The House I Live In: All the Races and Religions…That’s America to Me

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As the credits rolled at the end of Eugene Jarecki’s powerful documentary, The House I Live In, we hear Frank Sinatra singing the title song, urging for tolerance in the mid-1940’s. Nearly 70 years later, with his documentary detailing the profound impact the war on drugs has had on minority communities, Jarecki is doing the same.

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The House I Live In

Image courtesy of thehouseIlivein.org

Image courtesy of thehouseIlivein.org

According to the Oxford Dictionary, cognitive dissonance is the “state of having inconsistent thoughts, beliefs or attitudes, especially related to behavioral decisions and attitude change.” It occurs on a number of levels, both individually and societally. Social worker and clinical psychologist Dr. Joy DeGruy Leary says that one example of this phenomenon in the United States is how society has attempted to reconcile its ideals of equality and justice with its harsh, dehumanizing treatment of people of color.

Watching Eugene Jarecki’s honest and personal documentary The House I Live In, a 2012 film that chronicles the U.S.’s “War on Drugs,” brought to mind this concept. In the movie, historian and professor Richard Lawrence Miller ties the history of drug laws to racist attempts by White elites to reduce the number of people of color represented in different regional workforces because of a perceived threat to White job security. Given this information, why hasn’t the U.S. government reevaluated its entire criminal justice system? Racially based discrimination is imbedded in drug laws. Anti-opium, anti-marijuana and anti-cocaine laws were all targeted at punishing and excluding people of Chinese, Mexican and African descent, respectively. This history should warrant a wholesale restructuring of U.S. institutions and a deliberate effort to undue entrenched racism.

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War on Drugs or War on Democracy?

In one week, most of us will head to the polls to cast our vote. This year’s decisive election will mean that every vote will count, especially in swing states where there is a tight race between the candidates. Unfortunately, 5.85 million Americans will not be able to voice their political views this November due to voting regulation laws which deny convicted felons the right to vote in most states. Since the 1970s, there has been a 500% increase in felon disenfranchisement due to the War on Drugs, which disproportionately affects poor, African American and Latino communities. This means that 7.66% – 1 out of every 13 African Americans – will be barred from the vote, an estimate that is four times greater than the rate for people who are not of African American descent. Out of the 10 states with the highest disenfranchisement rates, 7 are in the South. Florida, a state that is almost always critical to an election victory, has the highest disenfranchisement rate in the country with 23.32% of its African American population unable to vote. Disenfranchisement laws have swung Presidential elections (more…)