The Racist War On Drugs
From the start, drug policy in this country was determined
along racial lines. First there was the banning of opium smoking in the
late 1800s because it was the favorite of Chinese laborers who were
brought here to build the railroads. Whites folks used opium too, but they
sipped it in their drinks, which was considered perfectly acceptable.
Cocaine was also a popular drug in the late 19th Century. Cigarettes came
treated with it. Medicines were derived from it. The Sears catalogue
offered it for sale. But when the Journal of the American Medical
Association published an alarmist editorial on cocaine use among blacks in
the south, President Theodore Roosevelt hopped on the anti-drugs bandwagon
by appointing a raging racist named Dr. Hamilton Wright to head up his
version of the war on drugs. Wright stirred up anti-black and anti-Latino
frenzy wherever he went.
When the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs was formed in 1930, its
head, Harry Anslinger, started a crusade against a drug that was popular
among Mexicans and black jazz musicians: marijuana. According to
Anslinger, the drug "can arouse in blacks and Hispanics a state of
menacing fury or homicidal attack." Move over, Reefer Madness.
America's drug policy is anything but funny. On August 18, 1996, the San
Jose Mercury News sent shock waves throughout the journalistic world by
revealing that the CIA had brought crack into the black neighborhoods of
South Central Los Angeles in the early 80s, in order to finance the
Contras in Nicaragua. The CIA was trying to overthrow the newly elected
Sandanista government, and Congress wasn't giving the agency enough money
to complete the task. Though the mainstream media vilified the Mercury
News and reporter Gary Webb for the story, it's hard to deny the facts. In
their 1998 book Whiteout, journalists Alexander Cockburn and Jeffrey St.
Clair did an excellent job documenting the drug ring that brought the
crack nightmare to South Central LA.
It's not surprising that the CIA would choose a poor black neighborhood.
Black lives have always been expendable to the powers-that-be in this
country. Black men are thrown into prison at an alarming rate, and mostly
for drug-related crimes. Our prisons are currently about 50% black. Almost
75% of new nonviolent crime convictions are drug-related. Whites do just
as many drugs and with as much or greater frequency and yet they don't get
thrown into jail as often. Harsher penalties and three strikes laws mean
that African Americans will stay in jail longer. The criminal
"justice" system is racist to the core.
Meanwhile, most Americans are addicted to drugs--prescription or
otherwise. We are a pill-popping culture. Drugs are the remedy for
everything, even minor cuts and scraps that Mama used to kiss and make
better. Antibiotics are so over-prescribed that antibiotic-resistant super
germs are plaguing hospitals. Kids are made into zombies by drugs that
supposedly cure ADA (attention deficient disorder) and hyperactivity.
Forget the fact that kids learn at different rates and in different ways.
Forget that sugar-saturated cereals are the breakfast of choice of most
kids. Drug them!
It's long past time to have an intelligent national discussion about drugs
in this country. It may not be possible. The issue has become so
politicized, so highjacked by hysteria and irrationality that our country
may remain in a perpetual war that can't be won. Pullout is the only wise
choice. People whose lives are being consumed or destroyed by drugs
shouldn't be in a prison cell, but rather a rehab program.
Decriminalization would allow us to regulate drugs. Another whole
generation of young black men would not end up in jail.
That obviously doesn't matter to the architects of the war on drugs.
by Tommi Avicolli Mecca