Decades of Systematic Oppression, Mass Incarceration, Racial Tension and the War on Drugs.
In the political documentary, the 13th, the film exposes the truth involving the mass incarceration and criminalization of African Americans through the end of the civil war up until the turn of the century.
Violence against African Americans has been a distinct part of our economic and political system that has built and maintained a labor of division and injustice in the United States. Since President Nixon was elected into office, the United States created a reported “war on drugs.” The war on drugs was a sensationalized campaign evoked by new office members like Clinton and Ronald Reagan as a platform to help keep communities safer, reduce violence and incarcerate criminals who were dangerous to society.
When in reality, the war on drugs has continued to be a political campaign that has helped build an economic industry of violence, prejudice, and criminalization against African Americans in the United States.
Social unrest and racial tension have existed in America for many years. Throughout history, institutional oppression and structuralized racism have been a relevant method for maintaining social control and dominance over the African American community. Records of methods used to control African Americans dates back to Colonial Virginia. “In order to maintain power among the people of African descent, oppression and internal colonialism emerged through legislative actions by the Virginia House of Burgesses in 1692 to institutionalize slavery” (Seabrook, Wyatt-Nichol, 2016).
In the documentary, there is a clear investigation into how slavery in the United States is necessary for understanding the foundational racial oppression of African Americans in our current political landscape. Through a historical understanding of how our country has continually used tactics of manipulation, abuse and deceit to keep African Americans disempowered through reconstruction, Jim Crow, Civil Right, and Civil Disobedience to the newly imposed form of cultural domination of embedded racism in the criminal justice system. The documentary sets the stage for how the war on drugs is, in fact, a continued method of oppression against African American communities.
The war on drugs as a weapon of violence against African American communities
The documentary gives voice to the massive enforcement of laws criminalizing personal drug use and possession of drugs in the United States causing devastating harm to individuals lives. Enforcement and increased criminalization of drug usages in African American communities ruin individual and family lives; discriminate against people with color and undermine public health. The documentary takes a stand on showcasing the societal consequences of not decriminalizing the personal use and possession of illicit drugs.
In the 196-page report, “Every 25 Seconds: The Human Toll of Criminalizing Drug Use in the United States,” there is clear evidence that the enforcement of drug possession laws causes extensive and life-threatening damage to individuals across the country. The long-term consequences of the criminalization of drugs in these communities can separate families; exclude people from job opportunities, welfare assistance, public housing, and voting; not to mention, can also incriminate and expose the individuals to a lifetime of discrimination and stigma.
However, the problem is that drug discrimination in America is a clear replicated pattern of discrimination against African American lives. During the 1980s – 1990s, harder enforcement for criminalization became a huge political concern for white communities around America. The war on drugs: was never a genuine public health concern but what Michelle Alexander characterizes as “the New Jim Crow.”
In the 1980s the invention of crack cocaine was administered into Black communities and was even backed by the CIA. This event has been denoted as “one of the most bizarre alliances in modern history, the union of a U.S. backed attempt to overthrow a revolutionary socialist government and the Uzi-toting ‘gangsters’ of Compton and South-Central Los Angeles.” The aforementioned quote is in reference to accusations brought forth by investigative journalist Gary Webb against the United States’ Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and its role in smuggling illegal contraband to fund an army named, ironically enough, the Contras. Several presidential administrations would later wage a war on drugs, and despite the proclaimed purpose, seemed to only adversely affect the very same African American community it knowingly allowed the filtration of drugs into.
Racial Profiling and Criminalization
The consequences of the “war on drugs,” officially declared by President Richard Nixon in 1971, has come to refer to police practices that involve stopping and searching people who fit the “profile” of drug users or couriers on the nation’s highways, buses, trains, and planes; saturation of particular neighborhoods (almost entirely low-income communities of color) with law enforcement officers charged with finding drugs in any quantity through widespread “stop and frisk” activities; no-knock warrants, surveillance, undercover operations, and highly militarized drug raids conducted by SWAT teams.
Racial profiling perpetuates negative stereotypes of black males as “criminals,” “aggressive” or “dangerous.”
“Many African-Americans contend that the issue of stereotyping them as criminal defendants and then disaggregating them out from other racial groups for discriminatory treatment by police officers is commonplace and, in essence, the price for being Black in America” (Joseph 2003).
The cause and effect of these laws have created an entire system of incarcerated African American populations whose faces have not only been sensationalized as “criminals” but have also endured the long-suffering of racial prejudice and unfair treatment against law enforcement officials. Not to mention, the sensualization of African American men as criminals has increased civil violence against African Americans.
“This is America:” A Real Exposition into violence against African Americans in the U.S.
In his recent music video, Childish Gambino, a Grammy-winning alias of Donald Glover, has seen a viral explosion all over social media. But why is this video so poignant in American media? The video opens with a smiling and happy shirtless Gambino as he dances in a very light-hearted rhythmic fashion to a very light-hearted tune; however, as the video continues you can see that the image of a very “happy” facade is juxtaposed with him shooting a hooded black man in the head and gunning down a black choir.
The chorus sings: “Yeah, this is America/ Guns in my area/ I got the strap/ I gotta carry ’em.”
Within the song, there is a very clear and creative message being conveyed: Gun violence in America is a racial issue.
As a society accepting the normalization of gun violence against racial minorities is not only a social injustice but a disempowering narrative we’re passing down from generation to generation.
According to Live Free, a gun violence non-profit, “THERE ARE ALMOST 12,000 GUN MURDERS PER YEAR IN THE U.S. (MORE THAN THE ANNUAL DEATH TOLL OF U.S. SOLDIERS DURING THE VIETNAM WAR) AND THEY ARE THE LEADING CAUSE OF DEATH FOR AFRICAN-AMERICAN MALES AND THE SECOND LEADING CAUSE OF DEATH FOR LATINO MALES, AGES 18-34.”
Since of the deaths of individuals like Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Eric Garner, and a continued tally of unarmed African American men who have died in “officer-involved shootings,” it is clear that America is experiencing the violent consequences of an unprocessed history of racial tension, which is poignantly examined by the Black Lives Matter Movement. However, over the countless of areas and faculties we’ve employed for the restitution of this tumultuous political landscape, we do not always consider drugs to be a planted weapon against the African American people.