“Young men like me who hustled became the sole villain”
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Legendary rap artist Jay Z declared the U.S. government’s drug policy a total flop in a new editorial video for The New York Times.
In the video, the 46-year-old Brooklyn-born rapper, whose real name is Shawn Carter, narrates the history of the so-called ‘War on Drugs’ from the Reagan era to the present alongside an animation by artist Molly Crabapple.
Carter, whose previous career as a crack dealer is a major theme in his music, called the series of harsh drug policies that began during the Nixon administration and continue to this day, an “epic failure.”
He points out, as states passed harsh drug laws and mandatory minimum sentences throughout the ‘80s and ‘90s, the prison population in the United States skyrocketed. With only five percent of the world’s population, the U.S. prison population climbed to about 25 percent of the world’s total. Black and Latino men were disproportionately jailed, with the ripple effects of their incarceration shattering families and communities.
"Young men like me who hustled became the sole villain and drug addicts lacked moral fortitude," Jay Z says in the video. "In the 1990s, incarceration rates in the U.S. blew up. Today, we imprison more people than any other country in the world: China, Russia, Iran, Cuba — all countries we consider autocratic and oppressive."
Jay Z accuses these policies of being hypocritical. For instance, powder cocaine, used more frequently by the wealthy, engendered lesser prison sentences than crack cocaine, which was typically used by poor blacks.
He claims that this hypocrisy continues today with the rise of the marijuana industry, pointing out that some states still carry mandatory minimum sentences for drug possession and trafficking, which still targets young black men, while other states such as Alaska and Colorado often see business owners making a profit in the exact same industry.
You can read more about the video and how it came about here and watch the entire video above.