marijuana? Evil Mexicans, you guessed it, going to defile white women...

Even alcohol prohibition had racist, anti-immigrant sentiment behind it.

Read David Musto's The American Disease and any other history of drug laws for more.

Or see http://books.google.com/books?id=WHfDdTU1nsgC&pg=PA150&lpg=PA150&dq=%22history+of+american+drug+laws%22&source=web&ots=8Es9gnlmDQ&sig=hFZGcIFLdAqa6zx1ij3aZs-qumE

[and yeah, those white women must be real sluts...or white guys must be really insecure about their manhood]
posted by Maias at 4:01 PM on January 4, 2007


bah, entities show up in live preview but not in actual post! so much for my little joke. :(

the "x2020;" should have appeared as an obelus
posted by lastobelus at 4:01 PM on January 4, 2007


Yeah, that must have been why Britain made opium illegal around the same time, and China made it illegal years before? The Opium Wars, anyone? Don't confuse the bizarre and hysterical rhetoric that surrounds prohibition with the multiplicity of political and economic agents that sustain it.

Again, remember that some of the strongest voices *for* the War on Drugs claim to represent the urban black community. It's a shame, but it's so.
posted by kid ichorous at 4:03 PM on January 4, 2007


1. I assure you, outside of America among college-educated professionals the statement "War on Drugs is as bad or worse than apartheid in it's negative affect on American blacks" is as likely to be met with nods of agreement as scorn. The cat is out of the bag.

How many of those people would be able to tell you what South Africa's Apartheid entailed, though? I mean if they're not educated how could they compare something they do understand to something they don't. And while the WoD may hurt a lot of black people, it also hurts a lot of white people as well, and Ditzy rich Asians apparently. Trying to make an argument about race sort of misses the point.

Who are you kidding, delmoi? You might PAY $180k to stay 3 weeks in a women's prison.

Lol, but seriously. A woman being in a women's prison is much better off then a man being in a men's prison

Is it unusual for a sample of white powder found in a law enforcement search to test positive for both opium and cocaine? I guess the security guys could've been thinking it was a speedball, but how often do they come across one of those? I'm thinking that if the results were unusual, this may have been a tip-off that the test was in error.

Opium, cocaine and meth.

The following statement is also true: a black male in the U.S. is more than 4 times as likely to spend part of his life in prison than a black male in apartheid South Africa.

How much more likely is a white person to spend a part of their lives in jail in the U.S. then in South Africa though? My guess is far, far more likely.
posted by delmoi at 4:05 PM on January 4, 2007


I am so glad people like Lastobelus are here to remind me that I am responsible for locking this poor Asian girl up for three weeks. Or something.

Nice threadjack btw.
posted by Big_B at 4:10 PM on January 4, 2007


Big_B: Give him lastobelus a break, he has an agenda, I've seen it. Next, s/he'll hop on over to the thread about McCarthy doing drugs and explain how, if he were black, he'd be in jail by now.
posted by muddgirl at 4:24 PM on January 4, 2007


No, I don't think the other social issues are irrelevant. But I have an agenda. I actually hope to accomplish something. I'm a very strong believer that shame is a huge weapon in social change. I hope to make some small number of people who are morally opposed to drugs feel ashamed about supporting "War on Drugs" policies. I use Apartheid because it has a stigma.

Then what the fuck are you blabbing on here for? Almost every time the WoD comes up in Metafilter it is (rightfully) blasted by everyone. Go sell your spiel on Red State or some horrible place like that where people will actually disagree with you in substance rather than tone or form.
posted by Falconetti at 4:39 PM on January 4, 2007


Actually, the black community has begun to back off the drug war as they began to realize that they were supporting locking up their own people, while white people committing the same crimes got off.

Charles Rangel, I believe, is now at least in favor of reducing the crack/powder disparity and he finally stopped opposing needle exchange at some point. And he, of course, initially led the charge*for* lengthy mandatories and blocking clean needle programs as "genocide," and limiting methadone.

And regarding the fact that other countries outlawed drugs for other reasons, that does nothing to disprove the fact that America, the global champion of the WOSD, based its drug policies on racism, pure and simple. The opium wars are not a good example of drug policy being set due to reasoned consideration of the relative harms related to drugs either!

That doesn't mean that drugs don't cause problems-- but that it was not drug-related problems but race-related fears that have driven the way we deal with psychoactive substances in America. And since, on this issue, America forces the rest of the world into line, more often than not, what influences our policies matter. Just look at when Canada and Mexico try to liberalize their laws and what we do. Or look at UNDCP and needle exchange.
posted by Maias at 4:43 PM on January 4, 2007


Lol, but seriously. A woman being in a women's prison is much better off then a man being in a men's prison

Er, whut? Why?
posted by Zinger at 4:59 PM on January 4, 2007


You know, lastobelus may be a bit earnest for this crowd and may be making points a bit overdramatically, but the points are good, and I'm not quite sure where all the mockery and finger-pointing is coming from. America is racist, that fact is reflected in crime statistics and drug laws, and to my mind apartheid is a perfectly fair comparison, regardless of which statistics you want to allow into the game. Can we not discuss the message without trying to trip up the messenger by any means available?
posted by languagehat at 5:21 PM on January 4, 2007


I know I'm late to the party here, but in the 2001 holiday season following 9/11, I found myself shopping at Hot Topic. Girl in line in front of me is asking the teller" 'This [lifelike fake metal grenade] isn't real, so I can bring it on the plane, right?

I had to jump in with a 'Definitely Not!' and the both of them looked at me like I was nuts.

Never read about her in the papers.
posted by vaportrail at 6:14 PM on January 4, 2007


Seconding languagehat's objection to the nitpicking: an otherwise passioned plea to call attention to an issue has been bogged down in a bureaucracy of semantics. I'm all for intellectual debate but let's not get sidetracked and start forming subcommittees and nominating people for Vice President of Statistical Analysis or Chairperson for Proper Use of Context.

Here's how I understand lastobelus' argument, minus the A-word comparison that, while most likely an attempt at drawing a parallel, has been decried as inflammatory: America is racist, and the War on Drugs allows for continued persecution and marginalization of minorities through legal avenues.

And if that is indeed the case being made, I totally buy that. Since the War on Drugs is a war against a behavior, those fighting the war necessarily profile their enemy based on whatever stereotypes they've inherited. The flip side of claiming that "we are not profiling" is to suggest that you have no idea who or what you're looking for, and are throwing resources randomly about at the taxpayer's expense.

Explains why many of those charged with drug offenses are "caught" simply because they were searched due to "probable cause," where "probable cause" = "being black on a Friday night."
posted by krippledkonscious at 6:16 PM on January 4, 2007


Lastobelus: The United States is a study in contradictions, and we're all guilty by association. The same justice system that persecutes blacks also (most of the time) protects and serves us. The same military that's invading and killing right now is also seen as an economic stepping stone for the poor and disenfranchised.

It's a big shit sandwich and we're all voluntarily sitting at the table. But it's bad form to point out what the main course is.

People are going to freak out--loudly even--when you point out that they're--we're--living in a flawed society. Cognitive dissonance, and all that.

Keep fighting the good fight, though. A change is gonna come.
posted by John of Michigan at 6:32 PM on January 4, 2007


I'd spend some time in prison for $180,000. I'd be willing to spend more than three weeks, but I'm not sure what my upper limit would be.

Obviously spoken by someone who has never been in prison. Sorry, you have no idea.
posted by JackFlash at 6:38 PM on January 4, 2007


I'm really amazed at how many people are calling this woman a bonehead. She had FLOUR IN CONDOMS. Anything about that remotely illegal? Obviously not. This story is insane, and it's a scary example of how shaky some of our systems are. The fact that flour could be mistaken for three illegal drugs frightens me pretty seriously.
posted by ORthey at 7:13 PM on January 4, 2007


"Then what the fuck are you blabbing on here for? Almost every time the WoD comes up in Metafilter it is (rightfully) blasted by everyone. Go sell your spiel on Red State "

I have no chance at all of influencing anyone on Red State. I'm not going to shame anyone on Red State. What percentage of you who so hotly claim you have a social conscience, who ridicule the idea you ought to be compared to South Africa and apartheid, are going to vote for someone running a campaign where they promise to stop the unjust imprisonment, release the thousands imprisoned for sentences of years or decades for possessing recreational amounts of drugs, and spend xx billions of tax dollars on the programs necessary to re-integrate them into society?

Until you are, I call shame. I stand by my feeling, my belief, that the fact 1 out of 8 of your black male citizens will be imprisoned at some point in his life has a moral equivalence with apartheid, and that the responsibility lies not with "the cops" or "the people on Red State" but with America as a nation. With all of you.
posted by lastobelus at 7:25 PM on January 4, 2007


M.C. Lo-Carb! writes "I recall feeling bad for this girl when this originally went down, but seriously, WTF was she thinking?"

That checking flour and condoms, both legal even when mixed and readily available at every super market in the country, would be harmless.

XQUZYPHYR writes "That said, Jumping Jesus H. Tap-Dancing Christ on a Pogo Stick how fucking braindead do you have to be to not even consider the remote possibility that a place where you get nail clippers confiscated might take issue with condoms filled with white powder."

Note the flour was in her checked luggage, hysterical security concerns about the ability to hijack an post 9/11 plane with a 1/4" semi shrouded blade shouldn't apply.
posted by Mitheral at 7:31 PM on January 4, 2007


What percentage of you...

I routinely vote against such policies and policymakers. Am I allowed to be annoyed at your presentation yet?
posted by cortex at 7:49 PM on January 4, 2007


By the way, I've spent quite a bit of time in the U.S. -- over a year and a half. I was an illegal alien for a few months, lol! I've seen the extremes -- I spent time in Laguna Beach & Santa Barbara & I've also been in the projects in Chicago & Oakland. My brother married an American, and is a minister of a church in Delaware, and I occasionally visit him there.

I met many wonderful people in the U.S. I have ongoing working relationships with several Americans, who I think are all great people, and I think there are lots of really cool, really interesting Americans on metafilter, which is part of why I read it almost daily. I've never been to South Africa, but I'm sure that the white population in apartheid South Africa were generally great people.

But apartheid was shameful. And imprisonment of black people in America (and other minorities, but it is most egregious with black Americans), (ir)regardless of whether it has more to do with income or race, has reached and gone beyond the point of being shameful.
posted by lastobelus at 7:52 PM on January 4, 2007


Well, I am in substantial agreement with lastobelus, so much so that I have donated money in the past to the Drug Reform Coordination Network (and will probably donate again in the future). I encourage those who care to support such organizations. But first, you must be shamed by hectoring Mefites that push their agenda with polemical rhetoric. That is something Metafilter always responds well to. Besides being annoyed at lastobelus' attempt at "shaming," I further think such a tactic is one of the least successful ways of getting people on Metafilter to respond in a positive or productive way. Anyway, drug policy is the new Jim Crow, which is a more apt comparison than Apartheid.
posted by Falconetti at 8:10 PM on January 4, 2007


I have no chance at all of influencing anyone on Red State.

...and that, folks, is why leftist politics in the US is a rotting corpse; so much effort spent on fighting like-minded people who just aren't quite like-minded enough, and so little effort trying to do anything productive.

If you aren't sufficiently dedicated to Cause X, or Y, or Z, then you're worse than Pol Pot. Pol Pot himself, on the other hand, gets a free pass because nobody thinks they have a chance to change his mind about things.

Berating like-minded people isn't productive, it's a sure way to make them decide the whole thing isn't worth the bother. It doesn't take many meetings where everyone berates everyone else for not being sufficiently hard core that you decide to let the whole lot of them go fuck themselves. Speaking from experience, of course.
posted by aramaic at 8:11 PM on January 4, 2007 [3 favorites]


Should have gotten $18 million for that. What an outrage.
posted by wfc123 at 8:33 PM on January 4, 2007


Wow,

I guess next time she will smuggle the flour condoms in her womanhood...

if you know what I mean
posted by subaruwrx at 9:21 PM on January 4, 2007


it is incumbent on you (individual American citizens) to vote against those policies, irregardless of your feelings on the morality of drug usage. Otherwise you are culpable for the ongoing persecution of minorities that is happening in your nation.

Culpable? Wow, you're full of shit.

And kid ichorous has it. It's economics.

The following statement is also true: a black male in the U.S. is more than 4 times as likely to spend part of his life in prison than a black male in apartheid South Africa.

Why? Because of some conspiracy to jail black males? Hardly. That plays a negligible role, if any. Blacks are more likely to be poor—that's not something that's been overtly (or covertly) done to them by anyone currently alive. The U.S. has the ability to incarcerate more people. Combine those two to create a situation where people who can't afford expensive lawyers are more likely to spend time in jail. Bottom line: your statement, by itself, regardless of how true it is, does not at all imply that there is a systematic discrimination going on.

I use Apartheid because it has a stigma.

You use it despite the fact that it is not applicable.

I call shame.

I call bullshit. Your country isn't any less guilty of mistreating minorities.
posted by oaf at 10:52 PM on January 4, 2007


Damn. Putting flour filled condoms in my luggage was on my list of things to do on my next flight.

Right after hiding boxcutters in the soles of my steeltoed boots.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 11:09 PM on January 4, 2007


I guess next time she will smuggle the flour condoms in her womanhood...

if you know what I mean


I'm afraid I don't! Could you please explain? You mean, in her purse? Because I'm sure you don't mean that a woman is nothing more than her vagina? That being a sexual organ or a receptacle for a man's sperm is the essence of who she is?

Irreirregardlessless, our shrill earnest newcomer is correct about the rather pervasive racism in our glorious land, and that anti-drug laws, like issues shuch as bussing, states' rights, "tax reform", and voter id are largely racist in motivation, or at least origin. Which may be the crux of the matter. Generally nice, altruist sheep driven astray by wolves in sheep drag.

I mean, we all know how right wing fundamentalist leaders really feel about hot man sex with a hint of crystal.
posted by cytherea at 11:39 PM on January 4, 2007


Holy Shit./

Whoddathunk an innocent prank was going to be misconstrued as criminal and dangerous by the flics. The flics obviously took it personally, that the prank was intended for them and didn't find it funny. Just because they didn't get that the joke was to be shared by her and her friends. To get even and show her, they tell her the "field" test ]what, done in a crack parking lot and meth lab per chance¿[ showed traces of all kinds of drugz. Was it such a slow day¿

It's the criminal intent of the "result" of the field test that bothers me. The lying sacks of shit, because they actually took it as a personal affront. That really was their motive for "reporting" the false field test. Did they only test it once, I bet¿ Were they using equipment that just previously tested positive for drugs¿


There are too many here whom are blaming the woman. She's only guilty of being naive to think no one would frame her, least of all the law and as an abiding citizen, why should she/you/me second guess what something may appear to be or not to some flic who sees everyone as 'smugglurs' and 'terrerists' all y'all.



Furthermore, 3 weeks to test what¿ Oh, did the flour get lost on the way to the lab for a few weeks did it¿ That's obstruction of justice. What IS the turnaround time for testing suspected substances anyways¿


The only possible charge the woman could get slapped with is importing food with no clear label where its country of origin is clearly labelled and have the flour confiscated.
I kid you not, my banana was going to be confiscated at the border from Canada to the USA because it had no sticker of origin. He asked me if it was made in America. No label, so I ate the damn thing and handed him the peel.


In her case,
it's all about control. Abuse of power just because they could. Criminals.
Racial though¿ Possibly, more like sexist to me really, given she said "it was a girl thing", when guys pull pranks on each other all the time amongst friends. Many people do.



What galls me also is the chief deputy of the city solicitor's civil rights division ]Lynne Sitarski[ said the city "is not admitting wrongdoing or liability."
AND
the city lawyer said the settlement was "in the best interests of the city."
Rilly¿ How does that make any sense¿ What nonsense.

Bloody right she's been traumatised. By the law. The ones that are there to serve and protect eh¿ So much so, that she would rather settle than to go through what she would have to endure again in court, a year later.

She's not lost any face in my mind. The blame still sits on those responsible for this travesty of justice.


I hope she gets some answers and that those Philly flics end up in jail themselves for more than 3 weeks as opposed to a day with no pay. Dirty testing equipment my ass. You're fired and your new address is the state penitentiary.

The settlement amount is a pittance, she lost more than 3 weeks, she lost over 3 years from the psychological trauma and who hasn't any issues regarding trust. Her trust in people, nevermind the law was violated.


and in other news today, a possible meteorite falling to earth was believed it was connected to "some kind of global warming thing".
posted by alicesshoe at 12:18 AM on January 5, 2007


The only possible charge the woman could get slapped with is importing food with no clear label where its country of origin is clearly labelled and have the flour confiscated.
I kid you not, my banana was going to be confiscated at the border from Canada to the USA because it had no sticker of origin.


This wasn't an international flight, but that's true—they don't want you to bring fruit from Canada into the U.S. unless it was grown in Canada or the U.S.
posted by oaf at 12:23 AM on January 5, 2007


Combine those two to create a situation where people who can't afford expensive lawyers are more likely to spend time in jail.

Except that this isn't just about conviction rates. Black people make up about 35% of those arrested for drug crime, even though only 15% of drug users are black, and 70% of drug users are white. About 10% of whites are in poverty, and about 20% of blacks are in poverty. By the numbers, whites make up well over 40% of people in poverty; blacks make up about 25%. Between this and the fact that the vast majority of drug users are white, it seems to me that there are probably many more poor white drug users than poor black drug users. Yet, somehow, those black people just seem to keep on getting arrested, and those white people... well, they don't, at least not in keeping with the huge size of their drug using population.

Bottom line: your statement, by itself, regardless of how true it is, does not at all imply that there is a systematic discrimination going on.

I would say that when blacks make up 35% of arrests but just 15% of users, that's systematic discrimination. I agree that the Drug War discriminates against the poor of all races, but economics alone are not enough to explain the huge disparity in black arrest rates. The number of poor black people in this country isn't anywhere close to being greater than the number of poor white people, so how can economics explain why we arrest black people far out of proportion with their use rates?
posted by vorfeed at 12:57 AM on January 5, 2007


The number of poor black people in this country isn't anywhere close to being greater than the number of poor white people, so how can economics explain why we arrest black people far out of proportion with their use rates?

That doesn't follow. There being a larger number of poor white people doesn't change the fact that there's a smaller proportion of white people who are poor.
posted by oaf at 1:04 AM on January 5, 2007


@oaf (and I get really shrill this time)

"Culpable? Wow, you're full of shit."

If your opinion is that citizens of a representative democracy that seems to be using a social policy as a thin excuse to incarcerate large percentages one of it's minorities bear no culpability for that, I find that attitude disgusting.

"...It's economics...Why? Because of some conspiracy to jail black males? Hardly. That plays a negligible role, if any...etc."

The bottom line for me is that the fact 1 out of 8 of your black male citizens -- 1 out of 8!!!!! -- will spend part of their lives behind bars is utterly disgusting. It is morally reprehensible. No amount of handwaving on your part about "it's about economics" and that "nobody currently living is to blame for it" does anything to change my mind that it is reprehensible. Say I buy that it is really economics, not racism. What are you doing about that, as a nation?

"apartheid...is not applicable"

I say it is. Locking up 1 out of 8 of your black male citizens is as morally reprehensible as was apartheid, no matter what sophisms you wish to employ to discount the responsibility American citizens have for it's occurrence.

"I call bullshit. Your country isn't any less guilty of mistreating minorities."

My country has, like every other country in existence, been guilty of both allowing and sponsoring mistreatment of minorities. No denial. For example, our practice in the 60s of forcibly removing native children from their families to put them in boarding schools and attempt to systematically beat their culture out of them was a terrible thing. But we have made and continue to make steady progress in identifying and reducing such mistreatment. We dedicate considerable political and financial resources to fostering integration and accomodating minorities -- it's one of the reasons we pay higher taxes. Though we have lots left to accomplish, there is nothing going on in my country today that is remotely comparable to a 12.5% incarceration rate of black males.

Since you brought it up, as far as treatment of African American people, what my country is most known for historically is of course sheltering and providing new lives for ones running away from you -- but hey, that was a long time ago.

I hope you understand why I'm offended by you. Here's how it sounds, underneath the handwaving: "we lock up an eighth of our black men, but it's not a conspiracy, it's just because they're poorer". And I'm full of shit for pointing out that citizens of a representative democracy are culpable for the wrongs that that democracy commits. If they aren't, who the hell is? Or do I misunderstand what representative democracy means?

BTW, you might want to look up culpable. By your reaction, you seem to think is is as strong or stronger than saying "to blame for" when in fact it means somewhat less: "deserving of censure". Perhaps that changes how you hear what I am saying.
posted by lastobelus at 3:07 AM on January 5, 2007


If your opinion is that citizens of a representative democracy that seems to be using a social policy as a thin excuse to incarcerate large percentages one of it's minorities bear no culpability for that, I find that attitude disgusting.

So because you think something's occurring, and I say I'm not responsible for it (because I'm not), you find my attitude disgusting? You need a reality check.

I say it is. Locking up 1 out of 8 of your black male citizens is as morally reprehensible as was apartheid, no matter what sophisms you wish to employ to discount the responsibility American citizens have for it's occurrence.

Sophisms I wish to employ? You need less flowery language and more of a real argument. Your merely saying it's happening doesn't make it so. Give some real numbers. Your solitary statistics are entirely meaningless in isolation, and you're being completely disingenuous by implying otherwise.

No amount of handwaving on your part about "it's about economics" and that "nobody currently living is to blame for it" does anything to change my mind that it is reprehensible.

Here's a hint: pounding one statistic that is meaningless by itself over and over and over and over (four times in one comment!) just confirms my initial guess (without knowing where you were from, except that it wasn't the U.S.) that you were one of those closed-minded Canadians who blame the U.S. for all the world's ills, and then try to find statistics to back up their knee-jerk anti-Americanism. Hell, for the purposes of the story linked at the top of the thread, how many African-American maless can expect to be jailed is entirely meaningless, as the protagonist in the story is neither African-American nor male.

We dedicate considerable political and financial resources to fostering integration and accomodating minorities -- it's one of the reasons we pay higher taxes.

Remind me, next time I'm in Toronto, to let those people fortunate enough to live in Regent Park or at Jane and Finch that they are very close to being integrated with mainstream society, thanks to the great efforts by the populace at large.

Since you brought it up, as far as treatment of African American people, what my country is most known for historically is of course sheltering and providing new lives for ones running away from you -- but hey, that was a long time ago.

Yeah, there was a whopping 32 years between the end of slavery in Canada and the end of slavery in the U.S. That's just over a 10% difference.

I hope you understand why I'm offended by you.

Yes, but it's not why you say. It's because you decided you'd be offended by me, and anyone else who doesn't want to blame America and Americans for the world's ills, before this thread was even posted.

BTW, you might want to look up culpable. By your reaction, you seem to think is is as strong or stronger than saying "to blame for" when in fact it means somewhat less

"Blameworthy," which it does mean, isn't really much less.
posted by oaf at 3:48 AM on January 5, 2007


So because you think something's occurring, and I say I'm not responsible for it (because I'm not), you find my attitude disgusting? You need a reality check.

I'm sorry, but you call "reality check" when you've already had statistics presented to you that prove that this "thing" you claim is NOT occurring *ACTUALLY IS*?
Reality check: Go take a damn introductory statistics course.

... and I swore I wasn't going to get involved here....
posted by eparchos at 3:54 AM on January 5, 2007


eparchos: I already have taken one. You should probably should, too; then, you'd know that one statistic by itself does not allow you to infer anything else at all.
posted by oaf at 4:01 AM on January 5, 2007


should
posted by oaf at 4:10 AM on January 5, 2007


eparchos: I already have taken one. You should probably should, too; then, you'd know that one statistic by itself does not allow you to infer anything else at all.

Well then, clearly you don't actually understand what's going on here, although I thought vorfeed explained it pretty clearly.

Basically, it boils down to this:
1. A disproportionate percentage of blacks are arrested for crimes in the USA.
2. A disproportionate percentage of blacks are convicted of crimes in the USA.
3. A disproportionate number of convictions of blacks in the USA result in harsher sentencing than the same crimes for whites.

There are two possible explanations for this.
A: Blacks are "more criminal" than whites.
B: There exists some form of racial discrimination.

Considering that blacks in other countries are NOT as egregiously over-represented in prisons, A is discarded. Leaving B.

And no, one statistic by itself does NOT allow one to infer much. However, there are oodles and oodles of statistics on this particular issue, I recommend looking them up.
This information is just plain common knowledge amongst people who work with statistics, like myself, as it's a very educational study of statistical analysis.
Of course, you could actually just look at the links vorfeed provided and apply that basic statistics course knowledge you learned. Far be it from me to suggest that....
posted by eparchos at 4:13 AM on January 5, 2007


I find that attitude disgusting... utterly disgusting. It is morally reprehensible. No amount of handwaving on your part... does anything to change my mind that it is reprehensible.... morally reprehensible... no matter what sophisms you wish to employ... I hope you understand why I'm offended by you...

Would you please read that excerpted version of your latest rant and try and grasp why you're harming your own cause? You're coming across exactly like one of those streetcorner loons who stands on a box and harangues all passersby about how EVIL the system is and the passersby personally are; in their case they usually want you to GET RIGHT WITH JESUS, while you want us to END RACISM, but the end result is the same: eye-rolling and rejection. I basically agree with you and have tried to be supportive in this thread, but even I'm getting fed up with your shrill venting. What effect do you want to have? What effect do you see yourself having, here among people who might be expected to basically agree with you? I suggest, in the friendliest and most sincere manner, that you step back, think about what I'm saying, and recalibrate your approach so that you have some chance of actually affecting the way people think. If all you want is to hear yourself vent righteously and feel that satisfying sense of contempt for all those less-righteous people you're surrounded by, of course, then carry on.
posted by languagehat at 6:22 AM on January 5, 2007


goddamn, someone needs to pay me 180k for the time i spent reading this thread. Drug War = Apartheid? wtf.
posted by lazaruslong at 7:07 AM on January 5, 2007


And I'm full of shit for pointing out that citizens of a representative democracy are culpable for the wrongs that that democracy commits. If they aren't, who the hell is? Or do I misunderstand what representative democracy means?


Yes You Are, Someone Else, and Yes You Do.
posted by lazaruslong at 7:10 AM on January 5, 2007


alicesshoe writes "3 weeks to test what¿ Oh, did the flour get lost on the way to the lab for a few weeks did it¿ That's obstruction of justice. What IS the turnaround time for testing suspected substances anyways¿"

It's typical that even expediated testing could take three weeks. We're only taking 15 working days for the sample to: be processed by the police officer, travel (securely) to the (secure) lab, get tested, generate results, return the result to the police officer, have the police officer share the results with the prosecutor, have the prosecutor's office arrange for release, process the release. There was probably a second round of testing as well to make sure a mistake wasn't made.
posted by Mitheral at 7:14 AM on January 5, 2007


I guess next time she will smuggle the flour condoms in her womanhood...

what if she has a yeast infection? Could lead to bread.
posted by jonmc at 7:39 AM on January 5, 2007 [1 favorite]


And, eventually, dancing.
posted by cortex at 8:16 AM on January 5, 2007


@Mitheral
ok, then this "field test" result is where it started, which I find very troubling.
They knew she'd be jailed for some time.
posted by alicesshoe at 9:39 AM on January 5, 2007


lastobelus -- I get what you are saying, and your "big picture" approach is refreshing, challenging and has a lot of merit. But only Americans are allowed to criticize America. They circle the wagons at the slightest threat. Actually, that's the wrong metaphor - they wage pre-emptive war in other countries at the slightest threat. That this holds true even on a left-ish site like Metafilter is no surprise.

The argument that the war on blacks/drugs is a subset of The American Inequality Which While Deplorable is Also What Makes Us Great(tm) is pretty disingenuous it seems. The rest of the world is entitled to judge America on its actions, un-nuanced by an insider's view of the internal dynamics of American society or fatuous expressions of non-implication by virtue of not having voted the latest incarnation of American hegemony. Deeds, not words, America.

Someone said, the greatest gift is to see yourself as others see you. But this can be a hard gift to take pleasure in.
posted by Rumple at 10:20 AM on January 5, 2007


There are two possible explanations for this.

Basic statistics knowledge does not allow you to make this statement. In fact, it allows you to discredit this statement. Hell, basic reason allows you to. Observe:

There are two possible explanations for this.
A: Blacks are "more criminal" than whites.
B: George W. Bush eats babies.

Considering that blacks in other countries are NOT as egregiously over-represented in prisons, A is discarded. Leaving B.


You're ignoring the correlation between race and income, and the ability of highly paid attorneys to bamboozle juries into acquitting guilty defendants.
posted by oaf at 10:27 AM on January 5, 2007


But only Americans are allowed to criticize America.

Isn't it sad that I was able to guess correctly that you were Canadian at this point, before reading the rest of your comment?

I'm really not a fan of those who, in a given context, search for why America and/or its citizens have done something wrong before all else. Someone is improperly arrested for smuggling drugs? America is obviously full of racists. Global warming climate change whatever they're calling it? America hates the environment. People being killed in Darfur? America clearly isn't doing enough to drive out the militias. Plank in your own eye? America must have put it there!
posted by oaf at 10:39 AM on January 5, 2007


You're ignoring the correlation between race and income, and the ability of highly paid attorneys to bamboozle juries into acquitting guilty defendants.

The "correlation between race and income" is just not great enough to make statements like this. Again, 10% of whites are in poverty. 20% of blacks are. There are only 37 million blacks in America, and 20% of them are in poverty, or about 7,400,000. Whereas there are well over 23 million poor whites, about three times the total number of poor blacks, and nearly the number of blacks period. Yes, "there's a smaller proportion of white people who are poor", but it is not smaller enough even by percentage to explain why blacks make up 35% of drug arrests.

And, again, "the ability of attorneys" has nothing to do with arrest rates, period.
posted by vorfeed at 11:32 AM on January 5, 2007


Isn't it sad that I was able to guess correctly that you were Canadian at this point, before reading the rest of your comment?


No sadder than that I was able to deduce you were an oaf before I clicked on your profile.

But keep on shooting messengers. There's a veritable human wave of them out there.
posted by Rumple at 11:35 AM on January 5, 2007


oaf, it appears that you are having trouble discussing this issue because you have brought too much emotional baggage to the thread.

May I suggest attempting to address the arguments as they are presented without engaging your well developed ability to apply your prejudices, just as you would like those who comment on America to do.

/more helpful
posted by asok at 11:54 AM on January 5, 2007



I actually haven't seen even the most conservative folks argue that the drug war doesn't disproportionately lock up black people in America.

If you look at men in their 20s and 30s, in some cities you have 25% under criminal justice supervision (in jail, on probation or parole).

The arguments are over the solutions, not the problem so I find it kind of weird that people here are even disputing the fact of disproportionate racial law enforcement in the WOD.

Part of the reason may be that black people, being poorer, are more likely to buy and use drugs in street scenes and these are far more accessible to police than the using networks of white people, which are out of sight in buildings and social networks that rarely interact with the police.

That doesn't make the outcome any less racist, though-- even though there's a good case to be made that street networks are more disruptive of the community and should be targeted more.
posted by Maias at 1:07 PM on January 5, 2007


eparchos: Basically, it boils down to this:
1. A disproportionate percentage of blacks are arrested for crimes in the USA.
There are two possible explanations for this.
A: Blacks are "more criminal" than whites.
B: There exists some form of racial discrimination.


Again, I'm not sure why these statistics must unequivocally point to simple institutionalized racism and not a more complex problem. Does the higher incidence of heart disease among American black males point exclusively to racism? Or does it point to a star-crossing of influences, from diet to economic circumstances and the slot-machine of American health-care?

This is not to say that race isn't at all involved in higher arrest rates. But let's look at the litany of causes identified by HRW:

To some extent, racial disproportions in drug arrests reflect demographic factors. Drug law enforcement is concentrated in large urban areas. Illicit drug use is also higher in large metropolitan areas.90 Since more blacks, proportionately, live in these areas than whites, black drug offenders are at greater risk of arrest than white offenders.91 But within metropolitan areas, politics and law enforcement priorities have determined how drug arrests would be distributed.

Within urban areas, the "major fronts" in the drug wars have been low income minority neighborhoods. With the spread of crack in the early 1980s, these neighborhoods suffered from the disorder, nuisance, and assaults on the quality of life that accompanied increased drug dealing on the streets as well as the crime and violence that accompanied the development of crack distribution systems. [...]

Although crack was the least used of all illicit drugs in the U.S., and although more whites used illicit drugs than blacks (see Table 17, above), the "war on drugs" has been targeted most notoriously at the possession and sale of crack cocaine by blacks. Crack cocaine in black neighborhoods became a lightning rod for a complicated and deep-rooted set of racial, class, political, social, and moral dynamics.93 [...]

Tactical considerations also encouraged the concentration of anti-drug resources in disadvantaged minority neighborhoods and the consequent disproportionate number of black drug offender arrests. Police departments point to the number of arrests as a measure of effectiveness. The circumstances of life and the public nature of drug transactions in low income urban neighborhoods make arrests far easier there than in other neighborhoods. [...]

Racial profiling -- the police practice of stopping, questioning, and searching potential criminal suspects in vehicles or on the street based solely on their racial appearance -- has also contributed to racially disproportionate drug arrests, although there are no reliable estimates of the number. In many locales, black drivers are disproportionately stopped for minor traffic offenses and then searched.97 [...]

Other factors have also been important in increasing the relative rate at which black drug offenders are arrested compared to whites. For example, low income purchasers of cocaine buy the drug in the cheap form of single or several hits of crack. They must engage in far more illegal transactions to satisfy their desire for drugs than middle or upper class consumers of powder cocaine who have the resources to buy larger and longer lasting supplies. The greater frequency of purchases and sales may well affect susceptibility to arrest. 99


As I've pointed out before, it was not too long ago that this same crisis was lived in reverse. Shrill heads were heralding crack cocaine, a drug over-represented in urban black neighborhoods, as a white conspiracy, a race plague snowed down upon black streets. They called for more police presence in black neighborhoods, more arrests, harsher drug laws. We drew up front lines in cities like DC, armed our cops for war, and turned them on ourselves. Today's drug war, the offspring of this clusterfuck, still hovers like a flock of modern Furies - helicopters? - over our poorest ghettos.

Does this mean the drug war doesn't affect poor people in rural America? No.
Does it suck more to be poor and live in a city like DC? You bet.
If I'm poor and black, is it more likely I'll live in a city like DC? Yes.
Do the DC police ever profile illegally? Yes.
If the DC police stopped profiling illegally, would as many whites be arrested as blacks?
Not if you accept the points from HRW above. For various reasons well outside the scope of racism, poor urban areas have become the chosen front lines of a war between the government and the people.
Would you be happier with the WoD if whites were destroyed in the same ratio as blacks?
I'll let you guys answer this one yourselves.

Also, note that we're talking about skewed arrests here, and not discrepancies in conviction rates. Remember that our court system openly, shamelessly advantages the rich, while race discrimination within the courts is taken rather seriously - indeed, I *wish* other encroachments on embattled civil liberties sparked such legal and public ire. Yes, the Fourteenth Amendment is very important, but when the ACLU - one of the few organizations that still occasionally cares for your civil rights - starts turning down Fourth Amendment cases that don't have a racial dimension to them, I wonder if the Left can quite dig it anymore. Perhaps, like our generals still out fighting their Cold War on hot sand, some children of the 60s are unable to look beyond a precious ideological totem? Is it so absurd if younger generations can see a world of more dimensions than Russia and Race?

To revisit the original point of departure in this conversation, I do not think that a wealthy Asian-American woman arrested for carrying powder-filled condoms on an airliner is a window into American racism, sexism, or any of your other classic talking points. I think framing this issue in terms of race is a distraction from the real causes and consequences behind our counterproductive Wars on Drugs and Terror. We should all be on the same side here - it's our collective rights at stake.
posted by kid ichorous at 1:17 PM on January 5, 2007 [1 favorite]


And, again, "the ability of attorneys" has nothing to do with arrest rates, period.

Bullshit. People more likely to be easily convicted are more likely to be arrested to begin with, because higher conviction rates make police departments look better.

But keep on shooting messengers.

I haven't. It's just that I've seen that sort of smugness before, and I think it's useful to point it out and that it's essentially unfounded.

May I suggest attempting to address the arguments as they are presented

OK, fine. lastobelus's argument is not relevant. No black males were arrested. What this case is actually about is pretty simple: a condom filled with a white powder erroneously tested positive for drugs, and the person who had it in her bag was held far too long in jail. She sued (rightfully so), and they settled. Race doesn't come into it.

I actually haven't seen even the most conservative folks argue that the drug war doesn't disproportionately lock up black people in America.

I'm not either. I admit that black people are disproportionately incarcerated in the U.S. However, I'm arguing that that fact does not allow you to say with any high degree of confidence that racism is the cause. Correlation ≠ causation, people.

Part of the reason may be that black people, being poorer, are more likely to buy and use drugs in street scenes and these are far more accessible to police than the using networks of white people, which are out of sight in buildings and social networks that rarely interact with the police.…That doesn't make the outcome any less racist

Whoa, hold on. They're just going after the people it's a lot easier to catch because they're dealing drugs more openly, and possibly more frequently, as kid ichorous addressed. That's not racism on the part of the police, it's laziness.

To revisit the original point of departure in this conversation, I do not think that a wealthy Asian-American woman arrested for carrying powder-filled condoms on an airliner is a window into American racism, sexism, or any of your other classic talking points.

Exactly. A Mawrtyr getting held improperly over a flour-filled condom doesn't merit this kind of derail. Save your indignance and cries of racism for where they are applicable.
posted by oaf at 1:53 PM on January 5, 2007


Would you be happier with the WoD if whites were destroyed in the same ratio as blacks? I'll let you guys answer this one yourselves.

If the drug laws were applied evenly in this country -- that is to say, if whites made up 70% of all drug arrests, just as they make up 70% of all drug users -- I don't think we'd have the same Drug War we have today, because there'd be widespread national outrage over it. So yes, I would really love to see whites getting arrested in the same ratio as blacks! Right now, the WoD is an easily ignorable problem for most whites, and that's why nothing is getting done about it. Busting someone who looks just like Grandma Mary or little Brittany seems to be the only thing that gets policymakers (where policymakers == the majority, and the majority == white people) upset about what the cops are doing to this country.

Public reaction to the War on Drugs is a classic case of Niemoller Syndrome. The front lines of the Drug War have generally been drawn far from predominately-white towns and neighborhoods, even when such neighborhoods are just as drug-ridden and/or poverty-stricken as minority neighborhoods. I doubt there was an explicit conspiracy to allocate police resources in this way, at least outside of a few examples in the South, but I hope we all realize that racism is not always explicit.

Bullshit. People more likely to be easily convicted are more likely to be arrested to begin with, because higher conviction rates make police departments look better.

Again, there are literally three times as many poor whites that the cops could just as easily convict... if, of course, these easy convictions only have to do with economics. Once again, a far greater percentage of white people do drugs than black people do, and there are tons and tons more poor white people in this country than poor blacks. If the disparity has nothing to do with race, why is it that the cops are essentially passing over four or five poor white drug users in order to nab every black?

In particular, why is it that the language & approach of meth enforcement (typically used by poor whites) is totally different than that of enforcement for crack, typically used by poor blacks? I speak from experience when I tell you that meth dealing in rural towns looks much like crack dealing in the ghetto: (white) people are selling and buying this stuff openly, frequently, and obviously. Everyone in town knows exactly who's on meth and who they most likely got it from, including the cops. It was sold so openly in the town I went to college in that there was a METH BAR right in the middle of town, where the bartenders were selling meth in plain sight over the counter along with the drinks. Yet people just don't get arrested for it, not at nearly the rates that blacks get busted for crack. Our enforcement focus is almost exclusively on the producers of meth, not dealers and not users. Contrast this with the way we fight crack, and tell me again that racism has nothing to do with it.
posted by vorfeed at 2:38 PM on January 5, 2007


"This study found that, in comparison to their proportion in the Canadian population, Caucasian and Asian offenders are under-represented, while Black offenders are disproportionately represented."

"A larger proportion of visible minority than Caucasian offenders are incarcerated for drug-related offences"

OH SNAP.
posted by CitrusFreak12 at 3:06 PM on January 5, 2007


vorfeed, you're saying that because it can't be wholly attributed to economics, economics isn't a factor, because it can't be wholly attributed to population density patterns, those aren't a factor, and so on.

It doesn't have to be just one factor, you know.
posted by oaf at 3:25 PM on January 5, 2007


Damn. More of my post should have been bolded. Whatev. Point is, Canada ain't too much better, Lastobelus. Not saying that this justifies anything the US is or is not doing, but I was just hoping you could explain why Canada has a disproportional number of blacks incarcerated, and whether that has anything to do with apartheid Africa, systematic persecution of blacks, or...
posted by CitrusFreak12 at 3:34 PM on January 5, 2007


Vorfeed: I would really love to see whites getting arrested in the same ratio as blacks! Right now, the WoD is an easily ignorable problem for most whites, and that's why nothing is getting done about it.

Vorfeed, would you also like to see more straight people get AIDS, or more women get violently raped in prison? Or maybe a military draft, so everyone can pay the same price for our voting habits, instead of just the poor? Wishing for more widespread injustice in an effort to awaken awareness is more than a failure to communicate, it's communication through failure. There are better ways.

Also, your linked article casts doubt on the Meth vs Crack disparity as a matter of simple white-on-black racism.

It points out that mandatory minimum volumes for dealing are the same between meth and crack. It also points out that simple possession of crack accounts for only 1 percent prosecuted crack offenses. It looks to me that, anecdotal evidence from your town aside, dealers are being targeted on both counts.

Your linked article also connects the Congressional Black Caucus to our double standard for crack:

Another reason for the emerging double standard is that few lawmakers notice it. Those in Congress most engaged in the fight against meth are almost completely different from the set of lawmakers most concerned about crack. In general, members of each group focus on a drug problem that affects their own constituents and ignore the one that doesn't. Only five of the 44 members of the Congressional Black Caucus, which has taken the unofficial lead at the Capitol on the crack issue, also belong to the Meth Caucus. Several members of the Black Caucus describe themselves as not paying any attention to the meth issue.
With the area of intersection so small, few lawmakers are working to make federal policy treat crimes connected to the two drugs more consistently. That could most readily be accomplished by eliminating the unique mandatory minimum for crack possession and by increasing the quantity of crack required to draw a mandatory minimum for trafficking, as the U.S. Sentencing Commission recommended four years ago.

posted by kid ichorous at 3:57 PM on January 5, 2007


Citrus, in fairness, Canada became much less racist when Quebec left.
posted by kid ichorous at 4:09 PM on January 5, 2007


Wishing for more widespread injustice in an effort to awaken awareness is more than a failure to communicate, it's communication through failure. There are better ways.

Yeah, well, in my experience "better ways" haven't often been able to do much in the face of widespread apathy, but (especially in the case of pediatric AIDS) a little parity has done wonders to get the ball rolling. It may seem heartless to wish injustice on those who are currently insulated from it, but the old saw about omelettes and eggs definitely comes to mind.

Also, your linked article casts doubt on the Meth vs Crack disparity as a matter of simple white-on-black racism.

Of course it does. That's because the meth vs. crack disparity isn't just "a matter of simple white-on-black racism"... but, as the article points out, white-on-black racism (or, rather, white-for-white racism) is still a big part of the reason why the enforcement approach for these two drugs differs. Despite what oaf seems to think, I'm not saying that racism is the ONLY reason for the drug disparity, merely that those crying "it's not racism but economics and population density!" are wrong, because the numbers suggest that economics and population density taken together are not enough to explain the sheer size of the disparity. Black people simply are not poor enough and concentrated enough to justify this level of selective enforcement, not when compared to whites.
posted by vorfeed at 4:46 PM on January 5, 2007


oaf: You're ignoring the correlation between race and income, and the ability of highly paid attorneys to bamboozle juries into acquitting guilty defendants.

No, I'm not. The word "disproportionate" took those factors into account, although I didn't explicity state it. However, it HAS been explicitly stated several times in this thread.
posted by eparchos at 4:49 PM on January 5, 2007



Well, we know from experience that when lots of middle class white people start getting arrested for drug crimes, the drug laws change.

Case in point: New York state's notorious Rockefeller drug laws, which have a mandatory 15-life minimum for dealing of certain weights of cocaine and heroin.

This used to be similarly harsh on marijuana (though not quite as bad, still serious prison time, mandatory-- I can't recall the exact deal).

Anyway, that was changed in the 70's, just after the laws were enacted-- when kids from "nice families" started getting arrested. It took another 30 years to make even the smallest changes in the cocaine/heroin sentences-- and they still haven't been totally repealed.

Marijuana decrim in general didn't happen until lots of white people started using it.

Also, if you look at the stereotype of the addict and the stereotype of the n-word, they are virtually identical.

When I worked on a Bill Moyers series on addiction, I booked the guests for the first hour-- all of whom were current or former addicts, one of whom (at Bill's insistence) was me. We appeared on Oprah to promote the show and she booked only the white female addicts.

At the opening of the show, she displayed pictures of all the addicts in the show, whom I'd deliberately booked to be very diverse, both in terms of race and class and drug use and recovery history (sadly, the diversity in recovery history was edited out, but that's another story). Anyway, Oprah displayed a photo of each addict and asked the audience to pick which ones were addicts.

They picked the black men!!!!!!
posted by Maias at 4:52 PM on January 5, 2007


because the numbers suggest that economics and population density taken together are not enough to explain the sheer size of the disparity.

Through what statistical analysis do you come to this conclusion?
posted by oaf at 6:29 PM on January 5, 2007


oaf:
I can't tell if you're being deliberately dense or not here, but, in good faith, I'll give you a link to the Human Rights Watch study. There, you can peruse everything you want to know to your hearts' content.
posted by eparchos at 6:44 PM on January 5, 2007


vorfeed: Yeah, well, in my experience "better ways" haven't often been able to do much in the face of widespread apathy, but (especially in the case of pediatric AIDS) a little parity has done wonders to get the ball rolling. It may seem heartless to wish injustice on those who are currently insulated from it, but the old saw about omelettes and eggs definitely comes to mind.

Actually, the adage that comes to mind is the one about just enough rope.
posted by kid ichorous at 7:45 PM on January 5, 2007


I'm not being dense, deliberately or otherwise. We got into this mess because someone thinks that the story linked at the top of this page is at all related to institutional racism.
posted by oaf at 8:31 PM on January 5, 2007


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