Loretta Nall on Race and the Drug War

Alabama Libertarian gubernatoral candidate Loretta Nall just gave a speech to a group of black leaders in Selma, Alabama on the eve of the anniversary celebration of the historic march across the Edmund Pettus bridge. All of the candidates for governor were invited to the forum. Former Governor Don Siegelman and Lt. Gov. Lucy Baxley and others spoke, but the Republicans didn’t show, as one might expect.

The video of the speech is located here, and the text is available after the jump.

My opinion is that Nall provided some good material relating the War on Drugs to the Civil Rights Movement. To catch her portion of the video, skip to the 6:18 marker, or watch the entire 39 minute clip to contrast her to the other candidates.

Here is the text of her speech:

Good afternoon everyone and thank you Mayor Perkins for inviting me to address such a distinguished group of Alabama leaders and world renowned Civil Rights leaders in the historic city of Selma and on the eve of the anniversary celebration of one of the most fantastic and awe inspiring acts of human courage ever demonstrated. The march across Edmund Pettus bridge.

This is my second time in Selma. In 2003 I attended the Jubilee for the first time to film the event, to learn more about the history of the civil rights struggle and to compare its lessons to the social injustice struggles we are facing today.

I learned the story of how on Sunday March 7, 1965, about 525 people began a fifty-four mile march from Selma, to Montgomery. They were demonstrating for African American voting rights.

After they crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge, the marchers were brutally assaulted by heavily armed state troopers and deputies. This day went down in history as Bloody Sunday. As a direct consequence of these events, the U.S. Congress passed the Voting Rights Act of 1965, guaranteeing every American eighteen and over the right to register to vote.

Selma, Alabama is indeed hallowed ground I am deeply honored to be here today as you prepare to commemorate the bravery and self sacrifice of those who came before us and led the way. Thank you so much for embracing me and inviting me to participate.

While my platform for Governor of Alabama covers many issues of importance to all of us, things like education, taxes, the Iraq War, Initiative & Referendum and ballot access I’ve decided to use this opportunity today to focus on just one plank. Today let’s talk about what is commonly referred to as the drug war and the huge negative societal impact it has had on African American communities in Alabama.

Today I want us to examine how far we have progressed in the area of voting rights and civil rights since 1965 or perhaps to ask the question “Have we really progressed in either of those areas at all?” Or have we instead kept alive discriminatory laws and simply disguised them as something else?

When I look at the drug war and what it has done to the African American community I see that it has taken you back not only to a pre-civil rights era but all the way back to the pre-civil war era. In short the drug war has forced the African American community to trade the overseer in the fields for the overseer in the jails.

The drug war has enabled the government to first violate your hard won civil rights and then take away your hard won voting rights. The drug wars very existence is an affront to the lives sacrificed in the struggle to gain voting rights and equal protection under the law.

In the past 30 years, Alabama’s population has increased 30% while its prison population has increased 600%. Alabama incarcerates people at five times the national average. There are over 27,000 prisoners in Alabama today in a system designed to hold just 12,000.

Over two-thirds of those prisoners are African American. Four out of five African American prisoners committed non-violent drug offenses the majority of those were nothing more than simple possession of marijuana

African Americans and whites use drugs at equal rates yet African Americans make up 47.53% of those incarcerated for drug offenses while whites make up only 24.33% of those incarcerated for drug offenses.

This policy has stripped 240,000 Alabama residents of the right to vote. 14% of the voting age population of African Americans is disenfranchised.

Before the passage of the voting rights act African Americans were kept from participating in the political process by such disenfranchising laws as poll taxes, literacy tests, and vouchers of “good character.”

Today those things have been replaced with the loss of voting rights for minor non-violent drug offenses.

Another area where the drug war has negatively impacted the African American community is the destruction of the family unit. Because of the drug laws and the way that they are enforced black children are nearly 9 times more likely to have a parent in prison than white children even though I stated earlier that blacks and whites use drugs at the same rates.

In a 1999 US DOJ report there were on the national level an estimated 767,200 black children with a parent in prison. Children whose parents are incarcerated are five to six times more likely to be incarcerated than their peers.

Think for a moment about what kind of long term negative impact having that many children raised in a single parent home will have on the African American community as well as the effects of having more African American men in prison than in college?

>From where I am standing the impact appears devastating. If we allow the government to continue to arbitrarily enforce drug laws more harshly against blacks than whites then pretty soon there won’t be enough black people with their voting rights intact to ensure fairness and equal representation in government.

When you leave here today and as you get ready to reenact the march across the Bridge in pay tribute to those who endured unimaginable hardship, violence, discrimination and many times death in their struggle for basic human rights and the right to participate in the political process I want you to ask yourself these questions;

Is this arbitrary and unequal application of the law what my ancestors fought and in some cases died for?
Is this the bright and promising future envisioned for Black Alabamians by the brave souls who marched across Edmund Pettus Bridge into a nest of swinging billy clubs, biting dogs and a vicious mob?

Is this what Rep. John Lewis suffered a skull fracture for? Did Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. make the ultimate sacrifice so you could trade the back of the bus for the prison cell?

If your answer is no and the other candidates here today are asking for your support in this election but are avoiding addressing this issue AGAIN then it’s time to consider giving your support to the only candidate who will take on this issue and say the truthful things that need to be said regardless of their popularity and strive to do the things that will make society a better and more just place for all of us.

That candidate is me. If elected governor of Alabama I will fight for the release of all non-violent drug offenders from Alabama prisons.

I never want to have to attend another Christmas for Children of the Incarcerated and witness the sad, vacant look in the eyes of children suffering needlessly because of stupid laws that rip their parents away from them and leave them dependent on the mercy of other family members or worse the cold uncaring hand of the state.

I don’t want to have to think about one more Saturday or Sunday they will have to spend on the prison yard surrounded by razor wire crying and asking why their mommy or daddy can’t come home today.

And now the toughest question of all. Are you, as a black leaders, ready to do the hard work required to change the laws that have damn near rendered null and void all of the rights bought and paid for with your own blood?

If you are and you want a Governor who will support your efforts in that area 1000% then Vote Nall Y’all It’s Just Common Sense!!

17 Comments
  1. The one problem I see with the speech is that it almost implies that ALL blacks use drugs. Which is of coarse NOT true. It never distiguishes the fact that drug use is bad in and of itself; but the drug war is worse, AND unfairly focused on blacks and other minorities. (there are alot of blacks who hate drugs because they think they are simply wrong)

    I would have focused on other enforcement issues like the so called “Driving while black” issue, which many minorities have felt. Pulled over for no reason, just for a search.

    I would also talk about the fact that midnight drug raids happen so often in black neigborhoods but never in rich white neigborhoods, while all evidence suggests that wealthy whites are just as likely to be on drugs as poor blacks.

    Frank

  2. “I see with the speech is that it almost implies that ALL blacks use drugs”

    She specifically points out that “African Americans and whites use drugs at equal rates'”.

  3. This speech is particularly impressive in that Loretta wrote it on very short notice. She was only invited the evening before the event but still managed to craft a speech specific to the audience and occassion.

  4. Loretta has done a beautiful job of educating others to ultimately infect change in the drug war by speading the word to legalize and regulate drugs such as cannabis, aka marijuana.

    I ask that we all go one step further and educate those in charge to regulate, tax and legalize ALL drugs so that our children and the street market will not be.
    Get educated in this powerful, underground movement.

    Bring it to the concience of others and plant the seed of legalization today.

    Visit us at http://www.leap.cc for more information.

    Alison Myrden
    Speaker – Law Enforcement Against Prohibition

  5. the fact that drug use is bad in and of itself;

    This is an absurd non-fact. Abuse is bad, and applies equally to anything – TV, work, excercise, internet use, not just drugs.

    Drug use can be good, bad, deadly or life-saving, depending on circumstance. Kinda like fire..

  6. I would also talk about the fact that midnight drug raids happen so often in black neigborhoods but never in rich white neigborhoods,

    Unless those rich and/or “whites” happen to be outspoken against the drug war, unwilling to conceal info potentially damaging to corrupt drug warriors, and/or in possession of property coveted by the same CDWs.

  7. It’s a shame that Loretta won’t be on the ballot.

    Yes it is, particularly since she could have been had she realized she could start in 2004 and got with Emery a year earlier in his funding cycle, before he got started.

    My recommendation at this late stage is to start gathering signatures ASAP for a 2010 race – even before this one is over, if possible.

  8. before he got started.

    Started should read busted. BTW we were in Alabama with a crew in Sept ’04 and could (should) have stayed; or even started on 2006 concurrently with 2004.

  9. Loretta, get on the ball and you will be on the ballot. And don’t forget what I said about having an ace in the hole close to election time.

  10. 41 k valid by June? How many signatures have you collected, TD? How long did it take you?

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