Slavery in the 21st Century:

The Drug War Waged in the African-American Community

Clifford Thornton

"One of every four black men between the ages of 18-36 is under the jurisdiction of the criminal justice system; 94% of the drug felons in NY State prisons are people of color. Yet most black community leaders still support a continued effort of this failed policy in their neighborhoods."

I believe the war on drugs has been even more detrimental to American minority families, individuals,and culture than slavery. During and after the years of slavery, there was a great bond among African-Americans. There was love and respect for one another based on common experience. This brotherhood/sisterhood has sadly diminished in the last two decades.

The drug war is the insidious cause of the cultural retrogression. It has succeeded because minorities have embraced the war. The drug war (intended or not)is an ingenious "divide and conquer" scheme. It is so brilliant that most people support it as it tears society, freedom,and democracy apart.

The so-called "peace dividend", available at the end of the cold war, was immediately diverted to the drug war. Funds that should be used for urban renewal and educational programs are usedto fight the war, while schools literally crumble around the children.

We have gone into the poorest areas, taken help away, turned neighborhoods into battlefields, and put this big bright basket of goodies in the middle of the street, tempting children who see no hope in their futures. The big bright basket of drug dealing offers youngsters the things they otherwise will not attain. Then we tell them they must not touch, and have imposed terrible penalties for doing so. It is as if we have deliberately set these traps to destroy them.

The drug civil war has been an effective vehicle to brainwash the public through fear and intolerance. While people can see that it has made drug dealing ever more lucrative, they can't consider any alternative. It is obvious to many of us that the drug war is the root cause of violent gangs that terrorize inner city residents. In my neighborhood in my youth, there were drugs and dealers, but they did not use guns in their business. Unleashing police to wage war on Americans initiated the violence, causing dealers to begin to arm themselves and become increasingly violent against the cops and everyone else. The war mindset has permeated the way inner-city people think. During their entire lifetimes, they have seen violence as normal - and act it out with their dogs, their music, personal relationships, and their children.

Enlisting minority Americans to work as drug warriors makes them enemies of others. Families are broken apart by the drug war. Prison is accepted as a normal part of life for many minority young people - like military service.

The thinking that inflicting pain is the best way to teach people has seeped into the values of too many people. The culture of punishment has developed with and sustains the drug war. Even when it comes to the issue of crack vs. powder cocaine sentencing, most blacks will say that crack is so much worse,it deserves tougher sentences. They view crack users and dealers as traitors to their people.

Belief in neighborhood block watches seems to be growing, even after volunteers havebeenkilledon the streets. This is the results of the need for the illusion of control. This ispsychological control, reinforcing the "us" vs."them" attitude.

In the face of continued violence many people come to value security more than privacy or freedom. The mainstream media image of violent young minority males has exacerbated racism and interracial distrust, and pitted individuals against one another. Through our drug conrol strategies we have taught an entire generation to be abusive and disrespectful of the rights of others.

The stigma of drugs and the drug war's denigration of addicts,users and dealers has exacerbated intolerance. It is used by drug warriors and has become another divide and conquer device. Think of the "Partnership for a Drug-Free America" ads on TV in which dealers are compared to roaches that run from the light. Middle-class blacks are more and more insulated from poor blacks. It is a burgeoning new caste system within the race.

We must reap the bitter harvest others have sown - the harvest of exaggerated and growing race and class distrust, the harvest of fear and violence, the harvest of a lost generation - the American uncultured, displaced persons who are simply trying to survive in our cities the only ways they have learned to do so. These ways are contrary to the avenues to mainstream success.

The drug civil war has little to do with drugs. It is about controlling human beings - physically and morally.

The saddest thing about the drug war is that most minorities support it. They are aftaid of the "enemy" (drugs). What they don't see is that the problems associated with drug use are made worse by the mentality of the drug war. Because of the insidious nature of the war on drugs, inner-city people tend to cling to it as their only hope,while it is actually this modern day instrument of their destruction.

Cliff Thornton, retired businessman, is a spokesperson for ReconsiDer, and President of Efficacy, two organizations working on reform of current drug policy.

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