Monday, August 14, 2006

How The Images Included In The War On Drugs Exposes Our Lies

Washington Post
A photograph of President Bush waving a flag after the Sept. 11 attacks is juxtaposed against a black-and-white image of an African American mother smoking crack cocaine in bed next to her baby. Larger-than-life portraits of Osama bin Laden and Pablo Escobar line the walls. The central message of a traveling Drug Enforcement Administration exhibit unveiled at Chicago's Museum of Science and Industry yesterday is that terrorism and drugs are inextricably linked.
I find it telling that a key poster "consumer/funder" of drugs=terrorism is a poor African American mother not a rich white man who spends more on "recreational" drugs than many people make in an entire year. If the overt message is that terrorism and drugs are inextricably linked then the subtext says that non-caucasians are the missing link.

This image supports many stereotypes that feed into the hope that only people less deserving than us are seriously hooked on drugs or support crime through their drug use. Whatever we and ours do is somehow less harmful than what those people do.

We have excuses, those people have no excuse for what they do.

If they fail to meet our expectations, they are just confirming what we already knew about them so why worry if the schools they attend have enough funding to ensure they are functionally literate and why worry about giving them the same opportunities in their communities as we have in ours?

If a pregnant drug user got pregnant because of rape, we don't want to know about it since seeing her as a victim in any way (even as a victim of lack of viable opportunities) doesn't fit our preconceived model -- in this case as her being an underwriter of terrorism and so evil that she does drugs in a way that harms her child.

Neither do we want to know if drugs are this woman's way of attempting to cope with the trauma in her life. If we saw her as more than someone funding evil acts, we'd have no viable excuse for ignoring her plight or the plight of others like her. Helping people is the antithesis of war and can make it seem like we are forfeiting numerous battles.

I don't support legalization of illegal drugs, but do I oppose any get-tough-on-users (especially the poor and minority ones) strategy which neglects all the serious social issues which push people toward drug use.

But how would we fund this help? Wouldn't it be wrong to increase taxes to help people who may not be helpable?

From the Human Rights Watch
Since the mid 1980s, the United States has undertaken aggressive law enforcement strategies and criminal justice policies aimed at curtailing drug abuse. The costs and benefits of this national war on drugs are fiercely debated. What is not debatable, however, is its impact on black Americans. Ostensibly color blind, the war on drugs has been waged disproportionately against black Americans. Our research shows that blacks comprise 62.7 percent and whites 36.7 percent of all drug offenders admitted to state prison, even though federal surveys and other data detailed in this report show clearly that this racial disparity bears scant relation to racial differences in drug offending. There are, for example, five times more white drug users than black.
If the money spent on imprisoning the lowest level of drug users -- out of proportion with the reality of drug use -- was instead used to create and run programs that dealt with the causes of drug use and the cause of low level drug dealing, we could reduce the flow of drug money. Ironically, often it is cheaper to help people than it is to punish them.

Also if we viewed the failure of war-on-drugs programs as program failures rather than merely the failure of the individuals who didn't manage to get or stay clean, we wouldn't be such faint-hearted supporters of helping other people in a way that reduces the money that goes into the drug trade.

To see the contradictions in the war on drugs in one locale read: Green Bay Press Gazette: Statistics: Race plays part in drug arrests

The drug problem isn't their problem (whoever they are), it is ours and we need to take responsibility for our contribution to this problem.

Finally, when educating people on the deaths that can be caused by drug money, why doesn't the DEA focus as heavily on those who were murdered by white drug dealers and those who died from drugs mixed with lethal fillers?

Could it be that we don't see those victims as being as innocent as victims of random terrorism?

Technorati tags:
Bookmark and Share
posted by Marcella Chester @ 12:37 AM   1 comments links to this post


At August 20, 2006 11:33 AM, Blogger aahpat said...

That is an excellent point about the racism built into the semiotics of the DEA exhibit. It compliments this essay by former head of the ACLU Ira Glasser: Drug Busts=Jim Crow by Ira Glasser

The drug black market funding of terrorism issue, I believe, could and should be the common interest national security issue that should unite all America against the drug war.

My LeftIndependent blog offering on this topic:


Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home