“The war on drugs is an epic fail.”
Those are the words Jay Z uses to describe America’s everlasting war on drugs in a collaborative short film with The New York Times titled “A History Of The War On Drugs: From Prohibition To Gold Rush.”
Accompanied by artist Molly Crabapple the rapper chronicles the beginnings of the war on drugs, starting with the Nixon administration and New York’s controversial Rockefeller drug laws — the statutes enacted in 1973 in New York that resulted in a boom for the state’s prison population, and essentially became the template for other drug laws across the country.
“When I was coming of age Ronald Reagan double downed on the war on drugs that had been started by Richard Nixon in 1971,” Jay Z narrates. “No one wanted to talk about Reaganomics and the ending of social safety nets, the defunding of schools and the loss of jobs in cities across America.”
By the 1990s incarceration rates in the United States have blown up, surpassing China, Russia, Iran and Cuba, “all countries we consider autocratic and repressive. Yeah, more than them,” Jay Z states.
But the video really hones in on why the war on drugs is such an epic fail: its handling of people of color. For example, during the ’80s in which crack cocaine was prominent the substance was and still is discussed as a black problem, even though white people sold and used it more (often with impunity).
This isn’t much different from today, where young black and latino people are often ticketed in certain parts of New York for marijuana possession but students at Columbia University, where rates of marijuana use are equal to worse than those in certain neighborhoods, are never targeted or ticketed.
Even in places such as Colorado, where recreational marijuana has been legalized and has resulted in an economical boom for the state, there’s still inequality. People that move there hoping to cash in on the marijuana business can’t if they’re a felon, those charges stopping them from opening up a dispensary of their own.
Most of us already knew the war on drugs was an “epic fail,” but if you had any doubts hopefully Jay Z has brought you to the light. Check out the clip below.