Bradford Plumer explains that, while the effect of the war on drugs and the crack sentencing laws may be racist, the intent was clearly not racist:
The War on Drugs, which has contributed more to our mass-incarceration orgy than anything else, strikes me as more than just Jim Crow for the 21st century. After all, in 1989 even Jesse Jackson was talking about using “antiterrorist policies” on drug users and traffickers, and Charlie Rangel was constantly savaging Reagan for being too soft on the drug menace. The media hyped to high heaven an article by Robert Martinson showing that rehabilitation doesn’t work, and yawned five years later when he recanted. (Martinson, depressed over what he had wrought, killed himself in 1980.) There seems to be a mass frenzy at work here that goes beyond race, even if that’s how it started.