This Biased Rule Sparked The Mass Incarceration Of Black People

Ronald Reagan signing bill
Briona Lamback
October 13, 2021

In 1986, Reagan’s Anti-Drug Abuse Act’s “100 to 1” rule began requiring a five-year minimum sentence for 500 grams of powder cocaine, but for only five grams of crack. Why?

Instead of scientific evidence, the law was steeped in racial bias about perceived drug habits between Black and white Americans, treating “Black” crack cocaine as significantly worse than “white” powder. As a result, Black incarceration rates skyrocketed, and sentence lengths increased by 49%! But there’s more.

In 1993, 88.3% of people convicted of federal crack cocaine charges were Black, even though most crack users were actually white! Still, both Republicans and Democrats adopted the dangerously anti-Black “tough on drugs” stance in the '80s. 

But there's another drug epidemic on the rise they haven’t been so “tough” on.

In 2016, whites made up almost 80% of deaths from opioid overdoses in the US. And this time, the federal government has treated the opioid epidemic as the public health emergency that it is, showing that the crack cocaine era’s "War On Drugs" was merely a war on Black people. 

Mass incarceration has destroyed Black families, lives, and communities for decades WITHOUT rehabilitating people or ending “crime.” Legislation like this is why it's crucial that we actively fight for a society free from not only laws that disproportionately land us in prison, but prison itself.

We have a quick favor to ask:

PushBlack is a nonprofit dedicated to raising up Black voices. We are a small team but we have an outsized impact:

  • We reach tens of millions of people with our BLACK NEWS & HISTORY STORIES every year.
  • We fight for CRIMINAL JUSTICE REFORM to protect our community.
  • We run VOTING CAMPAIGNS that reach over 10 million African-Americans across the country.

And as a nonprofit, we rely on small donations from subscribers like you.

With as little as $5 a month, you can help PushBlack raise up Black voices. It only takes a minute, so will you please ?

Share This Article: