COWEN: Speaking of policies, the war on drugs.
Is it working? Is it racist? Is it wrecking our inner cities? What’s your view?
ABDUL-JABBAR: I think the war on drugs was racist. I don’t think it’s the same now.
People are starting to see that drug addiction can affect any and everybody.
There was an article in the New York Times last week about how now that the scourge of
heroin addiction has entered the suburbs and majority-white communities they’re starting
to understand what it’s all about. The futility in just using incarceration to try to cure
the problem. We have to do a better job teaching people
about their self-worth. And we have to do a better job at giving opportunity to people
who, if they don’t sell drugs, they can’t participate in any economy. The drug-selling
economy is the only one that they can participate in. That’s a recipe for failure.
COWEN: Would you decriminalize and, in essence, stop the war on drugs?
ABDUL-JABBAR: I don’t think you can completely decriminalize it. But you have to understand
that there is something that we want to rescue from the situation, and that’s people’s
lives. I think people’s lives should be given the priority in how to solve this problem — getting
people off of these things and understanding that it’s very detrimental to their future.