Night Of The Living Baseheads

In the Crack Era, hyperbolic news segments like 48 Hours on Crack Street ruled the scene.  Few dissenting voices were able to marshal necessary counternarratives in the face of panic and political opportunism.  One unexpected, but historically rooted set of voices smashed through the hushed tones of fear and alarm: the voice of politically conscious rap.  Namely, PublicContinue reading “Night Of The Living Baseheads”

Public Disservice

Public service announcements of the War on Drugs have long been lampooned, and for good reason. Nonetheless, many have accepted such advertisements as a relatively benign, if irritating, collateral consequence of watching network television. Not unlike obnoxious pitches for ShamWow, we shrug our shoulders, chuckle, and move on. As rates of drug abuse have onlyContinue reading “Public Disservice”

Capitalism Plus Dope Equals Genocide

Michael “Cetewayo” Tabor was born in Harlem in 1946. Like many young men of his time and place, Michael developed an affection for heroin. A dope addict before the tender age of twenty, Tabor discovered the Black Panthers and turned away from a life of drug use and abuse. At the time of his wrongfulContinue reading “Capitalism Plus Dope Equals Genocide”

Punishing Women

Recent events in Ferguson, Missouri, Beavercreek, Ohio, and Columbia, South Carolina highlight the dangers of our current war on drugs and crime for young black men. Despite ample video evidence to the contrary, public and civic discourse still frequently turns to problematic discussions of the young black male. In teaching a course on the CrackContinue reading “Punishing Women”

Crack, Reefer, and the “Subway Vigilante”: The Strange Saga of Bernhard Goetz and Other Loathsome Tales

Much as with most things, perspectives of the War on Drugs vary based on one’s personal experience, awareness, and in some cases, empathy. The saga of Bernhard Goetz—coined the “Subway Vigilante”—illustrates this reality all too clearly. His story also highlights the fluid nature of such perspectives and the apparent primacy of personal experiences more often thanContinue reading “Crack, Reefer, and the “Subway Vigilante”: The Strange Saga of Bernhard Goetz and Other Loathsome Tales”

Framing Addiction: Heroin Then and Now

At a press conference on June 17, 1971 then President Richard Nixon informed his constituents of a troubling menace. “America’s public enemy number one in the United States is drug abuse.” Nixon also labeled those associated with drug abuse primary enemies of the state. “In order to fight and defeat this enemy,” Nixon charged, “itContinue reading “Framing Addiction: Heroin Then and Now”

Dispatches from London: “Under Control?” Conference

This past weekend alcohol and drug scholars across the globe descended upon London’s School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine to learn from each other about what they know best, alcohol and drugs.  The interdisciplinary conference does much to encourage scholarship across lines of disciplinary specializations, but also, the nation-state.  Below please find assorted notes fromContinue reading “Dispatches from London: “Under Control?” Conference”

“Blacks Declare War on Dope”

When I began researching grassroots responses to crack-cocaine I found myself—albeit naively—both surprised and confused by heavy-handed, aggressive calls for more policing and harsher sentencing from working and middle class black urbanites.  Was this unique to the period?  Did this represent a specific and different response to the marketing invention of crack?  Moreover, I foundContinue reading ““Blacks Declare War on Dope””

Failed Frontlash: How Liberals Furthered the Case for Mass Incarceration

The response to the Civil Rights Movement initiated one of the most punitive interventions in United States history. Beginning with the Law Enforcement Assistance Act of 1965 and onward, the state took on a new role in crime and drug control. State and federal governments revised their criminal codes, imposing mandatory minimums and effectively abolishingContinue reading “Failed Frontlash: How Liberals Furthered the Case for Mass Incarceration”

Irrational Intolerance

On October 27, 1986 Ronald Reagan signed Public Law 99-570 with the overwhelming bipartisan support of the 99th Congress.  Spurred by the June death of basketball star Len Bias, the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986 hurried its way into federal law nearly as fast as crack emerged onto the national scene.  In prepared remarks thatContinue reading “Irrational Intolerance”

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