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War on Drugs…War on (some) Drugs (possessed by certain individuals)

When I first arrived at this institution, the class sizes and the amount of reading that was assigned did little to concern me. The biggest culture shock was the normalization of drug use. A time before the legalization of cannabis in the state of Washington. I was surrounded by students who spoke of their drug habit with no fear, voicing annoyance that they had to figure out who to get it from, smoking in dorm rooms and right outside of dorm room buildings. Confusion mixed with anger flowed through my mind. I spent all of my youth being conscious of stereotypes and the need to stay clear from the slightest hint of misconduct while still being suspected. Making sure to stay far away from drugs, spending my school years constantly being monitored; banning clothing with too many pockets, limiting backpack and locker usage and being ‘cautioned’ -threatened with sporadic drug dog visits. It felt as if they were sure we would mess up and we always had to prove otherwise.

A constant fear of making a wrong decision that would ruin your life was far from the minds of all these new faces I had encountered in college. In the same months I hear those of a higher social status voice their love of cannabis I hear the tear inducing frustration of a student that spent her youth constantly battling the stigma of her peers. Since she was Mexican and her family had property their success was automatically assumed as having been a result of narcotic involvement.  The stereotype that racial minorities are the root of our drug problem is something that is still being believed as we have noted with uproar of candidate approval to a certain individual. This fear no matter how misinformed is the voice that is being heard creating an enforcement of policies reflective of the misinformed belief.

The early seventies proclaimed drug abuse public enemy number one. Giving birth to the War on Drugs and thus enhancing law enforcement and judicial practices. It has cost one trillion dollars after millions of arrest and has resulted in no changes to illegal drug use. Instead we have 500,000 people incarcerated for nonviolent drug crimes.  This call for action against drugs have resulted in hyperactive policing of poor persons and minorities even though drug usage is similar across the board and  federal studies show more drug use among white youths. Disproportionate arrests that have created horrifying circumstances where white Americans, the majority of this country use crack cocaine more than African Americans but African Americans account for 85% of crack cocaine arrests. A new focus point since the 90s being the arrest of easily targeted poor whites for use of methamphetamine. Not a war on drugs but a war on poverty as displayed by glorified drug arrests.

Early 2000s we have “Pot Princess” Julia Diaco from New York who after multiple drug sales to an undercover narcotics officer facing up to 25 years in prison was sentenced to 5 years on probation. An injustice heightened in this article at the comparison of Ashley O’Donoghue, a black man who was also arrested as a first time nonviolent drug offender who is serving seven to twenty one years. Now nearing the end of  2015 we have Sarah Furay an “adorable drug kingpin” of Texas the daughter of a DEA agent possessing five different narcotics along with packing materials and two digital scales.

After learning about the woman from Texas, her privilege and her narcotic possessions, justice would be that she would get served the life ending consequences that come to racial minorities and those living in poverty. But her arrest does little to the fact that the war on drugs has created a target of brown and black bodies and those who live in poor neighborhoods as the worst and ONLY enemy. These stereotypes have created hyper action to one that grant invisibility to another. So long as we keep drug users and dealers in our minds to a certain stereotype we keep the Sarah Furays of this country profitable in their markets and safe from incarceration and public scrutiny. If this policy were really about protecting our children by confiscating drugs that can hurt them, there would be a lot more drug raids on and around college campuses. Furthermore if the war on drugs is truly about keeping people safe which can be interpreted as keeping people healthy we should address the root of why people are seeking narcotics.







Giordani, E. (2015). Criminal Justice. In Latino stats: American Hispanics by the numbers. New York, New York: The New Press.

Haglage, A. (2015, December 1). When Whtie Girls Deal Drugs, They Walk. Retrieved December 17, 2015, from

Jarecki, E. (Director). (2013). The House I Live In [Motion picture on DVD]. Virgil Films.

Mohamed, A., & Fritsvold, E. (2012). Dorm room dealers: Drugs and the privileges of race and class (Paperback ed.). Boulder, Colorado: Lynne Rienner.
Newman, T. (2006, March 22). NYU “Pot Princess” Sentenced to Treatment and Probation Despite Multiple Drug Sales. Retrieved December 17, 2015, from

“Supply Demand” Graphic. Mike Keefe. (2009).The Denver Post.

“War on Drugs Message” Graphic. Kirk.



Public Perceptions of Police Brutality in Post-Slavery America

On the surface, incidences of police brutality may appear to be nothing more than trigger-happy and power hungry cops who give a bad reputation to an otherwise ethical and moral police force. In many respects, this statement is true. A few rotten apples often affect attitudes towards the entire barrel, yet many police officers care about their communities, want to do some good in those communities, and hold human life to the utmost importance. It is important to recognize, however, the racist and discriminatory tendencies riddled throughout the criminal justice system and substantiated in our law enforcement across the nation. Such tendencies are embedded in the United States from a long history of genocide, enslavement, and segregation committed by our ancestors and still felt to this day by those it affected. Racism, prejudice, and discrimination is still alive and well in a nation where we would love to forget about it. Unfortunately for them, it is perpetuated every day from media outlets portraying stereotypes of minorities, to our court system where minorities face discrimination at nearly every level of the court process including the prosecutor’s decision whether to charge and the sentence issued by the judge. The severe beating of Rodney King in 1991 by police officers in LA and the resulting LA riots would set into a motion a series of events that brought race to the forefront of the conversation regarding police brutality and misuse of force.


Police brutality is defined as using “excessive physical force or verbal assault” in the pursuance of a crime or the apprehension of an offender (1). Where deadly use of force crosses the line to police brutality is when the use of force exceeds that which is necessary to create a calm and safe environment. According to the Washington Post as of May 30th, 2015, there have been 385 fatal police shootings in so far in 2015 (2). Of those 385 victims, 27% were Black despite Blacks only representing around 14% of the total U.S. population (2). Whites, on the other hand, accounted for 46% of the victims while they represent around 63% of the total U.S. population (2). Blacks are, therefore, overrepresented as victims of fatal police shootings while Whites are underrepresented as victims of fatal police shootings. Furthermore, of the 62 victims who were unarmed when fatally shot, 66% of them were either Black or Hispanic (2). The more publicized incidences of police brutality and misuse of force have sparked a massive response from the public which has resulted in the formation of activist movements such as Black Lives Matter. These movements have made a huge impact on society’s understanding of why Blacks are disproportionately victimized by excessive use of force.

At the heart of the issue is underlying ideas of race including stereotypes we attribute to certain races that affect how we perceive the entirety of the group. Aggression and violence is typically applied to Blacks and is further perpetuated by media outlets such as music and television. Typical portrayals of African Americans as gangsters, drug dealers, and pimps as well as lyrics in rap and hip-hop music that promote violence contributes to society’s behaviors and attitudes towards Blacks. Such stereotypes culminate into the view of Blacks as the prototypical criminal (3). It is no wonder, then, that disproportionate numbers of Blacks are fatally shot by police as there is a greater perceived imminent threat regardless of whether they are armed with a weapon or not. Furthermore, the concept of “negro-phobia” is used to describe the fear of Blacks, specifically the fear of being victimized by Blacks (3). Tamir Rice serves as a prime example of negro-phobia.

Warning: May be graphic for some viewers.

  • How does the Cleveland Police Department’s response to Tamir Rice after the 9-1-1 call reflect ideas of negro-phobia? Do you believe they were justified in their use of force? How could they have handled the situation differently, if at all, to avoid fatally shooting Tamir Rice?
  • Where did these stereotypes of Blacks come from? Where did they originate from in United States history?

Several theories are utilized to explain perceptions of race and police brutality. Social Dominance Theory posits that Whites are the dominant group and, therefore, do not consider police brutality as serious when it disproportionately affects subordinate groups such as Blacks and Hispanics. Whites, then, tend to justify excessive use of force against Blacks, stating that they deserve harsh treatment because they shouldn’t resist arrest, shouldn’t wear “thug” or “gangster” clothes, and shouldn’t partake in drugs. Studies have reflected this theory, as 38% of Whites and 89% of Blacks view the criminal justice system as biased against Blacks, whereas 8% of Blacks and 56% of Whites saw the criminal justice system as treating Blacks fairly. What results is rewards such as promotions, rather than punishments, being given to police officers who commit these acts. Police officers are also exceedingly found not guilty of their charges if taken to court and acquitted with little to no hesitance despite strong evidence such as camcorder footage, witness testimony, and expert analysis being present. Eric Garner’s case involves the acquittal of a police officer charged with the murder of Garner despite overwhelming evidence at odds with the acquittal.

Warning: May be graphic for some viewers (fast-forward to 4:32 to arrive at the onset of the altercation although commentary at the beginning is important).

  • Should Pantaleo, the NYPD police officer who applied the rear naked chokehold, have been found guilty? If so, what charge would you have given to him and why? If not, why do you believe it was the right decision for Pantaleo to be acquitted?

Social Impact Theory, on the other hand, studies situational factors that can augment attitudes towards misuse of force. Specifically, the number of shots fired and the number of officers present are tested to see if they have a positive or negative effect on perceptions of excessive use of force. Results showed that as the number of officers decreased and the number of shots increased, perceptions of excessive use of force were augmented (3) The Amadou Diallo and Michael Brown shootings are cases in which a high number of shots were fired with relatively few officers present at the crime scene.

  • Which theory do you believe affects society’s perceptions of police brutality the most? What other theories/factors play a role?

As mentioned previously, not all police officers are bad and a very small portion of police officers are making headlines for excessive use of force. Law enforcement should be commended for their duty to protect and serve their communities in an ethical and moral manner. Racism and discrimination embedded in the criminal justice system, however, should not be ignored and thought of as nonexistent.


(1) Chaney, C., & Robertson, R. V. (2013). “Racism and Police Brutality in America.” Journal of African American Studies. 17(3): 480-505. Online.

(2) Kindy, K. (2015). “Fatal police shootings in 2015 approaching 400 nationwide.” Washington Post. Online.

(3) Perkins, J. E., & Bourgeois, M. J. (2006). “Perceptions of Police Use of Deadly Force.” Journal of Applied Social Psychology. 36(1):161-177. Online.