It looks like Tupac was right. In his hit song “Changes,” the legendary rapper famously said: “Instead of war on poverty they got a war on drugs so the police can bother me.” Tupac wasn't the only one with this opinion.
Many in the Black community have long suspected the war on drugs, which was started by Richard Nixon in 1971, was used as a tool to target minorities, and according to journalist Dan Baum, it's true.
In a Harper’s magazine story, Baum recounted an interview he conducted with former Nixon administration aide John Ehrlichman in 1994. According to Ehrlichman, the war on drugs was designed to suppress the rival factions of President Nixon — hippies and Blacks.
Ehrlichman, who served prison time for his part in the Watergate scandal, sought to unburden himself in the interview.
"We knew we couldn't make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did."
The ensuing policies of the war on drugs would disproportionately affect the Black and Latino communities and be used as a tool to break up organizations on Nixon’s enemy list, such as the Black Panther Party. The war on drugs was just one of the many controversial happenings which routinely clouded the Nixon Administration.
Though the legalization of marijuana in several states over the past few years has been seen as a sign social progressivism — Black people still have a higher chance to be arrested for marijuana-related offenses.
(Photos from top: Bettmann/CORBIS, Keystone/Getty Images)