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I'd like to read more about this. Do you have a source for this?

One random factoid, that's a favorite of mine: the Ku Klux Klan supported the right of women to vote. They did so because women voters supported temperence/prohibition. And those laws allowed them to target the Catholic Irish.


Ken Burns' excellent documentary miniseries Prohibition goes over this more in-depth in its overview of how disparate voting blocs banded together to accomplish the improbable -- passing a Constitutional amendment to ban alcohol.

It's also an eye-opener in revealing the historical origins of the expansion of police powers like wiretapping, and IIRC, overreaches of the Interstate Commerce Clause.

Once you've watched it, it's easy to draw some very damning "learn from history of be doomed to repeat it" parallels between Prohibition and the War on Drugs at a more detailed level than "drug prohibition doesn't work, just look at Prohibition."

You'd have to google around for authoritative sources, but the history is pretty straightforward. Opium/heroin prohibition started as anti-Chinese policy. Marijuana prohibition was drenched in anti-black and anti-Mexican racism, as using it for intoxication was virtually unknown in the white community (although it was often an ingredient in "patent medicines").

There's a healthy bit of conspiracy theory that says the real motivation for the marijuana prohibition was a Dupont family political move against Henry Ford, who was looking at alternative fuels based on hemp. Certainly, Harry Anslinger, the primary campaigner for anti-marijuana laws, was a Dupont in-law, lending credence to the theory. Still, it's conspiracy theory and should be taken with a grain of salt.

But in the longer political run, marijuana makes an excellent nuisance crime for harassing social undesirables - blacks, latinos, and white hippies and artists who were unduly influenced by black culture. That's not a matter of research, it's just plain obvious. And since it's kind of hard to actually show that marijuana causes black men to rape white women or that it leads directly to heroin and communism or whatever, there is quite a cottage industry in faux-science to "prove" the dangers of a basically harmless herb.

The bigger problem in modern years, imho, has been the rise of the private drug testing industry. It doesn't hurt the self-image of big businesses to demand that potential employees pee in a cup to prove their competence, but it's completely shameful socially. It's ridiculous.

Last Call: The rise and Fall of prohibition is a very interesting read on the topic.


The New Jim Crow by Stanford professor Michelle Alexander is a treasure trove of policy and Supreme Court decisions that have calcified a racial undercaste.

More sectarian than a pure race thing it was Nativist Protestant's vs recently immigrant Catholics.

the KKK started out as an Anti catholic group

This is not true, or is only partly true depending on which KKK you are talking about. The original group formed in the 1960s as an anti-reconstruction organization and used terror tactics to chase politicians and businessmen they didn't like out of certain communities in the South. It didn't last long though and was disbanded in the early 1870's.

The 'second' Klan was originally a merchandizing effort surrounding the movie "Birth of a Nation." It quickly turned into an actual political organization which adopted the white nativist views which were in vogue at the time. It was largely anti-immigrant focusing on Catholics, but also targeting Jews and Eastern Europeans.

It's worth noting that in all of it's incarnations, the Klan was racist and anti-black. It wasn't until the 1960s that this became the center-point of their politics, but it was always there.

FYI, you have a typo. The first clan started in the 1860's.

Unless they started in the 1960s and wrapped up in the 1890s due to time-travel.

The Irish & Southern Europeans were looked upon as lesser races at the time. It was only later that "white vs black" became the socially accepted racial classification.

I remember reading, quite a while ago, some 19th or 18th Century piece of fiction in which a Caucasian lad with black hair was referred to as a "little black boy".

Well its still withing living memory that Irish people with darker complexion and black hair where refered to as "black" Irish.

Wanted to recommend this as well. Really interesting documentary, it features (among others) David Simon, creator of The Wire.

Here's a quick review from the Guardian to get you a taste: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ryCfjX7DRqM

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