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How the War on Drugs Gave Birth to a Permanent American Undercaste

Interpretation, Breakdown, and Reaction to Michelle Alexander's "The New Jim Crow..."

Evan Kirkman

on 21 February 2011

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Transcript of How the War on Drugs Gave Birth to a Permanent American Undercaste

How the War on Drugs Gave Birth to a
Permanent American Undercaste Discussion, reaction and interpretation
of Michelle Alexander's "The New Jim Crow..." Biographical Background Rundown of the read Reactions, interpretations. Food for thought context Race and gender discrimination
Crime and Race
Civil Rights Advocacy/Litigation
•Has degrees from both Vanderbilt University and Stanford Law School•2005 Recipient of Soros Justice Fellowship•Holds joint appointment at Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity at Ohio State University •Served as director of Racial Justice Project for the ACLU in Northern California•Directed Civil Rights Clinics at Stanford Law School •Former law clerk for Justice Harry Blackmun•Has appeared as a commentator on CNN, MSNBC, NPR, and PBS How did you feel reading this essay? What does Alexander mean when she says that our society is "colorblind"? Is prison a good solution to the drug problem in America? How has the war on drugs affected the family structure? How do you feel the media portrays the drug problem in regards to race? Do you think federal funding should be distributed differently amongst agencies? Are there any other areas in society in which you think people are discriminated against based on race?  (Modeling/Fashion Week) What needs to be done in order for people to break out of this "permanent American undercaste"? Should the legality of drugs be handled by the state govt as opposed to the federal govt? •This section of the book goes over the history of the war on drugs.•Also looks at how we stand as a nation in regards to our drug use.•The racial discrimination that goes on within the justice system. President Ronald Reagan • Officially declared the War on Drugs in 1982
• Drug use was in decline at this point in time.
• Used as an excuse to bolster support from voters who were threatened by desegregation, busing, and affirmative action.
Nixon’s Chief of Staff H.R. Haldeman said, “The whole problems is really the blacks. The key is to devise a system that recognizes this while not appearing to.” • When crack came onto the scene the Reagan administration started a smear campaign showing pictures of crack babies, crack mothers, crack whores and drug-related violence.
• The media went crazy with this for the next decade or so and congress spent billions on the drug war and passed mandatory minimums. How It Stands Now • Currently, there are more African Americans in prison or jail, on probation, or on parole that there were slaves 10 years before the civil war.
• In 2004 more African American men are not allowed to vote than when the 15th amendment (giving everyone the right to vote despite race) was ratified in 1870. • African American children are less likely to be raised by both parents now than children born during slavery.
• Since the 1982, the prison population has gone from 300,000 to 2 million.
• Drug offenses account for two thirds of federal inmate population and more than half of state inmate populations. • Police almost exclusively sweep poor, minority neighborhoods even though drug usage is just as prevalent in white neighborhoods.
• Some studies have shown that white youth are more likely to deal than black youth.
• Buoyed by the fact that three times as many white kids wind up in hospitals due to drugs than black kids. • Agencies receive money for amount of arrests made, not bringing down the kingpins.
• Drug forfeiture laws allow state and local law enforcement to keep 80% of cash, cars, and homes seized from drug suspects to use as they please.
• 4 out of 5 drug arrests are for possession alone.
• In the 90’s, 80% of the increased arrests were for marijuana possession. Points of interest "Triumph over race" facade "racial caste is alive and well in america" The most telling stat is that as of 2004, more African-American men were disenfranchised than in 1870. The people who have the most power have done the most to hurt this country in terms of equality. eG: reagan and clinton administrations. These people in positions of authority have historically made convenient excuses in attempt to justify their actions. "it has nothing to do with race; it's all about violent crime" Kick them while they're down mentality Bill Clinton's administration banned drug felons (no matter how minor the offense) from public housing, basic public benefits, food stamps, etc. Essentially making discrimination legal if you're a felon. Much of black progress
is a myth Nearly a quarter of African Americans live below the poverty line today, approximately the same percentage as in 1968.
The black child poverty rate is actually higher now than it was then.
Unemployment rates in black communities rival those in Third World Countries. As a group we felt that Michelle Alexander was very bold and passionate in her writing. She was very determined to get her point across, which was evident by just how straight forward she was. As a country we’ve fought for equality, yet racism is still a major issue. Inequality, unfairness, and stereotyping are still common practice in the American mainstream. Alexander did not try to sugar-coat this issue, she wants the reader to feel sick to their stomach with guilt in hopes that it will get things done. She brings up good points when comparing white youth to black youth; how white kids are just as likely to deal, and possibly more likely to do drugs (made even more probable by the fact that three times as many white kids wind up in the emergency room due to drugs than black kids). One thing that really stood out to us was the quote that Alexander used by Nixon’s chief of staff, “The whole problem is really the blacks”
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