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A modern declaration: Against the War on Drugs

This photo shows drugs, money, guns and other

This photo shows drugs, money, guns and other illegal items that were seized when Lower Merion Police broke up a drug distribution ring during a new conference in Montgomery County, Pa, Monday, April 21, 2014. Photo Credit: AP / Clem Murray

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one part of the American people to affirm the political bands which connect them to the other parts, and to assume within the nation, the connected and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of their fellow citizens requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to affirm their connection.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all people are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

The history of the present War on Drugs is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having as a direct consequence the severing of the connection between African Americans and the rest of the American polity.

To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

Drug laws are disproportionately enforced against African-American and Latino-Americans even though Americans of all ethnic backgrounds use illegal drugs at the same rates, with the exception of Asian-Americans, who use them somewhat less.

The use of racial profiling as a technique of investigation strips African Americans and Latino Americans of equality before the law and robs them of the presumption of innocence, the purpose of which is to protect all democratic citizens from tyrannical intrusion.

The categorization of minor, nonviolent drug offenses as felonies, combined with the disproportionate enforcement of those laws against African-Americans and Latino-Americans, has served to strip large numbers of Americans from these communities of their right to vote.

The judicial system is swollen with nonviolent drug offenses, leading to a reduction of resources for investigating and prosecuting homicides, which in turn has dramatically reduced homicide clearance rates in all major cities.

The failure of the criminal justice system to resolve homicides in major cities leads to an acceleration of violence in those cities, and a trigger-happy environment in which police as well as civilians are more likely to misuse lethal force.

Violence in inner cities reinforces negative stereotypes of African-Americans as dangerous and threatening, making unarmed African Americans disproportionately vulnerable to police violence and feeding implicit bias that negatively affects the employment prospects of African Americans.

School discipline policies disproportionately punish African-American students, even in prekindergarten; although no black-white achievement gap exists at the start of kindergarten (controlling for socioeconomic status), such a gap does exist by the end of that year.

Laws establishing school funding on the basis of property taxes ensure that schools that have an especially high need to provide security, and other ancillary resources, in support of their educational mission are unable to fulfill their mission, thereby violating for students enrolled in those schools the right to education that is to be found in 49 of 50 state constitutions.

Legal restrictions on employment by minors, combined with low rates of labor opportunity in inner cities, increase the likelihood that 11- and 12-year-olds in the inner city will be recruited into participation in gangs and thereby be almost irremediably cut off from connection to legal employment.

In the most recent stage of these Oppressions, We have Petitioned for a change of orientation on the part of our fellow Americans by arguing that black lives matter, too: Our repeated Petitions have often been answered by repeated insult.

Such failures of reciprocity on the part of our fellow Americans call into question whether we the people are fit to govern ourselves as a free people.

Nor have we been wanting in attentions to our fellow Americans. We serve in the military; we vote at high rates; we meet massacres with calls for forgiveness.

We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence.

Episodically, our forefathers have pursued separation — whether in the case of African Americans who sought to return to Africa or segregationists who built a world of “separate but equal.” We denounce such projects of separation and affirm the necessity of connection.

We cannot be a people and be at war with ourselves; the War on Drugs must end.

We, therefore, a portion of the American people, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, out of respect for the Name and Authority of the good People of this Country, solemnly publish and declare, That the people of this country ought all to be connected to one another and equal; that all legislation erecting the War on Drugs, and turning the American people against one another, ought to be totally dissolved; that the free and independent states and territories have full power to pursue narcotics control through the tools of public health policy, instead of the criminal justice system; that the free and independent states and territories should so use their powers and do all other Acts and Things by which they may foster a people connected and equal.

And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

Allen is a political theorist at Harvard University and a contributing columnist for The Washington Post.