Day 5 of White History Month: The War on Drugs - Racist Origins of Drug Policy
[Images: New York Times: February 8, 1914, ”The Mascot” New Orleans, August 3, 1889, The Ogden Standard: September 25, 1915, Washington Post: March 8, 1896], ACLU, “The War on Marijuana in Black and White" (pdf)]
“Reefer makes darkies think they’re as good as white men” – Harry J. Anslinger
"Most marijuana smokers are Negroes, Hispanics, jazz musicians, and entertainers. Their satanic music is driven by marijuana, and marijuana smoking by white women makes them want to seek sexual relations with Negroes, entertainers, and others. It is a drug that causes insanity, criminality, and death — the most violence-causing drug in the history of mankind."- Harry J. Anslinger
"Anglo-American women having intimate relations with unknown Chinese laborers and vice operators bordered on the unthinkable. Songs about just such events existed during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. For example, in “Chung Hi Lo and Mary,” a young white woman, Mary, entered Chung Hi Lo’s opium den out of curiosity. There “he slipped her a ring, a golden thing” and quickly addicted her to opium." - Diana Ahmad, The Opium Debate and Chinese-Exclusion Laws in the American West
The history of criminalization of drugs in the United States has racist origins. While drugs are undeniably harmful, recreational drugs were tolerated for much of U.S. history. Linking Chinese Americans, Black Americans, and Latin@ (particularly Mexican) Americans to drug use served dual purposes: further justification for racist demonization and the creation of moral panics to outlaw drug use. Drug use was commonly linked to the white fear that men of color would “seduce” and have children with white women.
In the 1900s, the temperance movement and Progressive drug reformers did not seek to spread the nature of the typical drug addict of the time – a middle-aged, middle-class white woman in a rural area who obtained drugs from a physician. Instead, drug users were depicted as Chinese, Black, or Mexican. Today, race is still inseparable from drug policy and the War on Drugs.
Opium and Chinese-Americans
Opium had been imported and used by white Americans for many years. In 1803 morphine was discovered, and in 1853 the hypodermic syringe was invented, increasing its popularity. Morphine and laudanum (a tincture of opium) were often abused by white Americans. In 1874, Felix Hoffman discovered heroin and in 1898 Bayer began to sell it. Heroin was marketed it as a pain medicine, cough suppressant, and morphine substitute.
The first anti-opium laws – and first drug laws in the United States - targeted Chinese immigrants in the 1870s. Opium-smoking was largely practiced by Chinese-Americans, while white Americans instead used morphine and laudanum – which were not outlawed by these laws.
Chinese-American men were said to “lure” white women to opium dens in Chinatown. Chinese immigrants have largely been portrayed as a threat to Western values and mores. Smoking-opium was stretched as a rationable to demonize Chinese immigrants. Opium was linked to stereotypes of Yellow Peril (opium was said to corrupt white Americans and disrupt the American way) and Perpetual Foreigner (opium was seen as incompatible with Christian life, rendering Chinese Americans unassimilable). Eliminating opium was even used as justification to restrict (and eventually stop) Chinese immigration.
Cocaine and Black Americans
The first anti-cocaine laws targeted Black men in the Southern US in the 1900s. Cocaine became associated with Black Americans, who were said to commit horrible crimes under the influence of cocaine (as well as marijuana).
Later, the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986 created the large disparity – of 100 to one - between powder cocaine and crack cocaine sentencing guidelines. This meant that it would 1000 grams of cocaine to obtain the same sentence for 10 grams of crack cocaine. It was not until the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010 that the 100:1 weight ratio was reduced to 18:1 - meaning that it takes 180 grams of cocaine to obtain the same sentence as for 10 grams of crack cocaine.
Of course, crack cocaine was also more widely used by Black Americans. Black Americans were also far more likely to distribute crack cocaine than powder cocaine.
One reason given by Congress for the disparity included pregnant women consuming crack cocaine during pregnancy (resulting in so-called “crack babies”). The epidemic of “Crack Babies” was associated with Black. Pregnant women who used drugs were convicted of delivering drugs to a minor. In reality, the development of these children had less to do with crack cocaine and much to do with other circumstances. The Maternal Lifestyle Study found that - after controlling for other factors - crack cocaine and cocaine had no significant effect on behavioral problems. Observed differences were dependent on other mediating variables such as prenatal care and the environment in which children were raised, but the Reagan administration was more focused instead on rolling back assistance for poor mothers.
The Reagan administration’s obsessive focus on cocaine took place while the CIA was involved in drug trafficking and complicit in the dealing of cocaine to poor Black communities in the United States.
Marijuana: Mexican and Black Americans
Cannabis was grown since European settlers arrived in the United States. Founders such as Thomas Jefferson and George Washington grew and used cannabis. In the early 1800s, hemp was the second most produced crop after cotton. It was an extremely labor-intensive crop – the slave labor of Black Americans was necessary for its production. The ending of formal slavery (and free labor) made it less profitable as a crop. Until moral panic hit in the early 1900s, cannabis was still prescribed for many medical conditions.
The timing of this moral panic is relevant: it coincided with both the Mexican Revolution of 1910 and the popularity of jazz.
After the Mexican Revolution, Mexican immigrants brought marijuana with them to the United States. Marijuana was said to make Mexican immigrants commit violent acts of crime. During the Great Depression, reports emerged that connected marijuana use with violent crime and social deviance. Soon after the Mexican revolution, marijuana spread to New Orleans and became popular in the jazz scene. Jazz musicians often were paid with marijuana and alcohol for their performances. Additionally, many jazz musicians used marijuana recreationally.
Harry J. Anslinger - the first commisioner of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics - was largely responsible for racist themes linking marijuana use to Black and Mexican Americans - particularly emphasizing the fear of racial mixing with white women.
Today, long after the days of Anslinger, there are large racial disparities in the penalties for marijuana possession (among other racial disparities in the criminal justice system).
Reblogging only for that gif
this needs to be in every art history books in 10 years
THIS IS THE FUNNIEST THING I HAVE EVER SEEN
Jennifer about the fans
#her bodyguard tho
"You all need jesus."
You do not owe shit to anyone.
Especially not to those who claim you do.
You deserve to pursue your own happiness.
Even if it means you’ll have to disappoint people.
You deserve to be loved.
You deserve to respect yourself more than anyone else.
You deserve to care for yourself more than for anyone else.
You are your own person and noone, I repeat, no-fucking-one is allowed to tell you otherwise or to make you feel bad about doing all of the above.
Back in 2013, Texas resident Larry Davis ran either a red light or stop sign (reports vary) in his Buick in the city of Austin. Despite his insistence that he had had only one drink, he was put in handcuffs and arrested for driving while intoxicated. Then, when he was given a Breathalyzer test by the Austin Police Department, he blew a 0.00. Nonetheless, as KVUE reports, Mr. Davis spent the night in jail.
While at the station, Mr. Davis agreed to give a blood sample as well, to prove he was not under the influence of any drugs or alcohol. The results would later come back 100% negative. Davis’ attorney, Daniel Betts, told KVUE, “My reaction was just shock that this happened.”
The Austin Police Department stands by the arrest, saying they believed Davis showed signs of impairment, that while standing on one leg, he “swayed,” and “needed his arms for balance.” They also suggested that he could have been on marijuana, a drug that wouldn’t necessarily show up in a test. The APD said they’re going by a “take-no-chances” policy. That being said, they did acknowledge how unusual it is that Davis was arrested despite registering a zero on his breath test.
they ain’t even trying to hide they shit anymore
You’re fucking kidding me right now
Pretty heartbreaking. These beautiful and bright students deserve so much better. Above I included some of the photographs (there’s many more) of Black women who are students there because I think it’s important to point out how racism is not only impacting Whites’ perception of their intelligence but also how White people approach their appearance as well, in gender-specific ways. This is heartbreaking to me albeit not surprising. The myth that working hard = happy payoff is a fairy tale. Racism is ubiquitous.
I really wish them the best with their education and the ability to navigate these microaggressions and overt acts of racism. This stuff increases stereotype threat and impacts mental health and health which impacts performance. I want the best for them. Much love. ❤