Drug laws and their enforcement in the United States have always been a deeply racialized project. In 1875, San Francisco passed the country’s first drug law criminalizing “opium dens” associated with Chinese immigrants, though opium was otherwise widely available and was used by white Americans in a variety of forms. Cocaine regulation at the turn of the twentieth century was colored by racial insecurities manifesting in myths that cocaine made Black people shoot better, rendered them impervious to bullets, and increased the likelihood that Black men would attack white women. Increasing criminalization of marijuana use during the early twentieth century was similarly premised on racialized stereotypes targeting Mexican immigrants, fears of racial mixing, and suppression of political dissent.
Enforcement: To carry out (implement) effectively (esp. laws)
Manifest: Clearly seen, observed or understood (through human senses)
Render: To cause or become (Heavy rainfall rendered irrigation unnecessary)
Impervious: Not capable of being damaged
Premise: Something assumed or taken for granted
Stereotype: Oversimplified image or idea of something.
The “war on drugs,” officially declared by President Richard Nixon in 1971, has come to refer to police practices that involve stopping and searching people who fit the “profile” of drug users or couriers on the nation’s highways, buses, trains, and planes; saturation of particular neighborhoods (almost entirely low-income communities of color) with law enforcement officers charged with finding drugs in any quantity through widespread “stop and frisk” activities; no-knock warrants, surveillance, undercover operations, and highly militarized drug raids conducted by SWAT teams. It also includes harsh mandatory minimum sentences for drug convictions, which contribute to mass incarceration, and a range of punitive measures aimed at individuals with drug convictions.
Saturation: To a full extent (a 100 percent) so that no more can be added.
Surveillance: Close watch over someone or something.
Undercover: Acting or working in secret.
Mandatory: Required by law or rule.
Incarceration: To put in prison.
Punitive: aimed at punishment.
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