An Open Letter to Donald Trump-9/8/2020
- Phoenix Congress 2020 represents members of the American Union, who are willing to vote for both Republicans and Democrats in the 471 federal races who will meet our terms, including Donald Trump.
- This is the eighth in a series of open letters, explaining our demands. These links are to the first, second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth, and seventh.
September 8th, 2020
Dear President Trump,
Since Michael Brown was shot in 2014, several killings of African-American men at the hands of police have been highlighted in the media as indicative of a deeper problem in our society. Most recently, the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, and the shooting of Jacob Blake have resulted in protests in major cities around the country.
Witnessing the deaths of other human beings caught on camera should and does shock the public. It also causes the public to question whether a society is as just and fair as it claims to be; is “liberty and justice for all” an accurate description of America?
Republicans and Democrats around the country have different views regarding the justice system (and policing) in America, but agree the current system is not working. A majority of your supporters, Mr. President, as well as a majority of Democrats, say it is important to reduce the prison population. Mandatory minimums have exacerbated mass incarceration for many years, going back to the 1970s.
In our last open letter, we quoted President Nixon’s counsel and advisor for domestic affairs in regard to the purpose of the war on drugs. He said in part, “by getting the public to associate…blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing [it] heavily, we could disrupt those communities.” During New York City’s stop-and-frisk policy, Black men were 5 times more likely to be stopped by police than white men. Similarly, 65% of Black adults report having experienced situations where they were perceived suspicious because of their race.
Mr. President, as a society, America has a problem. That perception has become baked into the system, leading to real, physical consequences experienced by citizens in minority communities all around the country.
The war on drugs mixed with the public perception of people of color has led to over-criminalization and over-policing in those communities. The disproportionate arrest and incarceration rates for minority communities is not indicative of higher rates of drug use. They are indicative of police focusing on those communities for drug law enforcement. 80% of people incarcerated in federal prisons for drug offenses are black or Latino. For state prisons, that number is over 60%.
Mr. President, our legislative package, the Blueprint for a Better America, will officially and immediately end the federal war on drugs. This isn’t intended to suggest that drug use is harmless; far from it. However, we recognize the criminal penalties are way out of proportion to the harm they cause. By ending federal drug prohibition, states will be free to set their own policies and be laboratories of democracy.
In addition to signing our legislation, you can lead the nation into a societal shift that recognizes drug addiction as a medical crisis rather than a criminal one. That shift alone could save the lives and futures of generations of families that would otherwise be trapped in a cycle of criminalization and poverty because of a solvable healthcare issue.
While the war on drugs is not the only source of racism in the American justice system, it is one that can be addressed immediately. Mr. President, besides ending the drug war, we demand a repeal of the Prison Litigation Reform Act and rescinding both the Truth in Sentencing and the Sentencing Reform Act.
Mass incarceration has ruined too many lives and must be ended. Mr. President, you are the man to motivate both sides of the aisle to approach this necessary reform of our justice system in a bipartisan manner. Few men in American history have had the opportunity to change societal values for the better. The only question is, will you do this?
Other articles on Medium:
A call to action around Martin Luther King, Jr.’s triple evils: The Marginalized Must Unionize in 2020
A look at our duties as Americans and the legislation they inspire: The Blueprint for a Better America
(You can read the next open letter here.)