Invisible victims: The war on drugs in America's ghettos

Gary P Sands, Purdue University


In 1971, the United States federal government, under the leadership of President Richard Nixon, declared war on urban crime and illegal drugs. The war has perpetuated and fed itself. Vast quantities of money and assets seized from individuals involved in the drug trade have funded a massive militarization of American police departments. Increasingly, African-Americans and predominately African-American neighborhoods have been targeted in the crackdowns on illegal narcotics. African-Americans have become significantly overrepresented in drug courts, jails, prisons, and parole systems as a result of the war. Urban African-American society has suffered social disorganization and a concentrated disadvantage due to the absence of jobs, absence of community services, and the forced removal of significant portions of the community due to mass incarceration. Drug prohibition has sparked violence in the African-American community much in the same ways that alcohol prohibition sparked violence in the 1920’s. The drug war has failed to legislate morality any more effectively than did the vii Volstead Act. Every war has its invisible victims. The War on Drugs has made invisible victims of millions of African-Americans.




Lerner, Purdue University.

Subject Area

African American Studies|American history|Law|Political science

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