Reported by April V. Taylor
Alternet is reporting that during a recent farewell to White House pastry chef Bill Yosses, President Obama made a joke that in reality is not all that funny. In a statement, Obama jests, “We call Bill the ‘Crustmaster,’ because his pies… I don’t know what he does, whether he puts crack in them, or…” While Obama is alluding to the pies being addictive in a manner similar to crack, many are not finding the joke as funny as the crowd gathered at the White House did.
As Ellen Komp points out, the government’s role in creating the crack epidemic makes the joke less than amusing. She cites economist and Nobel Laureate Milton Friedman’s 1989 open letter to Drug “Czar” Bill Bennett that states, “Had drugs been decriminalized 17 years ago, ‘crack’ would never have been invented (it was invented because the high cost of illegal drugs made it profitable to provide a cheaper version) and there would today be far fewer addicts. The lives of thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands of innocent victims would have been saved, and not only in the U.S. The ghettos of our major cities would not be drug-and-crime infested no-man’s lands. Fewer people would be in jails, and fewer jails would have been built.”
It seems as though Obama should be aware of the negative effect of the drug war on the black community. During his first presidential election campaign, Jeremiah Wright, Obama’s minister, came under fire for his scathing rant about the drug war when he stated, “The government gives them the drugs, builds bigger prisons, passes a three-strike law and then wants us to sing ‘God Bless America.’ No, no, no, not God bless America, God dαmn America, that’s in the Bible for killing innocent people.”
Wright was most likely referencing the information uncovered by journalist Gary Webb who found evidence that the CIA had intentionally dumped crack cocaine in the ghettos of Los Angeles during the 1980s as a way to fund Nicaraguan contras. The effects of the sale and use of crack cocaine should never be the source of a joke for a president who had more than enough reason to be aware of it’s devastating effects within the black community.
Dr. Boyce Watkins, who worked with Russell Simmons to write an open letter to President Obama about ending the drug war, says that the president likely meant no harm by the joke, but the public should express their concern nonetheless.
“The War on Drugs has been the single greatest force of destruction on the black family in the last 100 years,” said Dr. Watkins, who did a forum with Min. Louis Farrakhan on the rebuilding of families in Chicago last year. “We were the ones getting addicted to the drugs, the ones being locked up for the drugs and the ones dying in drug-related violence. As a result, we have an entire generation of lost children whose parents are nowhere to be find. Drugs are the single greatest reason for the massive numbers of teen homicides in Chicago happening right now.”
The letter submitted by Dr. Watkins and Simmons received the support of 175 celebrities and public figures including Kerry Washington, Will Smith, Brad Pitt, Michelle Alexander, Chris Rock and Dr. Michael Eric Dyson.