"True racism in this country is in the judicial system," he said in his counterattack to the ABC News panelist at the New Hampshire debate. "And it has to do with enforcing the drug laws.
"Look at the percentages. The percentages of people who use drugs are about the same with blacks and whites. And yet the blacks are arrested way disproportionately. They're prosecuted and imprisoned way disproportionately. They get the death penalty way disproportionately.
"How many times have you seen a white rich person get the electric chair or get, you know, execution?"
That last line is also a statement about class, which is also about race to some extent but more about economic opportunity since it affects people of all races. But back to race, I think Paul is right on point. This is the liberal argument about racism in this country. To Republicans racism is mostly non-existant. When it does exist it's mostly apparent when white people are being accused of racism unfairly. That's really the only time you hear them talk about the issue. And Democrats are so afraid of getting Republicans to scream bloody murder using that line that they don't address the kind of racism that Paul describes.
If Obama has made similar points I don't remember them, and they didn't make any difference when it comes to policy. At best his administration has said they won't prosecute some federal marijuana laws that run opposed to some state laws. But I'm not sure what the status is of that. If they have followed through that's nice. But it's not nearly enough. And his administration is still fighting the 'drug war' that is producing the racist incarceration results Paul points out.
What I like about Paul's response is that he doesn't just base his anti-drug war policy on libertarian grounds. That's a valid and important argument, that people should be left to do what they want to their bodies, especially if it doesn't really do that much harm (though I don't know how he reconciles this with his abortion stance). And on that point alone I support the legalization of marijuana and huge changes in drug enforcement laws. But to acknowledge that racism is part of why our drug policies are so wrong shows that he cares about the injustice that racism produces. It suggests that he isn't quite as ideologically dedicated to pure libertarianism as myself and others have accused him of being.
I mentioned in my post about Paul and Iran that I wish he could get the GOP nomination so that he could debate that and other foreign policy issues with Obama. Add this issue to the list that I want to see him discuss with Obama. Having an old white guy representing a party that is largely blind to racism point out to our first black president that our drug policies (which that president has largely continued) are racist and should be ended would hopefully be an eye-opener for the country and force Obama and Democrats to take more action.