Friday, April 19, 2013

Legalize Drugs


Last night, I attended a meeting of the Human Relations Council of Philadelphia.

The meeting was held in my neighborhood in response to an article about my neighborhood in Philadelphia Magazine called, “Being White in Philly.” http://www.phillymag.com/articles/white-philly/2/

The point of view of the article is in general that being white can be a disadvantage.

I agree with that in many ways.

I’m an eco-freak, but I’ve had 3 trash cans stolen, so I now use garbage bags.  Yes, I get the ones made of recycled plastic, but still, they are an eco crime.

There are places where I’m not welcome because of the color of my skin.  When I went to juvenile court to prosecute one of my muggers who had been caught by the police, I was the only white person in the room.  I had arrived early and was sitting in a chair.  Two African American women, one sitting on my left, the other standing on my right, started having a conversation across me.  I asked if the standing woman would like my chair.  She replied, “I want you out of my face.”  It was obvious that I was there as a victim, not a family member of an accused.

When I attended this meeting, the vast majority in attendance were African- American.
I signed up to speak.  I listened to African-Americans tell sad stories about Philadelphia that had not been in the magazine.  Since 1970, the prison population in Philadelphia has increased by 800%.  The average African-American wage in Philadelphia is $26,000. The average white wage is $42,000.  Poverty is not because people don’t work. It’s because they aren’t paid enough.
African-Americans also said there weren’t good ways to meet their white neighbors.  Even block parties seem to be segregated.

One white man said when he moved to Philadelphia 45 years ago, the city owned houses in many neighborhoods and purposely rented them to low-income folks of different races from the surrounding homes, in order to let people meet folks of other races.  That program has ended. Now, the city builds low-income housing and creates segregated neighborhoods.

When I got up to speak, I began with my experience at jury duty.   I had to fill out a form that asked if I or a member of my family had been a victim of a violent crime.  I have been mugged at gunpoint, shoved to the sidewalk and handled roughly while my assailants searched my body for stealable stuff.  I’d call that violent, so I marked yes.  I asked one of the courtroom staffers if this disqualified me.  She said, “No. Every family in Philadelphia has somebody who has been mugged.”  We have a problem here.  

When I went to court for the trial of my adult muggers (I must look tough if it takes 3 young men with 2 guns to mug me) I saw that most of the crime and most of the victims of crime in Philadelphia are African-American.  And I heard that most of the crime is drug-related.

Note: this wasn’t just one day – possibly a fluke.  I had to go to court 14 times to get my muggers tried because of assorted errors.  

So, my suggestion to make Philadelphia a more pleasant place for everybody to live: Legalize drugs.   If people who use drugs could get that at a drug store, for the price of a pack of cigarettes, they wouldn’t be out mugging little old ladies for pocket change.

Our courtrooms and jails would not be bursting with convicted drug users and dealers.  We could even collect taxes on the sales of drugs.  This is a win-win solution.  We’d save the costs of trials and jails. We’d save folks from being mugged.  We’d save our youth from becoming convicted criminals who then have trouble finding jobs.

I’ll say it again: Legalize Drugs! 

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