Cocaine has a very long history, all the way back to the Incas when Spanish conquistadors were impressed with the longevity of the natives who were chewing on the cocoa leaves. Freud was a cocaine addict and prescribed it for everything from depression to psychosis. He was nuts, nuts for coca. Cocaine is a 92 billion dollar industry and we New Yorkers lead the world in Cocaine consumption, yes, the city that never sleeps. Cocaine has an almost mythical power. It has ebbed and flowed in and out of fashion. The 70’s saw a huge resurgence and it was regarded as the sophisticates high. One of the things that is consistent with all of the things we are told about Cocaine is the racists message that it makes black people go crazy. You can’t let them have cocaine, they will rape all the white women and they will create crack houses! The Crack house is a cultural icon of waste, poverty, violence, all the things that white people fear about black people. The truth is WAY; WAY more white people use cocaine than black people, yet almost no white people serve time on cocaine charges. The institutional racism and erroneous messages are yet another unfortunate by-product of the war on drugs. Cocaine psychosis is horrible, so are the seizures that can happen doing coke, cardiac arrest and all the other potential, but none of this is limited to black people. What is most insulting about the racial divide in the drug war is the white people posturing that goes on about the bad, bad drugs. People who wouldn’t dare laugh at a fried chicken joke will profess themselves human rights liberals while they snort coke at a suburban bar-b-q. So who pays the price for the cocaine trade? Black people. They are shot, killed, and incarcerated while white people have a grand old-time and dry out at a Malibu rehab.
The race issue in the drug war doesn’t really get talked about all that much. It is something I think about, but with a problem as complicated as the drug war we never seem to get to what a horrible thing it is that we incarcerate people for a health issue. It’s a human rights violation in my view. Someday, we may look at our prisons with as much remorse as Manzanar. What brought this to my attention was Texas Ranger’s manager, Ron Washington. He failed a drug test, admitted to using cocaine and Nolan Ryan, Texas Ranger general manager has stuck by him. Great work on Ryan’s part (Ok, I am a fan, so I am sure it helps color my opinion). The Texas Ranger’s seem to have a realistic take on drug use and they seem to want to help. That’s pretty good in this world of “just say no” and shame. I am with Ron Washington all the way. He did say he did it “Only once”. Really? Just once? The ONE time you did one line of coke you were tested? What are the odds? In the words of George Jefferson “Oh, nigga, puuuahleassee!” This is up there with not inhaling but OK; it’s a move toward honesty.
The media is handling this as they do with drug issues; platitudes, shame, lessons to learn, weakness, should know better, what kind of example, the standard messages. Nobody is applauding his willingness to admit a problem and address it. Why is this racist? Because, if he were white, it would be less of an issue. An issue that would blow over quickly. In 2007, Tony Larussa, manager of St. Louis was charged with a DWI. He was asleep and by asleep I mean passed out, behind the wheel of his car, in the middle of an intersection. It took police several attempts to wake him. It was in the news and when he returned home to St. Louis, he received a standing ovation. He could have killed someone. Could the line of coke that Ron Washington did kill someone? Not likely. Maybe himself but not a mini van full of kids the way Larussa’s incident could have. What would have happened if Larussa were black? What if Ron Washington were white? I don’t know the issues of each man but whatever they are, I hope they get a handle on their use. Waking up in the middle of an intersection? That doesn’t sound like recreational use to me. Snorting coke knowing you would risk your job and reputation? Sounds like a problem to me too. Of all the things that bother me about the drug war, the overt racism is certainly up on my list. When do we get honest about that? The days to come will reveal more about Ron Washington’s case. I hope the Ranger’s stick with him and I hope he is honest about it in the media. More than anything, as a baseball fan, I hope they call me if he needs a sober companion because after all, it’s really about how it relates to me.