The conspiracy trap

Blacks court ridicule  and avoid their own responsibility for the drug plague  by exaggerating the "CIA-crack connection."

By Earl Ofari Hutchinson

Published October 31, 1996 8:51PM (EST)

“Freeway” Ricky Ross — the central character in the
alleged CIA/Contra/black drug dealer connection story — was a phone
guest on a recent radio talk show here. Spewing apologies and mea culpas about his actions, Ross, currently held in a Federal prison in San Diego on drug charges, wailed that he was a pawn of the government and that the CIA "made me do it."

This was predictable coming from someone who banked millions dealing deadly drugs in his own community, got caught, convicted and faces a mandatory life

While it was painful to listen to Ross' self-serving apologies, it was
even more painful to listen to black callers sidestep his guilt. With one
or two exceptions, most callers charged that the crack scourge was part
of a genocidal plot by the CIA and other unnamed government forces to
wipe out African Americans. The issue of black culpability, personal
responsibility, and punishment for black drug dealers was buried in the
rush to pump the conspiracy line.

This isn't surprising. Since the 1960s, such conspiracy theorists
have believed that anything bad that happens to African Americans is part
of a secret plan. Following the urban uprisings, the theory goes, the
ghettos were flooded with drugs, alcohol, gangs and guns. During the
1980s, AIDS was added to the barrage of woes. The "white establishment" wanted to stop blacks from developing unity, strong political organizations and programs to counter oppression. The plot was to get blacks to

While there is no proof that this is true, African Americans have ample cause to be suspicious of their government's behavior. According to public documents, for example:

  • Army Intelligence, the Justice Department and the FBI intensively
    spied on black leaders and organizations between the World Wars.

  • In order to observe the advanced stages of syphilis, federal health officials for decades knowingly withheld curative medical treatment from a group of black men in Alabama who suffered from the disease.
  • The FBI conducted a massive surveillance campaign against Malcolm X,
    Martin Luther King, Jr., the Black Panther Party and other black groups
    in the 1960s.

These revelations are just enough to make the alleged CIA-cocaine
connection the jewel in the crown of the conspiracy theorists. They ignore the fact
that the reporter, Gary Webb, who broke the story in the San Jose Mercury
, did not explicitly charge that CIA officials directly conspired to
or approved any plan to push drugs in black neighborhoods.
Webb did claim that, in the early 1980s, key operatives within the
Nicaraguan Democratic Force (a Contra faction organized and supplied by
the CIA) for a brief time supplied cocaine to Ross in order to raise money to continue their illegal war against the Sandinista. However, that Ross and the Contras were responsible for starting the crack epidemic — as the Mercury News stories claimed — has since been called into question by stories in the Los Angeles Times and the Washington Post.

Still, even if some of Webb's allegations are confirmed, then at least some CIA operatives turned a blind eye to the dirty deals. While this hardly
constitutes smoking-gun proof of direct CIA official involvement — let
alone of a massive government conspiracy to dope black communities — it
more than justifies outrage from all Americans.

But many blacks shoot themselves in the foot by side-stepping the direct
culpability of men like Ross while pounding on the conspiracy theory with
only the scantiest of evidence. They increase the damage
by making the erroneous claim that "everyone in the black community has
been affected by the crack plague." This reinforces the stereotype that
the drug problem is exclusively a black dilemma. On the contrary, a
recent University of Michigan survey on drug use found that black high
school seniors were the least likely of any group of students to use cocaine.

By rushing to judgment and spreading these myths, black activists and some black elected
officials give the media an excuse to question their general credibility, to downplay
the drug issue as just a black problem and to ridicule the charges as yet another case of "black paranoia." This allows the Clinton administration and the Justice Department to ignore the more substantiated charges and prevents blacks from gaining broad support from elected officials and non-blacks for the appointment of a special counsel to fully investigate those charges.

Government agencies occasionally play fast and loose with the law, and
their reckless actions damage lives. But this doesn't prove that there
are conspiracies or secret plots to commit genocide against blacks. Nor
does it excuse or absolve blacks of the blame for their criminal wrongdoing. Thinking otherwise is a trap that must be avoided.

Quote of the day

Rev. Pod

"The man accused of being the biggest brainwasher in America has moved into mainstream
Republican Americana. They've decided to hold their nose and take his

— Anson Shupe, a professor of sociology at Indiana-Purdue
University, on the Rev. Sun Myung Moon's nationwide "Family Values" conferences. (From "Rev. Moon Tries to Go Mainstream: Conferences draw blacks, GOP leaders," in Thursday's
San Francisco Chronicle

Earl Ofari Hutchinson

Earl Ofari Hutchinson is a contributor to Pacific News Service and the author of "The Crisis in Black and Black."

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