DRUGS AND THE BLACK GULAG ©
Given the constant images seen in the print and electronic media; given the inordinate number of Black youth seen peddling it in plazas, it is not surprising that the words, "drugs and crack-houses" have become synonymous with, 'black people and the places where we live, move and have our being'.
For example, last week, after the US President George Bush had spoken via the TV to students in their classrooms across America, a Canadian station, CFTO TV, reported on this event. The station cut away from the President's speech into about four different classrooms across America, and can you guess whose were the only classrooms they beamed into?
I called the station and spoke to someone who identified himself as a "linewriter?". After convincing him to review the tape, he agreed that the station had, indeed, only concentrated on Black students. He saved the day for CFTO, however, by stating that this was probably the result of an editing oversight, and definitely had nothing to do with disinformation or with racism.
Last weekend, too, there was a conference called to discuss issues in the Jane-Finch community. Titled Project Rebirth, it was based, in large part, on a document prepared by the Jane Finch Concerned Citizens Organization (JFCCO) in 1988. This document, in essence, pointed out the need in the area for better recreational facilities and social services in health, employment, education, etc that would empower the disenfranchised in the community.
At this Project Rebirth conference, there were a variety of workshops. I attended one on Public Security and Safety.
Present were residents from Jane-Finch, as well as representatives from agencies, government, etc. Immediately, according to my assessment of what others were saying, the main problem in Jane-Finch was identified as DRUGS! The main area for crime were in CRACK HOUSES! And the reality, mostly unstated, except for one Italian man whose wife suffered a vicious attack three weeks ago by a Black youth, was that it was mostly criminals from the Black community (about 5% according to one participant) who were responsible.
The conclusions that Black people are involved in drugs; in crack houses etc, are compelling. The young, and not so young Black men who stand around some of the plazas, and collect $20 dollar bills from white patrons while passing them small bags are quite obvious.
In a personal sense, I think too, that, regardless of the subjective needs or reasons why some Black people traffick, they are objectively engaged in the political destabilization of the Black community, and are performing an act against the community that is akin to being the "Black arm of the Ku Klux Klan".
But if drug-peddling is identified as being the main problem affecting communities like Jane-Finch, the kind of "solutions" recommended, are really only the old formulas that have failed in cities like Detroit and New York.
These solutions generally involve two essentials: further powers of enforcement for the police to enter homes, schools etc; the creation of more legislation that provides for longer prison sentences. Some supplementary recommendations now added are the provision of more education about the hazards of drugs and the provision of more re-habilition centres to take addicts off the drugs.
These conclusions have a certain legitimacy to them. The increased use of drugs among all young and not-so-young people poses a serious threat to us all. All too real are the images on TV, for example of a George Bush kissing a Black baby abandoned by its "crack addicted mother". In fact, not since World War II have governments in the West been able to mobilize their coun- tries so effectively against a war. And drugs are indeed waging a war against our societies and communities. But as in other wars, the first casualty in this war on drugs has been the TRUTH!
The images that most people, white and Black, have of Black people on drugs is not a complete picture. First and foremost, drugs is a billion dollar industry in North America, and the people who control it are not Black, and are definitely not poor! For example, in 1989 the police in this city arrested more than 300 Black youth in some drug sweeps. The total amount of money seized from all these youth amounted to less than $30 000 dollars. And for their iniquities, the whole of the Black community have been stigmatized. By comparison, people from other ethno-cultural groups have been caught with drugs, but their crime has not been blamed on their communities. Nor should it. One of these, two Italian brothers had about $5 000 000; another, a Chinese woman had more than a million dollars. Others included Latin Americans, Greeks, East Asians, etc.
In fact, the widespread use of illegal drugs is as powerful and destructive as the International Monetary Fund. It has further destabilized countries, and communities that are dis-advantaged, and from whose ranks come revolutions.
Also, during the 1987 US presidential elections, Jesse Jackson asked why it was that the entry of illegal drugs into the US quadrupled during the time that George Bush was head of the CIA? A question that went unanswered and unchallenged. Compare also the treatment given to high-ranking officials, Armando Ochoa Sanchez and Oliver North, in Cuba and America respectively. Both of them were convicted of using their positions to deal in illegal drugs. For the Cubans, high office implies more responsibility, and therefore more accountability. Ochoa was executed. For the Americans, high office implies more opportunity for self-advancement and putting oneself above the law. North was given a light slap on the wrist.
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Also, every US president since Richard "I am not a crook" Nixon has declared war on drugs, yet the drug cartels become more powerful. Which is surprising given the fact that the US has sat-elittes that could stay in outer space and read your license plate on Earth, yet are unable to see the illegal planes flying in with drugs. They have navies like those in NATO that could invade Grenada, and practice war games off Nicaragua and Cuba, but are unable to intercept the large drug freighters.
Today, Mr Bush says that he has declared a war on drugs. In reality it is a war on the poor, since most of the money being used to build his prisons, will be taken, not from the bloated military budget, but from the under-nourished allocations given to social services for the poor and elderly. In 1988, for ex- ample, US increases in spending on law-enforcement was 46%; and on education it was by 2.3%.
The war on drugs, however, must be fought and won by us. And by other communities like the Native people, since we both stand to lose more than the lands and freedoms that we've lost in the past. Combating illegal drug use will also be striking a serious blow against the racist, conservative forces in power, according to whose absurd logic: the desperate poor are the oppressors; and the super-rich, the oppressed!
The picture of Black people and drugs is corrected, I think, by a re-focussing of the problem. Illegal drug use in the Black community is, for the most part, a consequence of other major illegalities - the illegalities of an education system unable to rid itself of racist practices that hurt children of colour; of an economic system that thrives on inequities based on race and gender; and of a political/cultural system that has so refined the techniques of criminal activity that the victim is now invariably blamed with the crime.
Here in the Jane-Finch area, as in other areas like Parkdale and Regent Park, the Black youth selling drugs generally, learned disrespect for "authority", and acquired lack of self-respect in the soul-destroying Basic programmes they were in at school.
When Black educators like Odida Quamina, Hilroy Thomas and Janet Williams were pointing this fact out to the educational Boards, Ministries, and politicians in 1983, they were following on the heels of other Black people people like Eva Smith, Bromley Armstrong, June Ward, and Margaret Griffith who in the early 1970's were warning the people who had the power and who controlled the resources of the dangers to come.
The grief affecting our magnificent Black community today, is caused, not only by the wasted lives of our youth, not only by the shame they bring to their families, but also by the fact that while we had, and still have the answers to prevent what is occurring today, it is white administrators who had, and still have the legality, and power to change things or to let them be!
They, and their consorts in the fields of business, politics, and religion sewed the wind, and the Black community is now reaping the whirlwind. And so are other innocent people like the wife of the old Italian man who almost cried when recounting the recent mugging attack on his wife.
And because the institutions that created this monster are also the ones who control the media, they have been able to set the agenda, and create the culprit. It is no accident then, that the "solutions" seen by so many people are also the ones they want: the building of more prisons (their historic answer to the need for low-cost housing), and one of the greatest job-creating projects in North America.
In the USA Today, according to an article on drugs in last week's Village Voice magazine, the Americans increased spending on Prisons and Law-enforcement in 1988 by 40%; and on education by 2%. And most of this money has come, not from the Star Wars program, but from monies allocated to agencies that were to assist the poor in housing, health, etc.
I wonder how similar are the percentages allocated for these institutions by the Federal, provincial and other levels of government, in Canada?
The facts about drug abuse is not that Black people use drugs more than Italians, Jews, Greeks, or English people. The fact is that it is not Black scientists who are creating these mind-destroying drugs. The fact is that Benji the little white youth who unfortunately died last year of a drug overdose did not live in Jane-Finch.
And the fact is that the images portrayed by CFTO was not an act that is unusual for that station, itself, nor for other TV and radio stations, newspapers and magazines!
In fact, what is unusual is to find any kind of media, like the Village Voice, that attempts to report in ways that are sensitive and sensible.
And God is passing sentence on evil-doers: Ms Crack User, Mr Crack Pusher, Mr Crack Importer. However, hell's hottest is reserved for Mr Indifference. To a questioning glance by Archangel Gabriel, She responds, "The others thrive best where Indifference rules longest".