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Summary of Michelle Alexander 's “Drug War Nightmare”

ENG 112
Professor DiTommaso
Homework Sheet – Alexander, Love, Day, Swenson
Name: Courage Agbanyo
Directions: Please answer the questions below about the articles that you read for homework this
week. (15 points each)
1. What does Michelle Alexander argue in “Drug War Nightmare?” Do you agree with her?
Why or why not? (Note: This was the reading assignment from last week)
Drug-related problems exist in many countries. America’s Drug War has become a nightmare
that is never ending. In her article, “Drug War Nightmare,” Alexander argues that racial caste
is alive and well in America. She claims that from the beginning, the Drug War had little to do
with genuine concern about drug addiction or the harms of drug abuse and much to do with
racial politics. She continues that the Drug War was a part of a grand Republican Party’s
strategy called the Southern strategy of using racially coded, get-tough appeals on issues of
crime and welfare to appeal to poor and working-class whites particularly in the south who
were anxious about, resentful of, and fearful of many of the gains of the Civil Rights Movement.
The Republican Party’s main aim was to win southern blue states. She writes, “In the words of
H. R. Haldeman, President Richard Nixon’s White House Chief of Staff: ‘The whole problem
is really the blacks. The key is to devise a system that recognizes this while not appearing to’”
(Alexander 343). Today, America’s War on Drug is being used as a camouflage to force people
of color under a caste. I agree with Alexander that racial caste is alive and well in America.
I thought that I have acquired some knowledge on America’s racial past, but Alexander’s article
enlightened me much more. It is true that we have come a long way since the emancipation
proclamation was ratified. We have had a Black President and thanks to the affirmative action,
many blacks are gaining admissions into Ivy league universities and taking up chief executive
officer positions, but compared to the era of slavery, we are not better off. Today, “there are
more African-American adults under correctional control than were enslaved in 1850”
(Alexander 342). When these people get out detention, the criminal justice system which is
supposed to integrate them into society rather label them as felons and push them under a caste
away from society for the rest of their lives. Thus, they become second class citizens and
suddenly, the law allows all forms of discrimination against them. They have their basic human
rights taken away from them. For example, they cannot get financial aid to go to school. They
cannot get jobs to earn wages neither can they get food stamps to feed themselves nor access
public housing. For these felons, living conditions are worse than it was for their great
grandparents in the slavery era. This is indeed a recurring nightmare.
2. “13th” argues that there is a link between American slavery and the prison system in the
United States, particularly the mass incarceration of people of color. What do you think?
Do you agree with the argument made in “13th?” What do you think are the causes of mass
incarceration? (Note: This documentary was assigned last week)
This is so horrific. I feel so sad watching this documentary. The history of the United States
is one that has been filled with several episodes of hatred towards minority groups,
camouflaged and perpetrated in diverse forms. According to history, the very first slaves
to arrive in the United States were not treated with the kinds of prejudice and harsh law
and order we have witnessed recently. Soon, some former slaves began owning property
and could also own slaves. Then out of greed and fear of losing control, some white slave
owners developed what has become this inter-generational plague we see today.
The prison system, particularly mass incarceration of people of color in the United States
is the new form of slavery. To this day, people of color are yet to have experienced the
emancipation proclaimed over one hundred and fifty years ago. Prisoners are used today
to render free or cheap labor for big corporations just like slaves were used in the past. The
kind of exploitation slaves endured are prevailing in prisons today. People of color continue
to die inside prisons and on the streets on daily basis because of that same old 17th century
hatred theme. This documentary exposes how politicians enact policies aimed at
suppressing minority groups by discussing mass incarceration and the history that
produced it. They needed to keep a generation of poor people so that minority groups would
not compete with them. How? They segregated us, mass incarcerated us, kill us daily, and
continue to deny us access to opportunities to develop. Enough! We have had enough of
slavery and colonization which continue even today. The prison system is the new form of
slavery we have today.
The American dream is a myth. Freedom has nothing to do with liberty. This is a jungle.
Thanks to Martin Luther King Jr. and other activists who championed this cause. I am
afraid but I will step out anyway. My role in this fight is to take the opportunity I get today
and obtain a good education to be better placed to save future generations. It is a one-way
road and there is no going back.
3. According to Maryann Cusimano Love in “Race in America,” what are some of the inequities
of the past that still exist today?
I agree with state Senator Henry Marsh’s view that in order to have a meaningful anniversary
celebration of all the good things that came out Jamestown, everyone ought to be happy. This
is because Jamestown is both the birthplace of America and the place where slavery started.
While descendants of slave owners continue to flourish in affluence and surrounded by
unlimited opportunities, the descendants of slaves are living in cages with centuries old pains.
According to Love in “Race in America,” some of the inequities of the past that still exist today
include poor health care system, housing, education, and criminal justice systems. She notes
that mortality rates among African-Americans is on the rise with many living in poverty and
have lower life expectancies than white Americans by six or seven years. This is due to health
care system inequalities. She also criticizes the fact that students are not taught Black history in
High school. Today, partialities are commonly displayed in legal matters between Blacks and
Whites. Income differences also exits based on skin colors of laborers who have the same
4. According to Elizabeth Day in “Black Lives Matter,” what caused Alicia Garza to start the
Black Lives Matter movement?
According to Day in “Black Lives Matter,” the acquittal verdict following the trial of George
Zimmerman, a white man who shot dead Trayvon Martin, a young black man caused Alicia
Garza to start the Black Lives Matter movement online. Garza developed a special interest in
this trial because she “…had a younger brother of a similar height and build to Martin. She felt
it could just as easily have been him” (Day).
On hearing the verdict, Garza felt extremely helpless and angry. She wrote one Facebook post
which was shared by her friend, Patrisse Cullors under the signature #blacklivesmatter that
sparked a series of online posts. This gave birth to the Black Lives Matter movement. Thanks
to digital activists such as Garza, Mckesson, Rose and others, fatalities can longer be ignored.
Online activism has ensured that institutions, groups, and media houses can no longer hide any
facts. All forms of brutalities are now capture and shared live by freelance journalists.
5. According to Kyle Swenson’s “We Didn’t Do it for You,” why did Doug Jones (a Democrat)
beat Roy Moore (a Republican) for Senate in the historically Republican state of Alabama?
Swenson’s “We Didn’t Do it for You” points to the fact we can get the result we want when we
take the action required. Even further, it reveals that though the state of Alabama is historically
Republican, there can be no victory if the republicans do not put in their votes. As Swenson
puts it, Doug Jones (a Democrat) beat Roy Moore (a Republican) for Senate in the historically
Republican state of Alabama because of the “strong showing … of … black women.” He writes,
“98 percent of black women voted for Jones, with 93 percent of black men turning up for the
candidate” (Swenson). That was almost a hundred percent turnout. If registered voters will turn
out in such numbers in all elections, then election results can accurately reflect the desires of
the people.
Another reason Jones beat Moore was that black people in Alabama were tired of being
suppressed by the state in many areas of their lives, so they wanted a change. By coming out in
their numbers to vote and give Jones victory, they were equally saying that Jones should work
hard to ease their burden of persecution. This was what Dulce Sloan meant by, “we didn’t do it
for you, we did it for ourselves. … So … change the laws making it easier for us to vote”
(Swenson). But it is not so easy. It takes many Jones’ to bring about changes in laws.
6. What did you think of these readings and the documentary? Which one did you like best and
I like the 13th the most because it seems to throw more light on all the readings. From the “Drug
War,” to “Race in America,” to “#Black Lives Matter,” to Doug Jones’ election victory in “We
Didn’t Do it for You,” one gets a better sense of the history behind the woes of people of color
in the 13th. It gives meaningful details which help me to better understand the other readings.
Even though I read pieces of the information covered in this documentary, watching it brought
the sudden realization that it has been over one hundred and fifty years but we, people of color
are yet to have experienced the emancipation proclaimed. And that freedom has nothing to do
with liberty. Limitations still exist for us black people in what they can or cannot do in America.