New York Senator—and 2020 presidential candidate—Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) used the racially unjust prosecution of cannabis laws as the perfect example of how white privilege works in America.
During a recent campaign event in Youngstown, Ohio, a woman in the audience asked Gillibrand a question that challenged the idea of white privilege. Basically, the woman felt that majority white communities have been hit hard by job losses and the opioid crisis, so she wasn't convinced that white privilege was really a thing.
Gillibrand responded by saying that she understands "families in this community are suffering deeply," but they were missing the point about what white privilege really is, using the racist War on Drugs as a prime example of how White and Black Americans are often treated very different by the nation's criminal justice system.
"If your son is 15 years old and smokes pot. He smokes just as much as the Black boy in his neighborhood and the Latino boy in his neighborhood, but that Black or Latino boy is four times more likely to be arrested," explained Gillibrand.
That arrest would, of course, come with the possibility of jail time and expensive fines on getting hit with a criminal record, which significantly decreases a person's job opportunities, their ability to get student loans, and their access to safe and affordable housing.
"Your son will not likely have to deal with that because he is White," Gillibrand told the audience member.
"So when someone says 'White privilege,' that is all they're talking about. It means that his whiteness means that a police officer might give him a second chance. It might mean that he doesn’t get incarcerated because he just smoke a joint with his girlfriend."
Fighting the racial injustice of the War on Drugs and liberalizing cannabis laws in the US have been a central piece of Gillibrand's presidential platform. Back in June, Gillibrand released a plan for how exactly they would reform US drug laws if elected to office. The purpose of Gillibrand's plan is to address the "devastating harm done to generations of communities and families of color by the War on Drugs."