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Drug War Nightmare
Recently, I read an article called “Drug War Nightmare: How We Created a Massive
Racial Caste System in America”, which is written by Michelle Alexander who is an
associate professor at the Moritz College of Law and the Kirwan Institute for the study of
race and Ethnicity at Ohio State University, a civil rights advocate and writer. Alexander
writes about how the war on drugs ended up creating a new Jim Crow. Her Purpose is to
convey that the “war on drugs” has created a new racial caste system in America by putting
harsh punishments on minor crimes like possession and the police only targeting lowincome black communities. Alexander makes three claims: one is that African Americans
comprise 80% to 90% of all drug offenders sent to prison. The second claim is that there is
more African American adults under correctional control today than there were slaves
back in the 1850s. Lastly the third claim is African Americans are getting heavy life
sentences for minor crimes like possession and how even though white people are uses just
as much drugs or even more the police still focus their target in black communities.
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Alexander starts her argument by saying that Obama becoming president doesn’t
mean America has become a nation where everyone is treated equally and that we finally
“triumph over race.” And how that there is an undeniable message embedded after
Obama’s appearance on the world stage: this is what freedom looks like; this is what
democracy can do for you. If you are poor, marginalized, or relegated to an inferior caste,
there is hope for you (Alexander 341). Alexander says that that these are all lies and that
the racial caste is alive and well in America.
Alexander continues by listing out what some of the problems that are facing
African Americans today: More African Americans in jail than there were slave back in the
1850s; More African American men were disenfranchised than in the 1870s (the year the
Fiftieth Amendment was ratified which prohibit to deny the right to vote by the basis of
race); A black child born today is less likely to be raised by both parents than a black child
born into slavery; and lastly she states that a large majority of African American men are
labeled felons for life for small crimes which means that they can be denied the right to
vote, automatically excluded from juries, and be legally discriminated against in
employment, housing, access to education, and public benefits (342).
Alexander than explains that the colorblind explanation given by the government
and media are just a façade. The uncomfortable truth is that the main reason for the high
imprison rates is the “war on drugs” coined by President Richard Nixon, but was turned
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into an actual reality by Ronald Reagan in order to win the votes of poor and working class
white citizens who did not like desegregation, busing, and affirmative action (343).
She than goes by stating that the police force is targeting low-income black
communities arresting anyone related to drugs and giving out harsh punishments, worse
than other countries’ punishment for murder, even if its only possession. She also states
that white youth are just as more likely as black youth if not more likely to do drugs but yet
they’re not as targeted by police to scope out and forcefully make arrest as they do in black
communities.
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Work Cited
Alexander, Michelle. “Drug War Nightmare: How We Created a Massive Racial Caste System
in America.” Writing in Response, edited by Matthew Parfitt, Bedford/St. Martins,
2016. pp. 341–345.
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