Pubdate: Mon, 08 Mar 1999 Date: 03/08/1999 Source: Philadelphia Inquirer (PA) Author: Larry Stevens The controversy surrounding Gov. Whitman's ouster of her top state police officer, Carl Williams, over his remarks about minorities and drugs highlights a grave problem facing our society (Inquirer, March 1). Sadly and quite disturbingly, Whitman has said that she is "not arguing with what he was saying." What he was saying was that minorities are more likely to be involved in the illegal drug trade. This is a grievous error of fact as well as an outrageous affront to all minorities. In reality, illegal drug use cuts across all racial and ethnic lines fairly evenly. However, while only about 11 percent of illegal drug users are African American, this group accounts for 37 percent of those arrested for drug violations, 42 percent of those in federal prisons for drug violations and almost 60 percent of those in state prisons for drug felonies. It becomes increasingly clear that the war on drugs is largely a war on minorities. A cursory reading of the history of drug policy in the United States reveals the ugly truth about the uses of race-baiting by drug prohibitionists. Before the civil rights movement, when no social sanctions existed to deter racist speech in the mainstream media, drug prohibitionists regularly appealed to white, middle-class fears of African Americans and Hispanics, fabricating scare-stories of "hopped-up Negroes" raping white women. Apparently, these erroneous and racist ideas endure in the perception that exists today among many whites that minorities are more likely to be involved with drugs. It simply isn't true. Larry Stevens Springfield, Ill.