Pubdate: Sat, 09 Apr 2016
Source: Dallas Morning News (TX)
Copyright: 2016 The Dallas Morning News, Inc.
Author: Robyn Short
Note: Robyn Short is a mediator, peace-building trainer and publisher 
at Good-Media Press.


War on Drugs, for Example, Was an Assault on Black People, Robyn Short Says

Whoever said, "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will 
never hurt me" must have been on the receiving end of a very 
kind-speaking stick thrower. Words matter. Too often in American 
politics, words are used as weapons that can cause social damage that 
takes far longer to repair than any broken bone.

Democrats and Republicans both use language to dehumanize, vilify and 
separate the people of this nation. By doing so, they indirectly 
foster a culture that permits harmful actions against "the other," 
and even deems such action morally correct.

Consider the language Presidents Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan and 
Bill Clinton used to declare war on drugs. In a 22-year-old interview 
recently published in Harper's Magazine, Nixon's aide John 
Ehrlich-man said the War on Drugs was designed as a political tool to 
fight blacks and hippies.

In his remarks to the nation June 17, 1971, Nixon stated: "America's 
public enemy number one in the United States is drug abuse. In order 
to fight and defeat this enemy, it is necessary to wage a new, 
all-out offensive." Wars require enemies and enemies are not 
conceptual or intangible. Enemies are human. Therefore, the enemy 
Nixon was, in theory, referring to was every American abusing drugs.

Yet, that is not who the War on Drugs targeted. The War on Drugs was 
an "all-out offensive" on an "enemy": black America.

Nixon's war against blacks became a rallying cry for politicians for 
the next four decades.

Reagan said: "We intend to do what is necessary to end the drug 
menace and to eliminate this dark, evil enemy within." Under his 
presidency, the War on Drugs focused on crack cocaine with an 
aggressive media campaign associating these words with imagery of 
black people smoking and dealing crack, a drug derived from powder 
cocaine that is sold in small rocks and marketed to people who could 
not afford the powder drug.

The Reagan administration created and perpetuated the imagery of 
"crack whores" and "crack babies," dehumanizing words used as weapons 
inaccurately directed toward the black community.

Nancy Reagan chose particularly inflaming words: "If you are a casual 
drug user, you are an accomplice to murder." When people are 
identified as participants in murder, it becomes logical in time to 
ostracize those people by locking them away. Her words foreshadowed 
the impending fate of hundreds of thousands of nonviolent drug users.

In a U.S. Sentencing Commission hearing, Sen. Orrin Hatch said, 
"These people are killing our kids. These people are disrupting 
society. These people are wrecking our society." With his 
three-strikes-you're out policy, Clinton ensured "these people" would 
never be released from prison.

Forty years of dehumanizing language directed toward blacks has 
resulted in the United States being the most incarcerated nation in the world.

The results: Of the 2.3 million incarcerated population, 1 million 
are black people. Millions of children live in broken homes as 
parents go to prison. Black children are treated as predators. Blacks 
face police brutality and street-level executions at the hands of police.

Still, during all this time, the level of illegal drug use hasn't changed.

And still, politics remains a shameful parade of fearmongering and 
dangerous hate speech, leading to a climate in which Donald Trump can 
thrive as a presidential candidate. In this environment, riots are 
routine, hate groups openly participate in campaign rallies, 
discrimination and threats against religious groups are constant and 
even celebrated, and the degradation of women is fodder for super-PAC 

Political rhetoric has become so divisive, in part, because we, the 
constituents, reward politicians for it. We reward them by reading 
and listening to their words, then retweeting them and sharing on 
Facebook, and by cheering at campaign rallies and town hall meetings. 
We give life to their words. We take them and hurl them like bombs 
with no regard for the destruction of our shared humanity.

Without our unwavering support, politicians would change tactics. The 
more hate language we greedily consume, the more hate language they 
generously feed us. Together we are degrading our humanity, and we 
are so busy blaming the other party that we don't even recognize the 
role we play in the process.

As Mahatma Gandhi proved, nonviolence and truth are powerful 
instruments of change. He demonstrated that purity in words and 
actions can mobilize a nation. We can choose words of violence, or we 
can choose words of peace.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom