As George Floyd’s death so starkly reminded us, unarmed Black people are three times more likely to be killed by police than their white counterparts. That’s a frightening prospect, given that the overpolicing of Black communities leads to more frequent encounters with law enforcement.
In short, Black people have been intentionally and systematically targeted by drug laws and by law enforcement, even though Black people are no more likely to use or sell drugs than white people. With nearly 300,000 people imprisoned for drug crimes in 2018, and the Black rate of imprisonment nearly twice the rate of Hispanics and more than five times that of whites, Black communities have been decimated by the War on Drugs.
The costs go well beyond mass incarceration. From asset forfeiture to broken families to lives lost in encounters with police, Black people have lost much in this endless “war.” There is no doubt that reparations are owed. The question is how to go about getting them.
Simply put, we can achieve reparations on a national scale by replicating the successful lawsuit against Philadelphia’s Civil Asset Forfeiture Program. Though the suit yielded just $3 million for people whose property was unjustly taken or never returned, the verdict sets a precedent that should yield greater settlements for future claimants.
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