CONSPIRACY THEORIES about secret U.S. government efforts to undermine the rights of blacks are legend in the African-American community. And some of these theories have been confirmed: The U.S. government did spy on and intimidate black political leaders. It did sponsor scientific experimentation on unsuspecting black soldiers and civilians.
Now comes "Dark Alliance: The Story Behind the Crack Explosion," a three-part investigative series published last month the San Jose Mercury News, that details how massive amounts of cheap, powdered cocaine were funneled into South Central Los Angeles by a well-known CIA operative in an attempt increase funding for the contra army in Nicaragua.
A notorious Los Angeles street dealer turned the large quantities of powdered cocaine into crack, and distributed the newly processed drugs through the network of Los Angeles-area gangs. The gangs, in turn, gained power, influence and economic clout that spread to other urban areas.
Maybe those rumors that the crack cocaine epidemic was engineered by the government in an effort to control and incarcerate large numbers of urban blacks aren't so crazy after all. And the notion that the federal government may have had even the tiniest bit of influence in launching the nationwide epidemic is sickening beyond words.
Cocaine "was virtually unobtainable in black neighborhoods before members of the CIA's army brought it into South-Central in the 1980s at bargain-basement prices," wrote Gary Webb of the Mercury News.
"This drug network opened the first pipeline between Colombia's cocaine cartels and the black neighborhoods in Los Angeles, a city now known as the 'crack' capital of the world. The cocaine that flooded in helped spark a crack explosion in Urban America - and provided the cash and connections needed for L.A.'s gangs to buy automatic weapons."
In 1981, according to Time magazine, cocaine was the drug of the middle class. "We see coke sales in suburbs, in recreational centers and in national parks. It is an unrecognized tornado," a former Drug Enforcement Agency administrator said.
At the time, few people foresaw what lay ahead: the connection that would bring a storm of crack cocaine into South Central Los Angeles and other urban areas. Within a few short years, the middle-class high had become the poor people's epidemic.
Imagine how differently our society would look without the massive influx of crack into the black community. Would we have the growing prison-industrial complex and its increasing control over black men and women? Would we have had the spread of gang-related crime and violence?
The Mercury News report was released just after passage of the welfare-reform bill. It was sandwiched between the rhetoric-laden Republican and Democratic national conventions, where speakers talked about living in a land of equal opportunity with liberty and justice for all.
If you work hard, they told us, you will be successful in our wonderful color-blind society where all you have to do is just say no to drugs.
The view from the street is different: Government operatives have been working hard to keep you down by dismantling social programs and allowing mass quantities of cheap, highly addictive crack cocaine into your neighborhood while implementing get-tough-on-crime laws that will put many black, nonviolent drug offenders behind bars for life.
The recent revelations of the government's involvement in selling cheap cocaine in South Central Los Angeles begs this question: "What other secret government conspiracies have not yet been revealed?"
No doubt this new trail of evidence will speed up the rumor mill in the black community and increase the already high level of distrust of government. But the bottom line reaction many African-Americans are feeling was perhaps best stated by the Mercury News: "No action that we know of can compare to the [Central Intelligence] agency's complicity, however tacit, in the drug trade that has devastated whole communities in our own country."
Andrea Lewis is senior editor with Third Force magazine and associate editor with Pacific News Service.
Pub Date: 9/15/96