One poisonous byproduct of prohibition and the black market, McWhorter says, is that going to prison is a now "badge of honor." "To black men involved in the drug trade, enduring prison time, regarded as an unjust punishment for merely selling people something they want (with some justification), is seen as a badge of strength: The ex-con is a hero rather than someone who went the wrong way." This attitude did not exist before drug prohibition.
Would cheaper and freely available drugs bring their own catastrophe? McWhorter says no.
"Fears of an addiction epidemic are unfounded. None such has occurred in Portugal, where the drug war has been significantly scaled back." How about damage to the culture?
"Our discomfort with the idea of heroin available at drugstores is similar to that of a Prohibitionist shuddering at the thought of bourbon available at the corner store. We'll get over it."
He enumerates the positive results from ending prohibition.
"No more gang wars over turf, no more kids shooting each other over sneakers. ... (P)eople who don't sell drugs for a living don't much need to kill each other over turf. ... (T)he men get jobs, as they did in the old days, even in the worst ghettos, because they have to."
To the majority who say that there are better and less risky ways to address the troubles of young men in black America, McWhorter replies:
"(T)he question we must ask is: What do you suggest? ... Community centers? Take a look at the track record on that. Or is it that we have to try a lot of things all at the same time? Well, what else have we been doing for 40 years, and where are we now?"