I’m not clear if it was David Forbes’ intention, but his article, “On the Town: A Night with the APD” [Nov.17, Xpress] provides readers a clear exposé of the U.S. war on drugs and its national and local implications for communities of color.
By focusing on both the Pisgah View and Hillcrest neighborhoods on their evening out, Xpress and APD reinforce the false notion that drug use is primarily a problem encountered in impoverished communities and communities of color, and therefore, this is where the war must be “fought.” In reality, studies show that people of all colors use and sell illegal drugs at remarkably similar rates. If there are significant differences to be found, they frequently suggest that whites, particularly white youth, are more likely to engage in drug crimes than people of color (see Michelle Alexander’s book The New Jim Crow).
Unfortunately, since it was officially announced under Pres. Ronald Reagan in 1982, the misguided U.S. war on drugs has been waged primarily in neighborhoods such as Pisgah View and Hillcrest, resulting in the massive incarceration of minority men and women. The U.S. incarcerates in its prisons or jails one out of every 100 adults, holding over 2.4 million people under lock and key and establishing this nation with the largest penal system in the world. Of those incarcerated, approximately half a million are in prison or jail for nonviolent drug offenses. (In 1980, roughly 41,000 were incarcerated for similar charges, [making today’s number] an increase of 1,100 percent) …
The mass incarceration of the poor and communities of color, all under the auspices of the U.S. war on drugs, is the unspoken civil-rights issue of our time. As both citizens of Asheville and justice-seeking Americans, we must be aware of the profound implications of the war on drugs on the lives of those in neighborhoods like Pisgah View and Hillcrest, and we must commit ourselves to the dismantling of mass incarceration.
— Tim Nolan
Senior News Reporter David Forbes responds: The piece was intended to be a ground-level view of APD operations over the course of one night, from which readers are then free to draw their own judgments as they see fit. A significant part of the story takes place in Hillcrest and Pisgah View because those areas are a particular target of APD action, including foot patrols. The article also notes and compares APD action in other areas of the city, including downtown and North Asheville, and devotes a substantial chunk to activity around the east Asheville Walmart.