Intercultural Research Paper: History and Theory
The House I Live In by Eugene Jarecki is a documentary film about the war on drugs in the United States. It raises many contemporary intercultural concerns about the issue, but first it would be important to explain what cultural groups it highlights. We would first think about diving the war on drugs between drug users and law enforcement, but after watching this movie we can tell that there is a real intercultural issue amongst drug users and prisoners incarcerated for drugs. Indeed, we learn in the movie and its website that “even though White and Black people use drugs at approximately equal rates, Black people are 10.1 times more likely to be sent to prison for drug offenses. Today, Black Americans represent 56% of those incarcerated for drug crimes, even though they comprise only 13% of the U.S. Population”. Michelle Alexander, author, accentuates this fact by saying that “there are more African Americans under correctional control, in prison or jail, on probation or parole, than were enslaved in 1850 a decade before the civil war began”. This clearly means the war on drugs targets more Black Americans than White people and raises many questions on its reason. Racism? Stereotypes? Leonard Steinhorn and Barbara Diggs Brown answered this issue in their book By the Color of Our Skin: The Illusion of Integration and the Reality of Race by stating that “By artificially reducing both aggregate and racially specific unemployment rates, mass incarceration makes it easier for the majority culture to continue to ignore the urban ghettoes that live on beneath official rhetoric about opportunity being generated by free markets. It facilitates the elimination of honest discussion of America's deep and inseparably linked inequalities of race and class from the nation's public discourse. It encourages and enables a new, subtler racism in an age when open, public displays of bigotry have been discredited. Relying heavily on longstanding American opportunity myths and standard class ideology, this new racism blames inner-city minorities for their own failure to match white performance in a supposedly now free, meritorious, and color-blind society. Whites who believe, thanks partly to the decline of explicit public racism, that racial barriers have been lifted in the United States think that people of color who do not succeed fall short because of choices they made and/or because of inherent cultural or even biological limitations”. Mike Carpenter, security guard in an Oklahoma prison, adds in the movie that “every society needs an enemy to raise its economy” by telling us that communities’ and towns’ economies depend on prisons, and compare the actual ostracism going on in the country with Germany’s Hitler years in the 1930’s when its economy was rising and Jewish and homosexual people, amongst others, were marginalized from society. This theme of the movie is also surrounded by another topic: Are the prison sentences for drug use exaggerated in the United States? Now that Washington and Colorado have legalized the recreational use of marijuana in their States, the movie asks us if the sentences in other States where the drug is illegal are not too harsh. Indeed, in Texas, according to the website www.drugpossessionlaws.com, marijuana possession of under 2oz can cause a maximum penalty of 180 days in jail. If being in possession of more than this amount, penalties can reach up to 20 years in prison with fines of up to $10,000.00. More and more people are bringing this topic to the table, and many believe like TV Personality Adam Carolla that “unless you harm somebody else or put them in jeopardy… do whatever you want. You want to get really high and go drive, speed through a neighborhood, then we have a problem”. Indeed, prisoners incarcerated for drug use share the same prisons as murderers and rapists, and to many people, this issue is one of the biggest contemporary discussion...
Cited: Catherine Spooner and Kate Hetherington, “Social Determinants of Drug Use”. Web. 2004.
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