War on Drugs or War on People?

Ashley Jones-Quaidoo, Contributing Writer

How can our government wage a war on its own people? Hidden from our eyes and right under our noses, there is a war going on here in the United States. Last night I watched the documentary “The House I Live In.” Initially, I looked at the screening as just another requirement for my class, but in the end it meant much more than that. Our government and law enforcement agencies are systematically committing genocide in a war on class and race while perpetuating a vicious cycle of drug use and dealing in our country. However, this is not only hidden from us, but also from the rest of the world. We are too busy policing the world and helping other countries with their issues that we fail to take care of our own issues.

Eugene Jarecki’s, “The House I Live In,” takes a look at the “War on Drugs,” Since the 1970s when former President Richard Nixon took a stand against drugs more than $1 trillion has been spent on combating the drug problem in the United States, yet the situation remains unchanged. We have a problem. Nixon attempted to fix it by plunging the majority of the money into treatment, but unfortunately it did not work. The money that went into aiding law enforcement to counter the illicit drugs failed to eradicate the problem—drugs cannot be eliminated from society because the problem is too big. No matter how much money is put into the War on Drugs, drugs will never be completely eliminated because they drive our economy. The money generated from our drug epidemic sustains the law enforcement agencies.

When police officers go into African-American and blue-collar communities fishing for suspected drug offenders, they aggravate the problem. Look for an African-American man standing on the corner and pay attention to the car with the dark tinted windows that has been sitting in the parking lot of the local gas station for too long, the police officers say. In the documentary, one of the subjects, a New Mexico town sheriff, openly admitted that all officers have to profile in order to get the job done. It is not fair to the young African-American or Hispanic men who are automatically put into a situation where they are associated with gangs, drugs, and incarceration. Not only do law enforcement agencies profile, but they also compete with one another for locking up the most “offenders.” At the end of the month when officers report their arrest they are not worried about reasons behind arrest. Rather, they are worried about the number of people they arrested. An officer who arrested 30 people on drug related charges would most likely get promoted to sergeant before the officer who arrested five people on drug related charges. This is disturbing. These are the very same men and women who are supposed to protect us.

But when they go into neighborhoods and arrest drug offenders they begin a vicious cycle. The law is taking mothers and fathers away from their children, leaving them to the streets. The young boy whose father is taken away for 20 years and is left with his single mother takes on the responsibility of caring for his family and possibly turning to the streets to do so. If they need quick money or have no guidance, they often turn to drugs. It should not be this way. I’m not saying that drug offenders are right, but why inflict more pain and potential drug use amongst a community?

It is not fair that a person charged with manslaughter can receive less time than a drug offender. The two crimes do not compare. When a person who has five grams of crack can receive five years of prison time and a person with 500 grams of cocaine can receive the same amount of time, we have a problem. This is systematic genocide and class destruction at its best. If you go into a community and take away liberties and property, people begin to feel hopeless, diving deeper into their obsessions. Tear apart their communities and throw members into prison camps where they’re left for many years or even worse to die. This is subtle genocide. The system prevents offenders from teaching future generations about their mistakes and the cycle continues. The law is not getting rid of the problem; it is getting rid of a class and of a race. It is a new form of Jim Crow.

We need to get rid of the police brutality, dirty politics, and the harsh laws, which is easier said than done. It will take lawyers and politicians from within our own communities to change the system. The law only works for the majority and misrepresents the minority. We need to educate ourselves and become engaged in the fields of law and politics to affect change. We need to stop protesting and run for public office. We need to become lawyers and judges and make the decisions. It is time for change and it is time for fairness.

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