President Barack Obama (37164)

Mr. President:

In the toxic vapor trails of this past Nov. 8 elections, just before your soon to be “I’m-outta-here” status, it has been reported that you have embarked on a global trip, presumably to calm fears and angst among America’s friends and allies that things will be fine between them and your country once you leave office, notwithstanding the caustic and bombastic vitriolic assertions of your replacement, one Donald Trump.

Mr. President, your concern for the well-being of your country, in terms of its articulation with the rest of the world, is fully understood. Quite possibly you have been asked to make this trip, given your global appeal and enviable capital of leaving office with such high “favorable” ratings. But forgive me for wondering if this effort is where your energies should be directed right now. Are you in the best-situated position to offer reassurance and guarantee continuity of relations, given your replacement’s intolerant and menacing global positions that have changed like a wind-sock in a hurricane? Sir, it is my humble opinion that you have spent way too much time accommodating Republicans in whatever predicament they find themselves in. They, on the other hand, have not reciprocated. For example, I have always thought that you should have pushed for an all-out investigation of President George W. Bush and his administration for involving this country in an illegal and economically draining Iraq War that was entered into under false pretense. For your reasons you chose not to do so.

But that aside, allow me to say that there is something much more pressing to America than your current Kissingeresque shuttle diplomacy efforts. It is a domestic issue, festering right here at home, and it needs to be addressed now, before you leave office. It will, in all likelihood, require an executive order for you to implement. But if it is not tackled now, you will have left us as a country with a festering social inequality wound no different from the slavery era. Moreover, not tackling this travesty will, in my humble estimation, seriously detract from what I see as an enviable historical legacy and presidential appeal, especially among African-Americans. Here’s my two cents:

Under President Bill Clinton’s ill-fated and ill-conceived “three strikes and you’re out” law and subsequent laws, America’s jails have become filled with African-American males. A significant percentage of these inmates are serving outrageous sentences, handed down by gung-ho judges, for using and selling marijuana. This claim is not hearsay. In my personal experience of six months’ internship training, I have treated a number of these inmates for drug addiction. One of them, Emmanuel, sticks out in my mind, and his words haunt me to this very day from approximately 16 years ago. He said, “I hope when you’re done here with your training you don’t go out into the suburbs and treat only white people. I hope you do something for us right here in this city.”

I am unsure whether Emmanuel is still with us or has gone to his place of rest, but those words most definitely remain. Mr. President it was you who appointed some of these judges. Most definitely the federal judges who handed down some of these sentences. As such you should now not hesitate in signing an executive order instructing them, and the federal courts all across this land, to immediately release from incarceration anyone in prison for the use and selling of marijuana, with them being required to enter a treatment program for their sentences to be recognized as complete. Why such a move you ask, Mr. President. Here’s why:

This 2016 presidential election has seen marijuana legislation featured in ballots in a number of states. Since the past two election cycles, there has been a drastic reversal in the American attitude to drugs in general and marijuana in particular. Marijuana legislation has seen passage widely in America to date. One of the most lucrative businesses now is in the exploding area of marijuana sales for medicinal and recreational use in states across this country, with the entrepreneurs being young and almost exclusively white.

Why this drastic change from resistance to regularization? Look no further than drug usage by race, and law enforcement arrest and incarceration for said usage and selling, also by race. Mr. President, statistics up until 2010 shows that the percentage of whites using marijuana was the same as among the Black population. It also shows starkly that Blacks are four times more likely to be arrested and incarcerated for this drug usage and selling. So with a population numbering four times as much as that of Blacks, at 60 percent to 13 percent, or a 4:1 difference, and Blacks being arrested and incarcerated at a 4:1 ratio, guess who now leads the pack in the sheer volume of marijuana usage? It has to be whites.

Faced with this prospect, law enforcement would now be required to arrest and incarcerate whites in droves, as they have done Blacks. To avoid these arrests, what does white establishment America do? It conveniently now says that marijuana is not so bad, diligently sets about legalizing it and in so doing is creating a new breed of white entrepreneur. So what we are left with now are Black men in their productive years languishing in jails all over America, serving outrageous sentences for doing the same thing that their white counterparts are now privileged to engage in—and profit immensely from.

Mr. President, if not addressed, this problem will amount to a glaring inequity and social distortion no different from the era of slavery. An era in which whites basked in the privilege of law and justice being fully on their side, while that same law and justice made criminals of Blacks for doing the exact same things. A most pathetic America then, and now, if nothing is done about this problem.

Mr. President, this gross distortion of the lives of legions of men who look like you and me, languishing in prisons all over America, was brought about by a white Democrat president set on placating whites who wanted him to do something about drugs and crime and keep them safe. He has since apologized for this action. But an apology is not nearly enough. You sir, an outgoing Black Democrat president, have to remedy this distortion. Should we expect a Republican Congress and White House to do any such thing?

Mr. President, helping them out with their forthcoming global challenges is nice and all, but let them fall into their own self-made ditches while “Making America Great Again!” Is it worthwhile rescuing them globally by expending your immense favorable capital? It is my opinion that such capital would be better served by “Making America Equal for Once,” by fixing this racial dislocation. Otherwise, how will you be able to look Black America in the face and convince them that you were the best president for all of America.

Sir, in closing I would like to thank you, and the first lady, for reading my letter. Her namesake, writer, academic and voice on Black matters, Michelle Alexander, has recently voiced similar thoughts as set out in this letter. I would more than welcome speaking with you further on this matter that I consider to be of utmost importance. Blessings!

Yours truly,

 Benjamin Robert