Kai Wright offers some interesting analysis. This caught my eye:
As the Sentencing Project details, a big part of the decline is structural. Crack busts drove drug arrests and convictions in black neighborhoods. But crack long ago faded from the drug market, if not the popular culture. Moreover, the large-scale drug dealing businesses--and that's what they are, like it or not--have adapted their distribution channels in response to the cops' military-style sweeps of the '80s and '90s. Here's how John Jay College of Criminal Justice scholar Ric Curtis once explained the shift to me:"Many of the businesses had been modeled on the McDonald's or Wal-Mart style of operation. ... They had all these street-level functionaries that were just interchangeable cogs for them, but they were getting arrested in extraordinary numbers. ... So eventually they said, 'You know what? Fuck this. It's too much of a pain in the ass. We're gonna downsize. We'll retain management and lop off labor. And management is gonna go to a new style of business.'"
The new style of business, as the Sentencing Project notes, abandons the street corner and instead focuses on delivery to regular, known clients. So the big players moved the market off the street and out of the cops' hair. Cynical as it sounds, that's actually something of a policing victory--it means fewer turf wars and safer neighborhoods. (Sure, it literally sweeps the problem out of sight, but it certainly doesn't get rid of drug use and -dealing, and in no way mitigates the damage both wreak upon individuals, families and communities.) In any case, the new distribution system means fewer black arrests, fewer black convictions and fewer black inmates.
Heh, talk about acting white. Best comment I've seen on this was from some joker over at Yglesias's place, who noted with mock outrage, that "the whites were muscling in on the black drug trade." Fuckers. Can't ever let us have anything.