African Americans have been arrested at disproportionately higher rates than whites since 1980, reports Human Rights Watch. The higher rates of arrest do not reflect higher rates of black drug offenses. In fact, most people who use drugs are white.
Although whites and blacks use drugs at similar rates, law enforcement has targeted communities of color in the “War on Drugs.” Combining the total number of blacks and whites who were arrested in one year in each state illuminates state disparities. For example, in Louisiana and Mississippi, blacks constituted 57 percent and whites 43 percent of all those arrested in 2006. In Alabama, blacks were 58 percent and whites were 42 percent of those arrested in 2006. By contrast, of blacks and whites arrested in Texas in the same year, 31 percent were black and 69 percent white. These numbers are also reflected in disproportionate rates of incarceration for people of color.