“The War on Drugs is an Epic Fail”, is a short film that released on September 15, 2016, written and narrated by Jay Z, it featured the inspiring artwork of artist Molly Crabapple.
The film called the ‘War on Drugs a political failure, in addition to depicting the double standard that exists between poor people of color and elite whites on the issue of drugs.
In the video, Jay Z articulates how the ‘War on Drugs’ of the 1980s disproportionately targeted communities of color. After the ‘War on Drugs’ was declared, the “prison population grew more than 900%” most of which can be attributed to petty drug charges. However, as Jay Z states, they were not targeting Manhattan where the bourgeois were found, they were targeting places like Brooklyn in the poor people of color neighborhoods.
Through his narration, Jay Z flips the dominant perspective of drug dealers, making his audience empathize with the struggles of these individuals in the streets and those who now have felony records because of drug charges. The media and political rhetoric of the 1980s villainized drug dealers, referring to them as being responsible for the growing poverty and violence in urban spaces.
At the time, drug dealers were made to blame for the city’s problems. In the video, Jay Z debunks this myth delving deeper into the factors of the premise to what led to the urban developmental decay,
“No one wanted to talk about Reaganomics and the ending of social safety nets, or the defunding of schools and the loss of jobs in cities across Americas.”
No one wanted to talk about the fact that many young people, like Jay Z who had been a crack dealer in his teens, had to resort to selling drugs due to the economic stagnation and limited resources available, as a means of subsistence, a way to survive when there was a scarce opportunity to succeed.
The video also points out that although legislation may be changing, as marijuana is being legalized in many states, the ‘War on Drugs’ is still failing. As communities of color continue to be targeted, while the white elite venture capitalists like those in the state of Colorado, are able to profit over the same industry responsible for locking up black and brown bodies.
While Jay Z refers to the war on drugs as an epic failure, one point he leaves out is that the war was launched for those in power to profit much like what is occurring today with the new legislation. These new laws in place have made it so that the rich may get richer, all the while serving corporate interest, as they tap into the lucrative drug industry.
As for those who sold drugs on the streets and were charged with a felony, just as the doors for financial aid and employment close, so does the one that bars them from being able to open up a dispensary as their own means of survival, leaving them once again at a disadvantage. To say that the ‘War on Drugs’ was a failure does not come close to describing the damage it had on people of color living in the United States.
Additionally, the ‘War on Drugs’ served as a “New Jim Crow,” as author Michelle Alexander aptly titled her book, serving as a political tool that targeted communities of color in urban cities and mass incarcerated millions of people of color. In effect, relegating them to a second class status through racial profiling and petty drug charges that continue to follow these individuals through their entire lives. The War on Drugs was not only a failure through policy, rhetoric and lack of government assistance but it was a deadly sentence for millions of people living in the United States to this day, as it remains the country who incarcerates more people than any other nation in the world.
The thoughts and opinions expressed here are solely those of the contributor and do not necessarily reflect the views of Citizen Slant.