Morris O'Kelly

*Black people…don’t fall for the okie doke. Things are what they are, not what they’re often times manipulated to be.

African-Americans…don’t fall for the banana in the tailpipe. It’s official, the NAACP (the California chapter at least) has sold its soul. The debate continues as to whether marijuana should be decriminalized and in some ways has taken an unexpected turn with the California chapter of the NAACP coming out in support of decriminalization. Alice Huffman, president of the state conference offered this in justification of the organization’s stance:

“We are joining a growing number of medical professionals, labor organizations, law enforcement authorities, local municipalities and approximately 56% of the public in saying that it is time to decriminalize the use of marijuana.”

Don’t fall for it…

Huffman also said that prohibition has a taken a “heavy toll,” if not disproportionately so on African-American communities.


Stop right there.

Did you see it? Did you catch that? If you weren’t paying close attention, you might have missed it.

It’s at this point many may fall for the okie doke. It’s at this point others will fall victim to the banana in the tailpipe. The NAACP has the unmitigated gall to suggest that the legalization of marijuana is now a “civil rights” issue…with racial overtones.

A civil liberties issue? Absolutely. A civil rights issue…hell to the naw.

Before anyone starts in on their predictable comparisons of marijuana to alcohol and tobacco, let’s deal with this singular issue before proceeding any further. “Civil liberties” should not be confused with “civil rights.”

Voting is a “civil right.” Rolling a blunt at the crib would be a “civil liberty.”

Don’t confuse the issues.

Presently there is a measure in California that is set to be voted on in November which would allow individuals age 21 and older to possess up to an ounce of marijuana.

The California chapter of the NAACP also cited statistics from the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice, showing that in 2009, 62% of the state’s marijuana arrests were of nonwhite suspects and that 42% were under 20.

Going further, the NAACP argued that the arrests of African-Americans ranged from double to quadruple that of Whites across the states, although the rates of usage skewed more to Whites.

The NAACP is both very shrewd and sickening; couching this debate within the context of racial inequality. It’s illogical, it’s misguided and ultimately patently offensive. The California chapter of this nation’s oldest civil rights organization has no business leading this parade. It shouldn’t be on any of the floats and shouldn’t even be playing in the band bringing up the rear.

The issue of decriminalizing marijuana is a separate and distinct discussion from the inherent inequities of the criminal justice system. Both are legitimate issues, but not meant to be commingled.

You do not send the NAACP to fight to decriminalize marijuana any more than you would have them fight for Ebonics in the public school system because “African-Americans are faring poorer in English.” You don’t send the NAACP to fight to decriminalize marijuana any more than you would have them fight for the Lotto because African-Americans are disproportionately suffering from poverty. You don’t send the NAACP to fight to decriminalize marijuana any more than you would have them fight to legalize speeding if African-Americans received a disproportionate amount of speeding tickets.

The NAACP involving walking point in this debate reeks of a political shell game with the aromatic stench of back room deals and lobbyist quid pro quo. All at the expense of tradition of the Civil Rights Movement.

This is akin to arguing violent crime statistics would go down…if you would just legalize murder. It’s attaching the wrong solution to the wrong problem.

The underlying issue of racial inequality is inextricably linked to the criminal justice system and the prison industrial complex. On that we should all agree. If the real issue is the disproportionate number of African-Americans arrested relative to Whites, then the answer is in the disparate enforcement and sentencing guidelines related to the law, not the law itself.

Voting is a “civil right.” Rolling a blunt at the crib would be a “civil liberty.”

Don’t confuse the issues.

I’ll listen to every argument and review every pie chart you have on the dangers of alcohol and how they supersede those of the chronic.

I get it.

I’ll let anyone wax rhapsodic on the documented historical failure of prohibition or the death legacy of cigarettes.

I get it.

Just don’t confuse THESE issues. Compare your alcohol and tobacco “apples” to weed “apples” all day, every single day. Knock yourself out.

But when you start including the civil rights “oranges”…that collective rumbling sound you hear would be W.E.B. DuBois, Ida B. Wells-Barnett and dozens of others log rolling in their graves.

“Civil liberties” are not the same as “Civil rights.” They “sound” similar but they are not the same. Civil liberties deal with the supposed excessive government intervention in the private lives of its citizens. Civil rights have to do with the essential tenets of American citizenry, which can not be denied along the lines of race, creed, gender or sexual orientation.

When Whites can roll a blunt, and African-Americans can not…then and ONLY then has this become a civil rights issue. A disparity in arrests is an argument of the thinnest order that such is presently taking place.  Attack the enforcement practices and sentencing guidelines.  Anything else is a ruse.  Don’t fall for the banana in the tailpipe.

The NAACP, the nation’s oldest CIVIL RIGHTS organization walking point on the CIVIL LIBERTIES issue of marijuana legalization is a farce and an embarrassment. Let the ACLU do what it does…so the NAACP (in California and beyond) can deal with real CIVIL RIGHTS issues, such as the immigration law in Arizona…for starters.

If the issue is purely statistical in nature, (i.e. the disproportionate arrests of African-Americans in related to marijuana,) then attack enforcement and sentencing guidelines. Attack it in the way that the Senate recently passed a bill to reduce crack-to-cocaine sentencing ratio from 100-1 to 18-1. (Under current law, it takes only five grams of crack cocaine to earn a mandatory minimum five-year federal prison sentence, but 500 grams of powder cocaine to garner the same sentence. )

This is a dishonorable fight by the NAACP, be it a local chapter or national body. It is in the same basket as the aforementioned Ebonics and “saving” the N-Word.

If we as African-Americans allow the battle to legalize marijuana co-opt and misappropriate the legacy and tradition of the Civil Rights movement…

Shame on Us.

In college I had to read Stolen Legacy by George G.M. James. Maybe it’s time to write the sequel, Misappropriated Legacy, turn it into a Reality TV show and put it on BET…with malt liquor commercial breaks.

Shame on Us.

The Mo’Kelly Report is an entertainment journal with a political slant; published weekly at The Huffington Post and  It is meant to inform, infuse and incite meaningful discourse…as well as entertain.  For more Mo’Kelly,  Mo’Kelly can be reached at [email protected] and he welcomes all commentary.