Exploring the Irrational Biases Behind the War on Drugs
And that’s when you see the first opium prohibition laws, in Nevada, in California, in the 1870s and 80s, directed at the Chinese minorities. It was all about fear: what would those Chinamen with their opium do to our precious women? You know, they would get them addicted and then seduce them and turn them into sex slaves and all that sort of stuff.
The first anti-cocaine laws were in the South in the early part of the twentieth century directed at black men working on the docks. Again, the fear was what would happen to those black men when they took that white powder up their black noses and forgot their proper place in society? People started saying “a 38 won’t bring down a Negro crazed on cocaine. The cops need a 45.”
The New York Times, the paper of record, reported this stuff as fact back in those days. That’s when you got the first cocaine prohibition laws. The first marijuana prohibition laws were in the Midwest and the Southwest directed at Mexican migrants, Mexican Americans taking the good jobs from the good white people. But it was, once again, the fear of what this minority would do to our precious women and children.
It’s always been about that. Even alcohol prohibition was to some extent a broader conflict between the white-white Americans and the not-so-white white Americans. The white-white Americans came from northern and western Europe in the eighteenth, early nineteenth century with all of their preferred stuff. And then the not-so-white white Americans came from southern Europe and eastern Europe in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century bringing with them their beer and their vino and, you know, their slivovitz.