Ethnocentrism, Class Discrimination, and the Historical Shortcomings of America’s War on Drugs
In the mid to late 20th Century, the United States experienced several states of Cultural Revolution. The Civil Rights Movement, the Women's Movement, the anti-War Movement, and the increasing presence of a widespread, politically active and highly vocalized youth counterculture which led the United States government to feel that maybe they were losing control of their population. The white, upper class men, who for centuries had subjugated the political realm, began to feel their grip on power slipping. By targeting drug use, the government would be free to deal with minorities, especially African Americans, Hispanics, and left-wing radicals, all while claiming that they were defending our country and our borders from the international drug trade, as well as ridding our streets of drugs and drug-related violence. Many in governmental positions were nervous, assuming that if drug use became widespread they would no longer be able to control a newer, freer thinking society. With the launch of the War on Drugs by President Richard M. Nixon in 1972, the United States government and unwary citizens alike were embarking on a journey of clandestine, institutionalized race and class-based discrimination in order to ensure that the preponderance of governmental power would remain where it had securely been held long before the adoption of capitalism; with elite white males (Dalton, Elias, & Wandersman, 2007; Macionis, 2009).
Following President Nixon’s declaration of War on Drugs in 1972, ensuing policy has included President Ronald Reagan's militarization of the War on Drugs, the 1998 Souder Amendment to the Higher Education Act, and the prosecution of citizens in states such as California, where marijuana has been legalized, with federal crimes (Dalton, Elias, & Wandersman, 2007; Macionis, 2010). These policies have had a progressively deleterious effect on our society which have resulted in the overcrowding of jails and prisons, denial of federal higher education financial aid, and unmerited life prison sentences for nonviolent repeat offenders. In spite of this alleged crackdown, the majority of law enforcement officials have maintained that they are losing the War on Drugs. Moreover, statistical findings have consistently substantiated that the War on Drugs is irrefutably being lost; most illicit drugs are more widely available and affordable now than in 1972, when war was officially declared (Hanson, Fleckenstein, & Venturelli, 2009).
Karl Marx is largely responsible for authoring the original sociopolitical philosophy of conflict theory, which has been adapted into many other theories that have developed since his death. Essential to conflict theory is the idea of the oppression of the proletariat by the bourgeoisie. The bourgeoisie, who control the methods of production in a capitalist society, control the proletariat through the exploitation of the proletariat's labor resource. According to Marx, those who function as the ruling material force of society are also the ruling intellectual force: consequently, the bourgeoisie can maintain their status within society because, as the ruling class, they create the laws that govern the operation of society (Macionis, 2009). In addition to organized oppression through the control of labor and wages, the bourgeoisie also control the proletariat masses by creating competition between them. By accentuating racial, ethnic, religious, and other differences, as well as the obvious competition for jobs, the bourgeoisie cultivate an attitude of hostility between the proletariats, which makes it much more difficult for them to unite against the ruling class in an effort to better their position in society. The labor situation within capitalism, according to Marx, makes it...