Sunday, September 27, 2015

A NORML Mom Goes for a Walk (& stands on her racism soapbox)

Since my first outing in my NORML shirt, I've received a common warning: Do not drive around in that. You will make yourself a target if you're pulled over.

This is then quickly followed by the dis-qualifier: No wait. You're a white woman. You'll be fine.

How much truth is there to this? Too much.

Aside from being really comfy and having a flattering fit, the shirt has become one of my clothing standards because it is meant to inspire a little controversy. Sometimes the dialogue is external, leading to questions about why I support an end to marijuana prohibition. Other times, it feels more internal. People see me functioning as a mother, business owner and ordinary citizen and have to re-evaluate their own feelings about the anti-prohibition, pro-pot crowd. I would like to think this goes smoothly for me because I have my shit together, so to speak. But, that would imply that having one's shit together is reason enough to maintain the freedom to dress as you wish, speak your mind and go about your day more or less in peace. Unfortunately, that's not what happens.

I grew up in the Suburban South. In those parts, people are typically educated, moderately affluent and steeped in memories of integration gone relatively right. They have long histories with black friends whom they never realized were any different. They think implying that black people are owed something because of their heritage overlooks the individual white people who have had (both currently and historically) a hard road characterized by just as much poverty, abuse and general heartache as their black neighbors. On the individual scale, they may be onto something. Place two people side by side, and race is not the single most accurate predictor of each person's history.

Unfortunately, the issue of racial discrimination in the USA right now is not a person-to-person issue. It is systemic, something to be judged at the macro rather than micro scale. At the macro scale, racism is also undeniably real, and this becomes very evident when viewed in the context of imprisonment for marijuana.

Why? Well, both black and white Americans use marijuana at roughly the same rate. However, the rate of imprisonment of black Americans for marijuana possession highly exceeds the rate of imprisonment of white Americans for marijuana possession, sometimes at discrepancy of 10 to 1. There is a comprehensive Washington Post report which sums this up nicely in words and charts. You can find it here: http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonkblog/wp/2013/06/04/the-blackwhite-marijuana-arrest-gap-in-nine-charts/. I recommend reading it today.

One way to address the severe problem of systemic racism is to eliminate opportunities to practice it. Ending prohibition would be a start.

Driving in my NORML shirt is great, but so is getting fresh air. 




I love walking with my tree-climbing kids. How normal is that?


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