‘The Wire’ Star Michael K Williams Says War on Drugs Is War on People of Color

Beatrice Verhoeven
‘The Wire’ Star Michael K Williams Says War on Drugs Is War on People of Color

“The Wire” star Michael K. Williams has penned an op-ed on the war on drugs in the United States, stating it is a war on people, specifically people of color.

“The war on drugs is a war on people — and more specifically, black and brown people, whom it has sought to demonize and silence, criminalizing generations of youth of color and creating severe drug-sentencing laws ultimately to target and incarcerate communities of color,” he said in a letter for CNN on the 45th anniversary of the war on drugs.

Williams cited a 2014 statistic that of 2.2. million people incarcerated in the U.S., almost 60 percent are people of color. He argued that the consequent prison sentences have resulted in millions of parentless homes, struggles with addiction and financial desperation, adding that “this ‘war’ has left an unforgivable blight on black communities across the country.”

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“The war on drugs is a war on people and a war on progress,” he wrote. “It’s a war on opportunity for a generation of black and brown Americans who have grown up conditioned to believe that prison is inevitable, and incarceration is imminent.”

The drug war hits close to home for Williams. In the essay, he claimed that he struggled with addiction but was lucky enough to get the treatment he needed as opposed to being thrown in jail. And because this happens to a lot of people, Williams called for action to end the policy, with the Department of Justice already announcing that it will end the use of private prisons and many states treating possession of drugs as a misdemeanor instead of a felony.

“Our prisons are packed with people serving long, harsh sentences — in many cases for drug offenses,” Williams wrote. “Instead of providing people with rehabilitation and treatment programs, let alone education and job training, we have put them into cages and have left them untreated, forgotten and ignored.”

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At the end of the essay, Williams asked policymakers to support criminal justice reforms such as the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act, and implored the presidential candidates to undo “justices that have left too many behind and blown over.”

Williams added, “This year, as the war on people turns 45, we must collectively acknowledge that it is one of the greatest American injustices ever committed, and turn outrage and frustration into action and progress.”

Read his entire op-ed here.

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