Stop Philly Flash Mobs: End War on Drugs

At the core of young black men's violence against mostly white victims: the constant presence of police.

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Clearly, no. I spell that out for a reason: We could eliminate these "institutional" brands of racism today and these guys would still be hitting the streets. Plus, asking America to pardon them for something as abstract as all this is too long-lined an argument to ever create any consensus. As Nutter put it, "I don't care what your economic status is; you do not have a right to beat someone's ass on the street." Let's face it: He's right.

So if yelling at parents doesn't help us and intellectualizing about societal racism doesn't, either, what will? In fact, racial conflict is the issue here, but in a more concrete -- and thus addressable -- way. Namely: Who are the white people these guys usually interact with? Cops.

A Persistent Police Presence

Cops trawling their neighborhoods and housing projects, pounding on doors, interrogating people, pushing some against walls. Some of the cops are bad ones, hurting people for no reason. And all of the cops, good and bad, are there because they are assigned to fight the "war on drugs." It's their job, and sometimes they catch people selling, sure. But that requires spending vast amounts of time just being there. Bothering people.

What makes these mob kids mad at white people is not something as distant and cerebral as "institutional racism." It's that most of their interactions with white people are edgy, starkly real, face-to-face conflicts with cops. If the cops had no reason to be in their neighborhoods, new generations of black teens would grow up with no reason to think of whites as an enemy.

And the cops would have no reason to be in those neighborhoods if there were no war on drugs -- that is, yes, if today's Prohibition were discontinued and drugs were legalized. Not to mention that if drugs were legal, it would eliminate the black market that leads so many inner-city teens to sell them for a living.

The lesson, therefore, is this: These disgusting flash mobs are one more reason to support ending the war on drugs.

Important things are happening on this lately, much more important than performances about how America isn't postracial. "Isn't it time to put aside the posturing and have a fundamental debate about alternatives to this failed war?" That's from none other than the Rev. Jesse Jackson, who has officially come out against the drug war this summer.

Reps. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) and Ron Paul (R-Texas) are sponsoring a bill in Congress to end the war on pot, and while it would surprise few that Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) is on board, how about Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.)? Public figures are increasingly united in the realization that after 40 years, the war on drugs has been a failure. Drugs are as available now as they were then -- and as cheap -- and the prisons are overflowing.

Steps Toward Change