DeRay Mckesson, the blue vest guy who became famous during the Ferguson riots, is on video talking about how drug-free school zones are a racist scam. He made several good points, but there are a few points that his video failed to address. At least one of the points he completely missed is one that could save the lives of children, teachers, and anyone in or around a school building.
Let's review his points and discuss where he did well, but also where he came up empty on things that were casually left out of the video. Keep in mind that I do agree with some of his points, but I also think he could have done a better job talking about both sides and several points that he clearly ignored or missed entirely. His video raises good talking points, but once he mentioned a law being racist is where he loses a bit of credibility.
Watch the video and then we'll discuss it below.
DeRay's first scenario looks like a cartoon of a white college student who sells a few Adderall pill to another student. That other student happens to be an informant, and now the seller is in trouble. The students are at college, but there's an elementary school nearby that's within the 1,000 feet that he mentions, thus making the deal of the pills a much worse violation than previously imagined. Should that student who sold the pills to another student go to jail? If the seller has a clean record and it was a single pill or even a few, then no. I don't believe so. Adderall isn't something that you'd see people overdose from. College students take it to stay up all night and study. Of course, selling a prescription drug has its stipulations and laws, but mostly this is a non-violent crime that should result in a slap on the wrist and a fine. If the student was selling them to minors or in mass volume, then it's time to discuss a more intense punishment. DeRay hit the mark on this one.
DeRay's mistake was to mention that a college student was caught selling ecstasy to a police informant. He said the seller received a sentence of up to 15 years in prison. What DeRay didn't mention was how much ecstasy was being sold. 15 years is a long time for a drug offense, so the volume of the sales must have been more than just a few or a handful. There had to be some accumulation of volume. Not to mention, ecstasy is a much harder drug than a prescribed Adderall pill. The two drugs are night and day and not precisely in the same ballpark. DeRay missed the mark with this point.
DeRay said some school zones are so big that they encompass whole neighborhoods so that you might be in a school zone with no school in sight. There's no problem with that. If you're a drug dealer, then you should know where you're doing business and conduct it just outside of the school zone to eliminate your chances of a higher sentence. Smart drug dealers know this. Let's not forget that many of us can look out our window and not see the neighborhood school. That doesn't mean it's not around the corner. Smart drug dealers know this and stay away from school zones. DeRay missed this point.
DeRay claims that drug-free school zones are an excuse to nail minor drug offenders with longer sentences. He doesn't mention big-time drug dealers. He also doesn't say what happens when a drug deal goes wrong and a shootout or other violence breaks out. DeRay doesn't mention that some drug deals go so wrong that people begin shooting at each other and innocent bystanders get hit with stray bullets. It would be terrible if that happened near a school. Anyone dealing drugs near a school should know what they're getting into if they take the risk. We won't ever eliminate drugs or the drug dealer, but if they won't respect the school zone laws and conduct their business within the realm of the school zone, then they should be willing to accept their consequence. DeRay missed this point big time, and it's one of the biggest reasons that school zones exist.
DeRay then begins talking about race and how some informant set up drug deals near school grounds. This is where the drug dealer needs to be smarter. If you're a drug dealer and someone sets up a sale near a school zone, then you say no and stop talking to them immediately. That should be the first clue that someone is a narc.
Drug dealers who don't think about this are ones who get arrested. It's not a matter of the color of their skin, but probably a question of how smart/stupid they are to go through with a drug deal near a school. DeRay forgot to mention that drug dealers who deal in school zones should've thought about that and walked down the street just outside the school zone.
DeRay mentions that this puts black and Latino people behind bars. It also puts whites, Mexicans, Asians, and everyone else behind bars. The drug-free school zone laws exist in neighborhoods that are of all colors, races, nationalities, etc. The drug-free school zone wants dealers to stay away from the schools and make their deals elsewhere. Ideally, no one should sell drugs, but that's not reality. We will always have drugs and drug dealers, but perhaps they can do business away from a school zone.
DeRay mentions meth dealers in rural areas possibly doing less time than someone who sold a few pills or bags of drugs in a drug-free school zone. That's because the random shack out in the middle of nowhere poses no threat to anyone but the people inside it. If the meth lab in the middle of a desert blows up, then only the drug dealers or makers get injured. If the deal goes bad out in the middle of nowhere, then it's not like there's a school or other people around. If a drug deal goes badly by a school, then hundreds of people are at risk of facing the wrath of stray bullets. That's the difference that DeRay utterly failed to address. It doesn't have anything to do with color, but it's the location and possibility that violence could erupt and more people would get hurt in an urban/city setting, than some backwoods hillbilly meth lab in a trailer.
DeRay claims the laws don't protect children. The drug-free school zone laws are made to push the dealers away from the schools. What would you prefer: a drug dealer shootout in the middle of nowhere or a drug dealer shootout by a school? Which one poses the most significant threat? The violence near a school always puts kids at risk, which is why there are stiffer penalties, even if it's a small-time drug and non-violent. DeRay is wrong.
DeRay claims the drug-free school zone laws are racist. That's incorrect. The drug-free school zone laws don't care what color you are. If someone deals drugs in a school zone because they're too lazy to set up their deal outside the school zone, then so be it. It's the chance they take, but it comes with more significant consequences. A drug deal can go wrong at any time. People don't want drug deals going bad near their schools. It has nothing to do with racism. DeRay is wrong again.
He asked why we're still doing this? It's because we should do it and we shouldn't stop doing it.
The way to get around the drug-free school zone penalties is to make drug deals outside of the drug-free school zone. That's it. Ideally, not selling drugs would be the perfect answer - but that's unobtainable.
Drug dealing sentencing needs to be reformed so that the punishment matches the crime. Selling a little bit of weed to another adult is no big deal. Selling hard drugs in a school zone, even if it's to another adult, is a big deal. Each drug offense should be looked at individually and not with a blanket statement that automatically places people in jail for long periods for minor crimes.
DeRay made several good points, but once he started calling things racist is where he lost big time. We have to stop making everything about race when it's not about race at all. He may be well spoken and appear to have an unlimited amount of blue vests, but his need to create a racist scenario undermines any points he makes.
Forget about the guy selling his neighbor Adderall - how about we stop making fake racist claims that cause the divide among people for no reason?
And after seeing DeRay's video, I expect anyone who deals drugs to make the extra effort and do your business outside of the drug-free school zones for now on. Come on guys, don't be lazy and don't put kids in harm's way if a bad deal makes people break out the guns.