Rapper Jay Z has narrated a video that calls the war on drugs an “epic fail” that disprortionately targets black people.
“Rates of drug use are as high as they were when Nixon declared this so-called war in 1971,” he says in the video published by The New York Times on Thursday.
“Forty-five years later, it’s time to rethink our policies and laws. The war on drugs is an epic fail.”
The video, which features Jay Z’s voice over illustrations by New York artist Molly Crabapple, looking at how former Presidents Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan focused on drugs instead of larger social issues affecting cities.
“No one wanted to talk about Reaganomics and the ending of social safety nets. The defunding of schools and the loss of jobs in cities across America,” says Jay Z, who has previously spoken about about dealing drugs as a teenager in the 1980s.
“Young men like me who hustled became the sole villain and drug addicts lacked moral fortitude.”
Jay Z describes how the US prison population went from 200,000 before the War On Drugs to around two million now, thanks in large part to mandatory long sentences for minor drugs offences.
Mandatory sentences for crack cocaine are longer than for poweder, though they are “the same drug, only difference is how you take it,” Jay Z says.
He adds: “Even though white people used and sold crack more than black people, somehow it was black people who went to prison. The media ignored actual data.
“To this day, crack is still talked about as a black problem.”