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The Color of Justice — the War On Drugs in Tulia

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In the small town of Tulia Texas yesterday, Karim Abdul Jabar White was sentenced to 60 years for selling cocaine to an undercover agent. He was one of more than 40 African Americans to be arrested by the same agent after an 18 month undercover operation.

It started in Tulia in January of 1998, when Swisher County conducted its first major drug sting using under cover agent, Tom Coleman. Then on the morning of July 23, 1999, ten percent of that town’s African American population were arrested, resulting in indictments and convictions.

Apart from the race of the defendants being of concern, there were some other troubling aspects of the Tulia Drug bust: The lack of evidence. It is quite interesting that agent Coleman did not wear a wire during any of the alleged transactions. No video surveillance was done and no second officer was available to corroborate his reports. Further, in most cases, there were no witnesses at all, other than Coleman himself. Such irregularities didn’t seem to matter to the Swisher County juries that begun handing down verdicts and sentences last winter.


  • Mattie White, mother of Kareem Abdul Jabar White, convicted of drug charges.
  • Billy Wafer, another defendant who was arrested for selling cocaine to the agent.
  • Will Harrell, executive director of the ACLU of Texas.
  • Randy Credico, of the William Moses Kunstler fund for racial justice

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