Thursday, December 22, 2016

Racial Disparities in the Drug War and the Election of Donald Trump

This semester, several of my students did research papers on the Drug War and police strategies used to pursue it. In all these papers, one point got across loud and clear-- that policing and incarcerating Black people in numbers disproportionate to their involvement in criminal activity, benefited many people who weren't directly targeted, creating hundreds of thousands of jobs with good salaries and benefits at a time when unionized industrial jobs were leaving the country.
The Racialized Drug War, whatever the array of motives that gave rise to it, therefore ended up becoming a jobs program for working class whites- not only in urban areas and suburbs where expanded police forces were concentrated, but in rural areas where new prisons were built to hold those swept up by the drug raids
This helps explain the immense hostility among working class and middle class whites to the Black Lives Matter movement- a hostility that contributed significantly to Donald Trump's victory in the last Presidential election
Black Lives Matter not only put the work of individual police officers under greater scrutiny; it called for long term reforms which might, if implemented, significantly reduce the need for police and prisons.
Those reforms would not only threaten the interests of real estate developers gentrifying our cities and reduce revenue produced by arrests for non violent offenses; it could lead to significant job losses in communities where prisons are located or suburbs where police officers live.
Challenging racially targeted, militarized policing, unfortunately, threatens many many people's livelihoods and interests
The election of Donald Trump was no accident..


Unknown said...

the racial disparities in the drug war began from day one, decades ago. why the no-accident trump now? need an analysis deeper than the one trick, one size fits all.....

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Sally Barker Dunford said...

Clearly your right in pointing out the animosity on the part of working and middle class whites towards Black Lives Matter. And just as clearly, who gains makes a difference, but I think there is another more insidious piece to this.

In the early 90s - I worked for the Dinkins administration as the Administer of a program called Stop the Violence - which fostered small, hyper-local community-based programs aimed at stopping violence in local communities. This was at the height of the original push for community policing.

Part of my job was to look at ways to get police and community to develop alliances to stop crime/violence problems, Based on the idea that the safest communities are where communities effectively police themselves.

Part of my job was to teach cops mostly from the suburbs what community looked like in the neighborhoods, and how to connect with it.

The biggest barrier we ran across was that cops (especially the children of the white flight years) saw New Yorkers in general as either victims or perps and were utterly clueless as to how to react to people who were neither. They were clearly more frightened of community leaders than any criminal, regardless of color or background.

So they went into a community prepared to be an occupying army --- and are then were shocked when community folks treat them as such.

And of course they took all this home with them, reinforcing the lessons they had learned when their parents ran from the City, solidifying what they already suspected - That city loving liberals are crazy, and that their increasingly isolated insular life, where everyone looked, sounded and thought like them was the only right way.

There are all sorts of other nuances - not least of them that as suburban neighborhoods diversified - they felt more acutely the need to push back. Their families had put a lot of time and energy into building their "protected" little pieces of the world, after all only to have it "threatened". Add onto this that now you can live in your enclave and never need to think or move outside it -- even your media conforms to your world view - and you get a very dangerous brew, indeed.