Last week, my favorite podcast, Behind the Bastards, started a five part crossover series with the Hood Politics podcast on the crack epidemic and the Iran-Contra scandal. Listening to it takes me back to that time.


Throughout the 1980s in the early 1990s, there were two questions I frequently heard the adults pose:


  1. How was all this cocaine getting in the country to begin with?
  2. How are all these guns ending up in the hood?


You didn’t have to be a genius to understand that something strange was going on. Black Americans ain’t stupid. We know we didn’t have the ability to produce or transport cocaine. You can’t harvest coca leaves in LA, Chicago, or New York.We also didn’t own arms businesses or have gun factories in our neighborhoods. But somehow both cocaine and weapons ended up there.



The grown folks were right to ask these questions, and their suspicions were correct. Because we now know that the CIA did help traffic cocaine into the United States. And the 80s was not the first time they’ve done this. When the CIA cannot get the funding they want from Uncle Sam, or when they want money to finance black ops that can’t be on the books, they turn to narcotics smuggling. They did it in the 60s and 70s in Southeast Asia. They did it in the 1980s in Central America. And they have done it in the 21st-century in Afghanistan. It’s not new.


But when I think about the crack epidemic in particular, I look at who got the blame, and who was vilified for it: young Black men, living in Americas major cities. And yes, I certainly think we can, and should have discussions about their culpability in the devastation of their communities. But why is there so much hostility directed towards the low level dope boys on the street, while the federal departments that brought cocaine into the country , are exempt from criticism and consequences of their action? I’ve had to ask my self this question and judge myself for being harsher on them that I was on the officials that I knew were involved.


And perhaps it’s time for us to face the truth about the drug war: our government was never fully invested in waging it to begin with. Smuggling narcotics is too profitable and useful. And if the collateral damage results in our soldiers in Vietnam getting hooked on heroin, a minority community being devastated back home, and generations of Americas youth fighting addiction? Well that is the price that our agencies are willing to pay to get the funds to meet their geopolitical objectives. Cash rules everything around me, indeed.

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A native Seattleite and East Coast transplant, I have been interested in politics, religion, and race from the day I saw “The Autobiography of Malcolm X” on the bookshelf belonging to my BFF’s mom back in 1991. While my zealotry has thankfully diminished with maturity, I remain the deep thinking, passionate, and humble woman I have always been.

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