Race, Drugs, And The Criminal Justice System Essay

Race, Drugs, And The Criminal Justice System Essay

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Race, Drugs, and the Criminal Justice System
In February 1914, the New York Times published an article titled “Negro Cocaine ‘Fiend’ New Southern Menace”, this article claimed that black men addicted to cocaine were “uniquely murderous”, “better marksmen”, and “resistant to fatal wounds” (Williams). Unsurprisingly this article wasn’t the only one of its kind. During the late 1800’s there were many articles written about the exaggerated effects of cocaine usage that were used to justify the lynching of black men and eventually went on to influence narcotic legislation (Hart). Narcotics from some of their earliest appearances have been blamed to cause certain neurobiological and behavioral effects in certain minority groups despite the claims being completely untrue and totally bizarre. For the Chinese it was opium law, for blacks it was cocaine and for Mexicans it was marijuana. Over 100 years after the “Negro Cocaine Fiend” myth, not just blacks but all people of color are disproportionally targeted when it comes to narcotic based regulation and their following collateral consequences.
On November 25th, 1875 the San Francisco Board of Supervisors successfully passed the nations first anti-drug law. The law made it illegal to keep or frequent opium dens and was specifically targeted at the large post-Gold Rush Chinese population in San Francisco at the time. This law made the medical opium that the whites were smoking perfectly legal and successfully deepened the anti-Chinese sentiment sweeping the nation. The Chinese people smoking opium were classified as “vicious and depraved” people who were violating the rights of others (Gieringer). A majority of drug banning “movements” that followed were more or less targeted at specific r...


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... and then that crutch becoming the same thing that hurts them in the long run. While collateral consequences are found at any type of felony charges, drug related charges no matter what degree are taken very seriously. Taking into consideration that people of color are disproportionately targeted when it comes to drug convictions, these collateral consequences impact people of color much more severely than it would a white American.
140 years after the first anti-drug law was passed to protect white women from Chinese men strung out on opium, narcotic based legislation has only expanded to target other racial minorities. The War of Drugs has turned into a War on People of Color, a War on the Poor, and a War on the Institutionally Disadvantaged. Without a call to action, like a modern day Civil War, there seems to be no end in sight. The war only continues to wage on.

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