Saturday, August 26, 2006

Do Young Black Americans Have a Drug Problem?

Or, more specifically, should the black community's response to the drug abuse mirror the white community's approach?

Reading the previous article about the wire and coke rap as well as the crackheads gone wild clip made me think about where we are as a people with regard to drug abuse. Obviously the other side of the drug war is very well documented. Young black males are disproportionately represented in the criminal justice system, with the most predominant charge being possession with the intent to distribute. This relationship seems to correlate with the current state of hip hop music. Every rapper seems to have been a d-boy at some point or another. Ironically, many claiming to still have ties to the streets, despite being multiplatinum recording artists. I believe Noriega (the real Noriega) owes Rick Ross 100 favors.

But as Breihan alludes, what about the other side of the drug war? Since Dr. Dre's The Chronic was released, there's been what I would call a more than positive relationship in Hip-Hop music with the green stuff. While the moral pundits would claim that this one of our generations moral failings, the statistics show that while Marijuana is by and large the drug of choice for young black people (of those who are abusing, 66% are using weed ), whites still abuse weed at a rate four times higher than blacks. (btw, these statistics are assertained by counting the # of people who are checked into rehab.)

I think the real question is what happens when you get past the gateway status and start talking about the heavier drugs. Across the board, statistics show that blacks are less likely to abuse every major drug except heroin, where the rates are roughly the same. Again, this takes in account individuals who are checked into rehab. The number may not be wholly accurate because rehab has a lot to do with class and family acceptance of the problem.

I make this distinction because how we perceive drug abuse in black america clouds what's really going on. As a response to the crack epidemic, the black community has taken a mostly conservative approach to drug abuse. Parents see the junkies and tell their kids don't be like that when you grow up. Our unfailingly stolid rappers serve the fiends but never get high on their own supply; They embody Tony Montana without the last 20 minutes of the movie, Henry Hill before he enters the eighties. And finally, let us not forget how ridiculous Dave Chappelle has made crackeheads look with the Tyrone Biggums caricature.

To a degree, this approach has worked. In my travels around these United States, I don't know anyone in my generation who's strung out on rocks. We as 80's babies have seen the affects and left it alone. At the same time, there still is a lost generation of J's out there who are still on that Marion Barry. In the ABC special on the AIDS epidemic this past tuesday, it was reported that 1/4 of all new cases of HIV in the black community still come from sharing infected needles. Out loud I wonder whether these numbers predominately reflect older users or if a generational overlap is occuring. From the statistics that I could gather on the internet, heroin is the only drug that seems to abused at the same rate among all ethnic groups.

On the one hand, the statistics may support the idea that our generation by and large abuses contolled substances less than the rest of America. I would certainly concede that our political, religious, and cultural leaders are less tolerant of these self destructive behaviors. I fear, however, that while we may be posturing a certain stance in the public sphere, the problem is going untreated.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Dear Brothers,
Thank you.