Friday, December 04, 2009


One of the defining policies of Cold War liberalism, President Johnson’s “War on Poverty”—which had less than one-tenth of the lifespan of the “War on Drugs”—took for granted that federal and state governments should take responsibility for improving the plight of the poor in northern cities, and represented a semi-coherent response to African American riots and insurgencies. But what if poor black people in cities could be held responsible for their poverty? What if, as industrial jobs disappeared by the millions, they became addicted to selling or consuming illegal drugs produced and/or distributed by U.S. government allies in Cold War counterinsurgent campaigns? Then, of course, African Americans could be locked up for non-violent drug offenses and warehoused in prisons at an accelerated rate.

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