Pipe Dream Blues Notes (Eva)

Black to the Future: The Continuing Dilemma of Racial Politics

Is There a Conspiracy?

  • Many believe that a group of white supremacists or a section of the government is carrying out a plan of Black genocide via drugs
  • “Black people’s need for money and consequent desire for psychological escape, exacerbated by the alienating and inequitable environment of poor communities, go a long way in explaining the drug crisis” (13)
  • “Judges, politicians, police officers, the CIA, and other authorities, as well as organized racists, are involved in drug trafficking, money laundering, and payoffs. It’s virtually impossible, in fact, to have the magnitude of drugs that flow into the Black community without official and semi-official complicity. Federal narcotics agents have been charged and arrested on numerous occasions for such crimes” (14)

The Three R’s: Reaganism, Reaganomics, and Racism

  • Republican party propagated the notion that racism, for all intents and purposes, was no longer a serious issue in the United States
  • Reagan wanted to lift regulations on corporations
    • Regulations like labor unions, health, and affirmative action programs
  • “Reagan slashed billions from social programs that had a direct and immediate impact on the health, education, housing, and employment opportunities of poor people and people of color. By the middle of Reagan’s second term, his Medicaid cuts meant an 18 percent drop in the number of poor individuals who were eligible for coverage, from 64 percent in the mid-1970s to 46 percent in 1986. After eight years of Reagan’s housing cuts, the homeless population grew from about 500,000 in 1980 to more than two million by 1990. Reaganomics meant that close to 200 rural health community hospitals closed between 1981 and 1990” (16)
  • “From the rise of skinhead racists to the gestures and actions of Ronald Reagan himself, public acts of racial violence and racism saw a revitalization in the Eighties” (17)

Racism and the Drug Crisis

The Heroin Surge: Black Power vs White Powder

  • “Prior to the Forties, the use of light drugs (marijuana) and hard drugs (heroin and cocaine) was restricted to a small segment of society, including the African American community…by 1951, however, due to the Mafia’s marketing focus, over 100,000 people were addicts in the United States, many of them Black” (38-39)
  • East Coast heroin traffic in Black communities was controlled by New York’s big five Mafia families
    • Joseph Bonanno family
    • Carlo Gambino family
    • Vito Genovese family
    • Thomas Lucchese family
    • Profaci-Maglioco family
    • These families took over for the Jewish mob which had controlled drugs in Harlem up to the Forties
      • Fun Fact: the street name for heroin, “smack,” came from the Yiddish word shmeck, meaning “smell”

Crack, Crime, and Crisis in the Black Community

  • “The destructive impact of illegal narcotics on Blacks, Latinos, and poor people has become murderous. Indeed, whole communities are being destroyed from top to bottom as children take over the role of family breadwinner, mothers become addicts who barter sex for drugs, and drug-addicted, abandoned babies strain already overburdened city hospital services” (44)
  • Efforts to manage the drug crisis such as building more prisons, the barrage of media images portraying young Black males as addicts and criminals, and efforts to section off Black neighborhoods are, directly or indirectly, racist attacks on the Black community

Lusane, Clarence, and Dennis Desmond. Pipe Dream Blues: Racism & the War on Drugs. South End Press, 1991.

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