Racism and the drug war

Carl Hart has an outstanding piece in The Nation: How the Myth of the ‘Negro Cocaine Fiend’ Helped Shape American Drug Policy

He talks about some of the early demonization:

The author, a distinguished physician, wrote: “[The Negro fiend] imagines that he hears people taunting and abusing him, and this often incites homicidal attacks upon innocent and unsuspecting victims.” And he continued, “the deadly accuracy of the cocaine user has become axiomatic in Southern police circles…. the record of the ‘cocaine nigger’ near Asheville who dropped five men dead in their tracks using only one cartridge for each, offers evidence that is sufficiently convincing.”

Cocaine, in other words, made black men uniquely murderous and better marksmen. But that wasn’t all. It also produced “a resistance to the ‘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.’”

Hart goes on to talk about how this racism wasn’t limited to days gone by, but has continued as an integral part of our drug war all the way to today.

This, of course, is no surprise to regulars here, but it’s good to see this piece in The Nation as a reminder.

Lately, I’ve seen some commentary online that seems to be attempting to say that legalization in general is bad for African-Americans, and that the fact that the majority of people in the legalization movement are white is proof of self-interest. However, we know that the racism that has been involved in the drug war has also served to feed the circular desire for “law and order” that fuels prohibition in the inner cities.

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