Category Archives: The War on Blackness

The War on Blackness Part 3: The Hipocrasy of Whiteness

This article is part of a series highlighting the injustices brought upon black and brown bodies because of the War on Drugs. Click here to read part 1 & part 2

A Public Service Announcement

This is not an attack on white people, it is a critique of whiteness as a social institution. If there are questions please refer to my previous blog post explaining how Pro-Black does not mean “Anti-White.” On that note…

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F*cking Hipocrites

White people are literal cry babies. So willing to subject people of color to the most horrible conditions imaginable but once they get a taste their whole outlook changes…let’s take a look at the hypocrisy of attitudes toward drugs now that white people admit to using them.

In the 1960’s those damn hippies made marijuana and LSD cool and trendy. One of the reasons for the War on Drugs was to lock those hippies up for drug use because it was thought to be Anti-American. Those damn hippies grew up into my parents generation, the same generation that eventually gave into consumerism, capitalism, and all the other isms they once condemned. They grew up and became hypocrites. They started listening to government propaganda. Believing blacks were drug users and criminals, until their own kids started using drugs…

*screams*

Now that white families are starting to be affected by the War on Drugs they seek “gentler” aka different aka preferential treatment. Please treat us like the delicate lily white flowers we are and not like those violent thugs. 

And the response? Society is becoming more compassionate for white drug users than they every were for black drug users.

Across the nation, task forces are assembling to provide creative, non-criminal, solution-based approaches to opioid addiction. First responders are being supplied Narcan to revive folks on the brink of death from overdose. Cities like Ithaca, N.Y. are shopping the idea of supervised drug use sites to provide safer space and medical assistance to drug users.

*SCREAMS LOUDER*

This new way of dealing with the “heroin and opioid” epidemics ripping across white America is a slap in the face for black Americans. For decades the War on Drugs ravaged black communities, ripping families apart and contributing to the enslavement and disenfranchisement of millions of black Americans. But…we are asked to be more compassionate and understanding for white drug users…?

The Gentrification of The Hustle 

Yet another slap in the face for black people in the long list of slaps in the faces we have endured is this new drug culture we see on the rise.

For years and years black people turned to selling drugs because of disenfranchisement, because they were denied jobs, because they had no other way to provide for their families. Selling drugs was a struggle, a last resort, but it built character, it put food on the table. It was a means to an end. Despite the risk of being incarcerated in droves, black people took that risk in order to survive. Unfortunately many did not make it due to being imprisoned, or killed because of selling drugs.

But now we see this resurgence in the glamorization of selling drugs one that has always kind of been around (Scarface, The Godfather) but has always been reserved for white drug kingpins and not for the everyday local black kid selling dime bags on the block. This glamorization is gendered, class based, and whitewashed.

Ladies is Pimps Too…

Let’s take a critical look at these headlines and other forms of media glamorizing drug use when white women do it.

 

Here we have two women, first, Nancy Botwin the main character of the hit TV show Weeds, about a white suburban mom turned drug lord, posing seductively in Mary Jane Green. Next we have the glamorous “Cannabis Queen of Beverly Hills,” but let’s not forget black women at the height of the crack “epidemic” were referred to as “crack whores.” Far from glamorous. There’s a gendered and racialized double standard there.

Then take a look at the young white hands wearing Zara frocks in “Marijuana Rebranded.” Rebranded into…what? A trendy hipster drug now that young millennial white women gentrifying Brooklyn are doing it? Weed is in Vogue now. *sigh*

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Next we have, “Main Line Woman, 62, heroin addict, and not unique” the accompanying article details Lynne C. Twaddle, a “self-employed yoga teacher’s” descent into opioid and heroin abuse after two hip surgeries. Her age, race, and zip-code are meant to shock us. The uppercrust does drugs? My, oh, my! Duh…It’s completely unsurprising that white women of the 1% do drugs, they have to deal with white men of the 1% on a daily basis. Not to mention statistics have proven time and time again that white people use drugs and sell drugs at a higher rate than black people do.

The elderly Main Line woman certainly is not unique. Older white women get a pass for doing and selling drugs because they’re cute grandma types. Let’s not forget a video of “Grandmas smoking weed for the first time” went viral, was shared thousands of times, and viewed over 25 million times.

Meanwhile, black grannies aren’t getting the same type of treatment in the media…

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See how she was doing it to put her grandkids through college and give them a better chance at life, versus *other* (white) grannies who were actual drug abusers or doing it for likes and retweets? Still, she was criminalized while the white grandmothers were not.

Who Getting That Paper Though?

Not black people. Remember, black people are thugs for selling drugs. White people are entrepreneurs for selling drugs.

Despite the street smarts, the business savvy techniques, the math skills utilized, black people selling drugs are still labeled thugs and criminalized in states that have and haven’t legalized marijuana use.

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In those same states, young white male college grad entrepreneurs, are making serious coin off the sale of marijuana.

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Not only has the sale of marijuana been gentrified but the language has been as well. All of a sudden we are seeing words like “budtender,” “Kushcations” it’s truly mindboggling.

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Why can’t black and brown people have the luxury of holding such titles? Why is it only ok and cool and trendy when white people discover it and start doing it? Think of all the stereotypes you know of black marijuana users. The thug on the street corner, the dirty rastafarian, the kid who cuts class to get high. I want you to take a look at how black and brown people are depicted as drug users or sellers in popular media and just reflect on how it differs from the way white people are represented.

As this blog post comes to a close, I encourage (beg) you as a reader to open your eyes to the disparities and hypocrisies of how the black people and white people are portrayed in relation to the sale and use of drugs and drug culture. How does white drug culture differ from black drug culture? Think critically about it. Critique it. Question it. Recognize that these unfair depictions and disparities directly relate to the oppression of black people.

If we are ever to be a truly free, just, and equal society for everyone, we must start now to dismantle these ideologies and practices that unfairly target and criminalize black and brown bodies. Next time your racist ass grandma calls those black kids selling drugs on the corner “damn thugs” but admits to trying pot once or twice in college, call her out on her racist bullshit! Also, call yourself out. When you find yourself using a delivery app to get that OG kush sent straight to your Upper East Side address after a long day of work at your startup company, but flip on the news and see four more black and brown Bronx youth have been arrested for the sale of marijuana, CHECK YOUR PRIVILEGE. The smallest steps help and can make an impact on the beginning to an end on this war on black and brown people.

The War on Blackness Part 2: The Criminalization of Black Bodies

This article is part of a series highlighting the injustices brought upon black and brown bodies because of the War on Drugs. Click here to read part 1

 

Methodology 

In part 1 we learned that white people needed a colorblind system to continue the oppression of black and brown people. How could the government go after black people while remaining colorblind?

Step 1: Introduce Crack to Black Communities 

This may seem far fetched and you may start to question if I’m a conspiracy theorists or not, but just like how the government introduced aids to gay communities, they introduced drugs to black communities.

You may be thinking, HOW SWAY? Hear me out…

Without going too deep into disparities between black and white communities, I’ll highlight just a few (out of many)  major things that make them different. Let’s start with 40 acres and a mule

After slavery black people were promised by the U.S. government 40 acres and a mule to kickstart their new lives as freed people and as a weak ass apology for the horrors of slavery. Clearly 40 acres and a mule is better than nothing, but the government could have done better BECAUSE, guess what? That land was to be taken away from former slave and plantation owners and given to slaves. You think such a thing would ever be enforced? If you answered no..DING DING DING. You are correct. Andrew Johnson later overturned this rule and gave the land back to former slave owners.

The next time white people could have done something decent to make up for slavery and fucked up instead was during the Federal Housing Administration Act. After World War II GI’s were awarded grants making them eligible for home ownership. Along with this grant and the new concept of mortgages and loans, white GI’s started moving to newly built suburbs and enjoying modern conveniences like washing machines. It just so happened though, that black GI’s weren’t given these grants and the new suburbs weren’t accepting black residents so once again black people were tossed aside and ushered to inner-city tenements.

Now, let’s discuss life in inner-city neighborhoods. It sucks. Period. People were crammed into tiny apartments with little to no modern utilities. Jobs for black people were scarce. Black people weren’t afforded the same opportunities as white people. What happens when people are forced into close proximity with others? When public works like sanitation don’t extend to “ghettos?” When parents cannot provide for their children? When people are beaten down day in and day out by police meant to protect them, by the government meant to protect them?

People become desperate. They do what they can to survive. They turn to vices to bring some type of relief to the pain they feel in their everyday lives.

This is when the government introduced crack into urban communities.

Step 2: Criminalize Crack

Crack is a sort of raw form of cocaine that can be smoked instead of snorted. Crack doesn’t have to go through the same processes as cocaine making it easier and cheaper to manufacture. This became the drug of “urban” communities. It also became, arguably, the most demonized drug and still is in relation to its “purer” form cocaine.

Cocaine is widely thought of, again due to media depictions, as a high class luxury drug. Fancy white people do cocaine, black ghetto trash use crack. When asked if she smoked crack, the glamorous Whitney Houston famously said, “crack is whack, crack is cheap” outright admitting that crack was too poor for her taste.

More recently in the media a young white upper class woman was found dead of a cocaine overdose in an upper west side penthouse. While her drug den was painted as a “high society cocaine apartment” it is well known that the “urban” drug dens are referred to as “crack houses” which paint an entirely different picture.

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The disparities between coke and crack don’t end there. They even carry different

sentencing laws, which unfairly criminalize crack users versus cocaine users. As we know, people arrested, sentenced, and incarcerated for the sale and abuse of crack are overwhelmingly black while those charged with the less life altering cocaine related offenses are typically white. Originally, possessing just 1 gram of crack resulted in the same sentencing as those found in possession of 100 gams of cocaine. The Fair Sentencing Act of 2010 later reduced the amount of cocaine to 18 grams, still the disparity exists to unfairly target poor people and black people.

Step 3: Equate Drug Use With Black People & Criminalize Blackness 

After crack and other illegal drugs like heroin were found to be used in black communities, the next step was to make sure White America knew these drugs were being used in black communities. This was done so White Americans assumptions and ideologies that black people were criminals could be “proven” to be true. Images of black people being arrested for drug related offenses were blasted across T.V. screens across America.

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Not surprisingly, people of color have been the target of racialized drug prevention efforts as early as the 1910’s. A 1914 New York Times article by Dr. Edward H. Williams claimed, “Murder and Insanity Increasing Among Lower Class Blacks Because They Have Taken to ‘Sniffing’ Since Deprived by Whisky Prohibition.” Within the article he went on to say;

“Most of the negroes are poor, illiterate and shiftless…once the negro has formed the habit he is irreclaimable. The only method to keep him away from taking the drug is by imprisoning him…Cocaine produces several other conditions that
make the fiend a peculiarly dangerous criminal. One of these conditions is a temporary

immunity to shock-a resistance known to “knock down,” effects of fatal
wounds. Bullets fired into vital parts that would drop a sane man in his tracks, fail to check the “fiend”

This type of rhetoric dehumanizes the subject. In this case the author uses his credibility as a “doctor” to speak on this issue as an “expert.” He introduces the black subject as poor, which, naturally, comes with being illiterate and idle. What do idle hands do? They dabble in cocaine. Cocaine is demonized as making the user into a “dangerous criminal.” The only way to stop this criminal? Lock him up. Otherwise he poses a threat. The most troubling part of this rhetoric is when Williams describes the drug as creating a “temporary immunity to shock.” This rhetoric is still used today to paint black people, especially black men, as superhuman and as stronger and bigger than they actually are. Black men killed by police in 2015 and 2016 have been described as possessing “superhuman strength” and having a “demon-like look” before being shot. Creating this image of the black man as a demonic looking monster possessing superhuman strength provides an excuse to execute them.

The image of the black man as a monster is not new nor was it invented during the War on Drugs. Age old stereotypes of the black man were recycled, revamped, and re-introduced to white America. Throughout history stereotypes of black men being overly violent, sexually deviant, lazy, and “brutish” have remained dominant in American society. Angela Davis details this in her book Women, Race, and Class which I encourage my readers to explore.

These racialized stereotypes are not only wrong, but extremely damaging. The height of the War on Drugs was framed by multiple events that painted black men in a negative light. There were the Watts Riots of 1965, War on Rap music, The Central Park Five, The O.J. Simpson trial, as well as many other historical Civil Rights era moments that at the time demonized black men. Similar to how black protesters are viewed today, Conservative media presented them as violent trouble makers.

Black men weren’t the only ones targeted. Black women were depicted in a way that intersected their race, sex, and class. Black women were depicted as “crack whores.” Women willing to do anything, including prostitution to get their fix. They would even go so far to sacrifice their children for crack. “Crack babies” became a term used to vilify black women and paint them as bad mothers because they were depicted as willing to sacrifice their children’s health for a fix. screen-shot-2016-12-12-at-11-02-28-pm

Sadly, these types of depictions didn’t only work to make white people afraid of black people, but were also responsible for making black people afraid of other black people. The result was an extremely hurtful and damaging dynamic that still exists today. Many black people distance themselves from their blackness or criticize other black people for how they express their blackness because of self hate and an aspiration to assimilate into white America.

Step 4: Mass Incarceration 
My idol Michelle Alexander’s work The New Jim Crow  highlights the transformation of slavery into mass incarceration, the modern day slavery. Remember how I talked about white people needing a new way to enslave black people? Yeah? This is it.
America makes up just 5% of the world’s population, but 25% of the world’s incarcerated population. Read. That. Again. America makes up just 5% of the world’s population, but 25% of the world’s incarcerated population.
Please, I beg of thee. Read this amazing piece by Angela Davis that explains the prison industrial complex because she explains it better than I ever could. Basically it is a complex system where capitalist corporate greed meets government interest.
Under that appalling clause that states people can be held as slaves if convicted of a crime millions of black and brown people have been enslaved in America. Thousands if not, millions have been incarcerated as a direct result of the War on Drugs. Because crack was unfairly criminalized compared to coke, black people were thought to be crack users, and crack was given harsher sentencing laws, black people make up a disportionately larger population of prisoners than white people do.
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But it’s not just crack related offenses…black people are more likely to be imprisoned for marijuana related offenses as well as other non-drug related offenses.
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Why does this happen? Under the Clinton Administration, legislation was put into place to militarize police forces across America. The result was a new police force that worked as a small army (police need tanks? military grade weapons?), locking up as many citizens as possible in order to make the prison industrial complex work. The results have been devastating on black communities. People are left dead by police brutality, locked up for minor offenses, mental illness is criminalized, children are left without parents. Absolute disaster.

The War on Blackness Part 1: A Quick History Lesson

 

This article is part of a series highlighting the injustices brought upon black and brown bodies because of the War on Drugs. 

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The Lite Version of American History 

If you know anything about American History, (which you may not, no shame, because our education system doesn’t properly teach the whole history of this country) you may have heard of the War on Drugs. If you grew up in the 1980’s and 1990’s you’ve definitely experienced D.A.R.E., an attempt at educating youngsters about the dangers of drugs, a program directly spawned from the War on Drugs. If you’ve never heard of the War on Drugs I will attempt to educate you about it…I guess (google exists as does an amazing documentary on Netflix by Ava DuVernay titled, 13th).

The War on Drugs was a term coined and popularized by President Richard Nixon in 1971, just a few years before he was exposed by Woodward & Bernstein thanks to their confidant Deepthroat. Have any of our presidencies been legit or is life just one big joke? Seriously. I can’t even make this stuff up. Anyways, he popularized the term after declaring drugs Public Enemy #1.

Fast forward a couple of awful presidencies later, and Hollywood Film Star Ronald Reagan is somehow our president. This is when the War on Drugs really starts to gain its footing. On October 14, 1982, Reagan formally declared a War on Drugs. Setting into motion, arguably, the most damaging chain of events directed towards the oppression of black people in America since slavery.

You see, the War on Drugs was not really a fight against the sale and abuse of illicit drugs, rather, it was a war against poor black and brown people. Why declare an unofficial war against fellow Americans? First let’s be real… Who is defined as an American? Certainly not black and brown people who have been treated as second class citizens since they were legally declared second class citizens. Second, what is the basis of any war? Control, power, and domination. In order to maintain white supremacy the white men who control our county had to devise a master plan to maintain the racist orders of society.

At the time the War on Drugs was declared it had been established that everyone, regardless of skin color, religion, sex, creed, etc. was granted equal protection under the law (yeah right…). It has also been well established through studies, lived experiences, and general common sense that this declaration has never been practiced in American History. However, because the law does exist, the Grand Wizards of AmeriKKKa had to find a “colorblind” way to go about continuing the oppression of those Uppity Blacks.

Critical Race Scholars Michael Omi and Howard Winant created this theory called Racial Formation. They define it as, “the sociohistorical process by which racial categories are created, inhabited, transformed and destroyed.” Perhaps the biggest scam, I mean racial project, in American history was slavery. The institution of slavery was founded on an inherent ideology that black people were not people, but subhuman. Because of their “Otherness” black people were deemed inferior. Thus created the binary that is black and white where white is good and black is bad. Following this fucked up reasoning black people could be treated inhumanely because they weren’t considered human. Slavery was adopted and practiced, then transformed into something thought to be so evil that Northern white saviors with their own agendas came into abolish it. Destroying slavery. A perfect example of the process of racial formation.

Fortunately for black people, the 13th amendment to the United States Constitution states that no person shall be held as a slave. Without it, I’m sure under the reign of Trump we’d all be back in the cotton fields. Unfortunately, there is a very specific clause that creates an exception to the rule in cases where people have committed a crime. Essentially, if you have committed a crime you can legally be held as a slave. Just let that sink in…

So, because the Klansmen running this joint were looking for a colorblind way to put blacks back in their place they adopted this colorblind “War on Drugs.” But duh, obviously it wasn’t so colorblind.

Ok Bih, Where Are You Going With All of This…?

Bear with me! I swear I’m getting to it!

White people basically said, “ok…we will give y’all some little superficial protection laws or whatever to shut you up…we ain’t gon’ follow them tho…HA.” And so we have the “colorblind” war on drugs. White people, “don’t see color” but sure do see black people as criminals and white people as saints (even though, let’s be real, historically wypipo are legit the biggest criminals in WORLD history.)

Anyway, Reagan and his crew sat around and thought, “ugh what are we gonna do with these colored people? Always demanding more and more from us. We gave them their freedom and HUD housing what more do they want? How can we get rid of them?” Literally, that’s what happened. They probably sat around a conference table in the White House debating this. In fact, one of Nixon’s top aides, Ehrlichman, admitted that Nixon’s reasoning for coming up with the war on drugs was because,

       “We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin. And then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities…We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.”

Ugh. Is it just me or do those words hurt, like deeply. Anyway, clearly the War on Drugs as created by Nixon was adopted and really put into action by Reagan so we can see how the same ideologies (i.e. blacks suck, let’s get rid of them) were also adopted by the Reagan administration. The result was, as Ehrlichman said, an intense campaign that went after black people, painted them as villains, and made them into Public Enemy #1