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Bloomington’s NAACP branch continues to take on the War on Drugs, and its effects on the local black community.
The branch will sponsor a second public forum on the war a week from Tuesday. The NAACP of Monroe County sponsored a first forum in April, during which some three dozen suggestions were generated to solve some of the negative effects of the War on Drugs.
The upcoming forum will consider three of the strongest of those suggestions at its second forum. William Vance, Jr. is president of the Monroe County branch of the NAACP.
“We want to send a message to the community, to law enforcement and anyone that has anything to do with the law that there is a definite disparity in the sentencing of individuals that commit drug crimes,” Vance says, “Why is that? We will get a feel from the community on whether or not the solutions we suggest seem workable.”
Former President Richard Nixon declared the War on Drugs in 1971. The so-called war institutionalized and coordinated drug prohibition efforts on a federal level that began as far back as 1914.
Vance mentions Michelle Alexander’s bestselling book “The New Jim Crow.” In it, Alexander characterizes the War on Drugs as a war on young black men. Vance adds that an in-depth study conducted by the local NAACP branch indicated a pattern of discrimination against young black men moving through the Monroe County court system over the years.
He did say that in his nine years at the helm of the local NAACP, the number of overall discrimination complaints has fallen dramatically, inspiring him to declare Bloomington a relatively good place for blacks to live in.
Still, he says the nationwide War on Drugs has caused collateral damage locally.
“Once you’ve been arrested for a drug offense, whether you’re in there for a year or ten years, it’s almost impossible to assimilate back into society because it’s even more difficult to get a job,” Vance says.
The forum with be held in the Bloomington City Council chambers on Tuesday, November 5, at 7 p.m. Free parking is available in the City Hall lot on North Morton Street.