because we destroyed ourselves

May 25th, 2012

(read the book free online - read the Reddit AMA)

As our financial crisis deepens and the schisms between the haves and the have-nots continue to open, American drug laws and the prison system they’ve perpetuated are beginning to gather an increasingly harsh spotlight.  But so what. It’s not like the War on Drugs, which started almost forty-years ago in 1973, has done anything to increase the growing level of economic disparity in America… right?

A lot happened in 1973.

It was a few years after Nixon slammed the gold window shut, the waning hours of a decapitated Civil Rights movement, and the year we began to disentangle ourselves from Vietnam. But it also marks the genesis of the War on Drugs: the year the Rockefeller Drug Laws were passed. And that same year something funny happened: the income gap between black and white began to widen back out, instead of closing – as it had been up until 1973.

Did the start of the War on Drugs play a significant role in creating our present economic and social realities – where the average black family has eight-cents of wealth for every dollar owned by whites, and a black child is nine-times more likely than a white child to have a parent in prison?

Not having both parents around can be directly linked to any number of issues, in fifty-years of international studies of over 10,000 subjects, researchers haven’t been able to find “any other class of experience that has as strong and consistent effect on personality and personality development as does the experience of [parental] rejection… children who were often rejected by their parents tend to feel more anxious and insecure, as well as more hostile and aggressive toward others. ”  And surprisingly enough, the study showed that fatherly affection, or lack thereof, may shape our personality even more than attention from our mothers.

Just how damaging is it for a child to grow up in a fatherless home? Well, they produce: 71% of our high school drop-outs, 85% of the kids with behavioral disorders, 90% of our homeless and runaway children, 75% of the adolescents in drug abuse programs, and a striking majority in one final category.  Out of all the kids in our juvenile detention facilities, 85% of them come from fatherless homes.

If your Dad’s in prison there’s an extraordinary high chance that you too will someday end up behind bars, creating a cycle of absence that has been perpetuating for two-generations within the African-American community.

And yet everyone from Bill Cosby to Ronald Reagan seems fond of placing the blame for our black community’s fate squarely on the shoulders of African-Americans, largely excusing the rest of America from any blame for their plight and refusing to consider that - just maybe - other factors might have come into play at some point during our shared history.

For the most part, the emergence of the modern Welfare State in particular has been singled-out as the single most detrimental force within our African-American community, since it supposedly allowed “welfare queens” with “80 names, 30 addresses, and 12 Social security cards” to pull in over $150,000 of tax-free income a year.  As the argument goes, the Public Welfare Amendments of 1962 created a system that disincentived marriage by rewarding single mothers with loads of free cash.

All they had to do was remain out of wedlock, and the checks would just keep on rolling in.

This view was popularized by a Nobel Prize winning physicist, William Shockley, who argued that these programs “tended to encourage childbirth, especially among less productive members of society (particularly blacks, whom he considered to be genetically inferior to whites), causing a reverse evolution.”  Shockley popularized this hypothesis, bringing it to both Congress and the public, and even put forth a proposal offering financial rewards to minorities if they were voluntary sterilized.

So assuming that the Welfare State was created by black mothers who had no intent to ever marry, and willfully popped out babies to get paid, we’d expect to see a steady even rise in the rate of single black mothers starting right around 1962, when the Public Welfare Amendments were passed. And yet Welfare didn’t have anything to do with the destruction of the black family, it would take a decade for a different phenomenon to emerge and remove black fathers from the picture entirely and create the familial reality that African-Americans have lived in for the past two generations.

In the decade prior to the start of the War on Drugs, the first decade of the Public Welfare Amendments, the percentage of married African-American women roughly followed the national trend and declined proportionally by less than 6% – but then in the ’70s, as the national average rate remained stable, the proportional decline for African-American women tripled to nearly 18%:

(66.3 – 62.6 = 3.7% | 3.7 / 66.3 = 5.5% and 62.6 – 51.5 = 11.1% | 11.1 / 62.6 = 17.7%)

Seems a bit odd.  Did it just take a full decade for black women to finally realize that all they had to do was pop out a baby or seven, marriage be damned, and they could start rolling in the dough?  Or maybe something else happened that created a dearth of African-American men who were available to actually marry?

In 1971 President Nixon officially began the War on Drugs, which fully hit its stride in ’73 with the passage of the draconian Rockefeller Drugs Laws, and very quickly a distinct trend in the American prison population emerged:

And how would this spike affect the marriage rates of black folks?  Well, if you’re familiar with American drug laws, it shouldn’t surprise you that some 90% of those arrested under the Rockefeller Drug Laws in the years after its passage were minorities. This baseline source of our prison population has persisted up until today, when over half of those in federal prison are serving time for a drug offense.

The explanation is not that blacks simply use drugs at a higher rate than whites.  If anything, studies have shown that whites,“particularly white youths, are more likely to engage in drug crime than people of color.”  Surveys published by the National Institute on Drug Abuse and the National Household Survey on Drug Abuse reported that compared to black students: white students were seven times as likely to use cocaine, eight times as likely to use crack cocaine, seven times as likely to use heroin, and were 33% more likely to have sold illegal drugs.

Sure, correlation doesn’t prove causation – but when you stop a moment and consider that marriage requires an eligible male, it’s not that hard to figure out why the black family begin to disintegrate just as our War on Drugs began, as it’s a little bit difficult to marry someone behind bars.  And just how many African-American males were sent behind bars in the decades following the start of the War on Drugs?

A black male born in 1974 had a 13.4% chance of going to prison at some point in his life, while a white male had just a 2.2% chance.  And it’s not like this trend got any better, by 1991 the odds a black male would spend time in prison had ballooned to 29%, while the odds a white male would end up in the clink had only increased to 4.4%

So it’s not all that difficult to see how the reduction in marriageable males effectively gutted African-American families. What’s also perfectly clear is how the growth of the American Prison State affected government welfare expenditures, and led directly to the emergence of our Modern Welfare State.

Welfare spending on families and children also witnesses a distinct spike during these same years – but it starts in the early ’70s not the early ’60s when the Public Welfare Amendments were first passed.  Neither population growth nor total welfare spending explain this spike, both grew at a relatively flat linear rate during this time period.

Category: books, current affairs, domestic terror, news, politics, publishing, racial inequality, terrorism, war on drugs | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , 14 comments »

14 Responses to “because we destroyed ourselves”

  1. Greg

    Tremble the Devil: Just in case it’s unclear I’m approving every comment to this article regardless of merit, and only commenting when it seems warranted. Many of the comments are important, in that they serve as good reminders that many people are pretty hilariously blinded by their racism. Or just not that bright – could go either way

    Fatherless homes also produced 2 out of the 3 most recent U.S. Presidents.

  2. David

    bin Laden is spelled b-i-n L-a-d-e-n

    TtD: It’s a transliteration of an Arabic name, “Ladin” is more accurate. Plus you’ll notice that the book’s title doesn’t even really make sense grammatically, the whole point is to challenge the way people think about terrorism and how they perceive terrorists, name-spelling and otherwise.

  3. Nate

    Surprise! Prison population rose with time. Let’s see that graph corrected for population.

  4. cubanbob

    Maybe the best way to stay out of prison is to not commit crimes. One would think if after seeing so may people having their lives destroyed by drugs they would stay away from them. As for the woman, why subsidize woman who choose to make kids with losers? They can screw them all they want, just don’t kids with them. Now it would probably make sense to decriminalize MJ and free up law enforcement for other crimes along with prison space drugs like crack and meth are so highly addictive and destructive that they should never be legalized. In the interim from the thrust of the piece blacks ought to use ‘white’ drugs to normalize the the arrest and conviction rates to the white level.

    Perhaps one step towards ameliorating this disaster would be to carefully survey the prison population to see to what extend the relatively minor drug and related convicts who would have good prospects of actually being rehabilitated be granted some kind of conditional pardons that would include sealing their arrest and conviction records so they can be able to get jobs and not get in to the recidivist cycle.

  5. Dacreed

    So all these fatherless homes are caused by prison rolls due to drug arrests. I will have to tell that to all the fatherless adults that i know, whose dad just never showed up and helped. Or blame prisons on people doing drugs?

    Excuses are like butt holes, everyone has them. The things we do in out lives tell us what we really care about. If these dead beat dad’s truly cared about the impression they need to make on their children, they would spend time making it happen. Until then, selfishness > parenting. The foundation of a good society.

  6. Barius


    You’re technically correct, but not the best kind of correct. The article points out that it is fatherly rejection that leads kids down a bad path. Neither Clinton nor Obama were rejected by their fathers, as their fathers died before they were able to know them.

    Sadly, fathers that are sent to prison often reject their own children and deny parentship. There are many reasons for this, and it is a complicated issue. Suffice to say that sending a father to prison for nothing more than having a smoke with his friends has not helped anyone white or black.

  7. Barius


    Primates are social animals and as such are deeply affected by community rejection. The worst form of rejection is unjust rejection.

    The black population was and continues to be far more accepting of drug use before the war on drugs. That includes but is not limited to alcohol, tobacco and marijuana.

    In hind sight, it should be obvious that punishing a group of people for something that they consider natural and normal would result in a feeling of oppression, of unjust rejection.

    The natural primate response to unjust rejection is an even greater rejection of the community and an ‘acting out’ against the perceived oppressors. This is how laws that make sense to whites have essentially destroyed the black sense of community and put two generations in jail.

    In short, you can’t simply expect a group of people to accept your beliefs and your social norms.

    If you want to imagine a similar situation where the incarceration rate of whites would be similarly high one need only look at the prohibition of alcohol. The incarceration rate of whites and blacks rose essentially equally. The response to criminalization, by whites, was increased criminal behaviour. The situation only reversed when prohibition was lifted.

    So, in conclusion, whites definitely share responsibility for the problems among the black community. It should not surprise anyone that so many black people have rejected and acted in a rejectful manner toward laws that, to them, seem unjust. Given that the US was founded upon exactly this sort of ‘acting out against unjust laws’ by throwing off the laws of the King of England and the corrupt churches and religious institutions of Europe, in my opinion, the black community has upheld the “American Way” better than any white has in centuries.

  8. kevin

    @Nate: Read the whole article. The author addresses this by discussing how the rate of black incarceration increased at a much higher rate than the increase of the percent of the population that is black.

    @cubanbob: You seem to have missed the point. The reason using ‘black drugs’ gets a person more prison time is because the person is black, not the nature of the drugs. Blacks are more likely to be arrested, convicted, and imprisoned for drug use. It doesn’t much matter what drugs they happen to use.

    And you both seem to have missed a larger point: regardless of who is at fault, the epidemic of fatherlessness is bad for everybody. You can be as gung-ho pro-incarceration as you like, but please be aware that this will likely lead to further crime, which affects all of us.

  9. Andrew

    So is this implying that we shouldnt prosecute drug offenders. In order to preserve black households should we allow them to traffic illegal narcotics freely? Lets put the blame where it belongs, on those males (whether they be black or white) who involve themselves in illegal activities. Sure, one might argue that drug laws in the United States are extrodinarily harsh, but that does not exonerate those crimnals who break these laws. By cutting welfare maybe it will encourage black female mothers to keep there baby daddys in line and out of prison.

  10. asdf

    “Surprise! Prison population rose with time. Let’s see that graph corrected for population.”

    What an idiotic statement. You think our population growth has increased as much as our lockup rate? Nope, in fact it’s slowed down.

    Truth is, you’re in denial about the lockup of Americans and the neo-feudalistic society we are building for the coming resource scarcity.

  11. Andrew

    yes, clearly a tenfold increase in the prison population is a direct result the 2.5 times increase in US population.

    Nothing at all strange about the incarceration increase being 4 times greater than the general population increase.

  12. Dónal

    The information I gathered for the below statement has been gathered from the website: and also contains information gathered from the information provided here.

    Total USA population 203,302,031
    Total USA population 281,421,906

    Increase between 30 year period of 78,119,875 (38.43%)

    Assuming graph indicates population of prison to be 275,000 this would mean that at that time 0.14% of USA citizens where in prison.

    Assuming graph indicates population of prison to be 2,000,000 this would mean that at that time 0.71% of USA citizens where in prison.

    So, yes Nate I would agree it is important to take into account population increase when analyzing straight figures but as you can see that even accounting for that does not explain the reasons for the increase in prisons between these times.

  13. when Justice lies — Tremble the Devil

    [...] Which brings us to how those numbers became so warped in the first place… – click "Next Page" to continue reading this article, or here to check out the book’s Table of Contents – [...]

  14. Nope

    Don’t break the law…you wont get locked in jail.

    It’s simple.

    Also…you are judged by your peers.


Leave a Reply

Back to top

Not Found

Sorry, but you are looking for something that isn't here.