5 Ways The War On Drugs Has Always Been Racist As Hell

Sometimes medications can ruin lives, and sometimes they’re simply a fun Friday night. It’s a complicated subject, and we’re not going to take a side. We will, however, point out that a lot of so-called anti-drug endeavours which authorities have put together over the years have mostly been excuses to harass minorities. We’re talking about how …


White Employers Got Black Employees To Use Cocaine, Then Panicked About It

Cocaine used to be merely another food additive which could be found in everything from children’s ache medication to pop. You’d think its 1914 forbid would’ve come down to “Holy shit, we’re putting cocaine in everything , what the fuck is were we believing? It must have been all the … oh.” But while people were aware of the dangers of cocaine abuse among middle- and upper-class white Americans, that’s not why it was banned. Instead, lawmakers were driven by the early 20 th century equivalent of a racist chain email from your grandpa. There were stories of black Americans supposedly abusing cocaine, gaining superhuman strength, and using that strength to assault white men and sexually assault white women.

Wiki Commons
Use up precious cocaine earmarked for white children .

If you’re wondering what happened to the “black people gain drug-based superpowers and use them to commit crime” chapter of your history volume, then obvious spoiler alerting: It wasn’t really happening. What was happening was that cocaine use among black laborers was widespread. Its recreational use was tolerated, and sometimes white employers were explicitly giving it to their workers, in both cases since they are believed it would build the employees work harder. We, uh … we used to be pretty dumb when it came to drugs.

Somehow, the “let’s give our workers coke” strategy backfired, as ridiculous stories began to spread. In 1914, The New York Times operated an article claiming that “most of the attacks upon white women of the South are the direct outcome of the ‘cocaine-crazed’ Negro brain” and “Negro cocaine monsters are now a known Southern menace.” While “Negro Cocaine Fiends” would be a great ironic album title, there was, shockingly , no evidence of crazed black people running wild.

While widespread employ of cocaine likely wasn’t great for anyone’s disposition, “news” reports claimed that cocaine made black humen hallucinate tauntings and abuse, as well as gain incredible accuracy with firearms and immunity to bullet wounds which would stop or kill a sober man. Holy shit! Why wasn’t cocaine being used in secret supersoldier projects? Oh, right, because it was all bullshit. But the 1914 prohibition was passed anyway thanks to those myths, and not out of fact-based very concerned about the health risks of cocaine.( Because white people could handle their coke, goddammit !)

If you want a silver lining, the ban largely put a stop to lynchings of black humen based on the “We think he’s high on coke, so he likely raped someone or whatever” clause. It also, uh, fueled nasty, often lethal stereotypes about impoverished minorities and drugs for decades to come, but that’s something , right?


Banning Alcohol From Native American Reservations Has Its Roots In A Myth That They’re Genetically Unable To Handle Booze

Yeah, there’s a running tendency of white people guessing other people react differently to intoxicating substances. You may have heard the still-prevalent idea that the genes of Native Americans make them biologically prone to alcohol abuse. Supposedly, when Europeans introduced Natives to alcohol, their bodies didn’t know how to handle it and a tremendous cultural struggle with alcoholism ensued. No sir, it wasn’t the depression and trauma of watching their friends and family succumb while their culture and lifestyles were extinguished which contributed to alcohol abuse — it was biology! Not whitey’s defect, so deal with it.

William Faden
“After all, they did trade Manhattan for four six-packs.”

It is true that Native Americans experience problems with alcohol … at a rate equal to white people. But thanks to stereotypes, we tend to view alcoholism among Aborigines as a moral failing endemic to their culture, while an alcoholic white guy is some dude with a problem who doesn’t reflect on other white people. Aborigines do experience more alcohol-related health problems than whites, but that’s because as a group, they have inferior access to healthcare, healthy food, etc. — a number of problems which is a topic for a future wacky slapstick article.

For governing whites, prohibition laws on Native reservations were seen as a quick and easy route to address alcoholism. Natives can’t handle their booze, so cut them off and penalise the individuals who try to keep drinking. But Natives tended to see proscription as white people trying to force a solution on them … to address a problem which they also forced on them. It’s like if anyone smashed your vehicle window and then took away your driver’s license because they said you were a bad driver for letting your window get smashed.

But even if the root causes are horrible stereotypes, prohibition is still meant to help, right? It’s certainly an improvement from the days when laws against selling booze to Aborigines were lifted so settlers could turn a tidy benefit from alcohol abuse. But “meant” is the keyword there. If you treat Native American alcohol abuse as a unique and more desperate problem than it is among other people, you generate brand-new problems. Stereotypes about Aborigines and alcoholism can build them too embarrassed to seek medical treatment, and it can also lead to Natives who have never touched a drink in their lives getting rejected from undertakings. Hey, do you think those various kinds of bullshit economic penalties might contribute to alcohol abuse?