THE WAR ON DRUGS (1989 — NAVA from the files)

Intro:  The following was issued in 1989 by the New African Voices Alliance, a Philadelphia-based collective of revolutionary organizers and activists.  This statement was written by Shafik Abu-Tahir (Asante) who died in 1997.  Shafik was a leader and a teacher who is missed in the struggles of today.  We have some statements by New African Voices in our files and will be posting them occasionally for historical and political purposes.

September 1989


In Atlanta, African youth are not allowed to carry book bags inside their schools. School officials have banned these book bags because “drugs can be hidden inside of them.”  A recent national poll showed that a majority of respondents would support homes being searched and cars and people being stopped and searched without search warrants. Already we know that in some cities public housing residents can be evicted if any family member in their house is arrested for illegal drug activity. Also, in some cities public housing residents must carry identification passes to go in and out of their homes.

All of these practices are being proposed and implemented in the name of the ‘War on drugs’. What much of these policies amount to, whether intended or not, is a dangerous call for military rule over our communities. When such rule occurred in Germany and in Spain, it was known as fascism. Such rule is dangerous. We understand the fear people have of the drug problem in our society; it’s definitely a legitimate fear, but military rule, police occupation of our communities, or suspending individual constitutional rights is not going to be a solution.

We have to address this problem at its roots. First we must ask, why is there such a high demand for drugs  in the first place? Why have so many people given up hope for any decent future for themselves (i.e. no hope for a job, getting a decent wage, or for a decent home, etc.)? Are people turning to drugs so as to “feel” better even if only for a little while or selling drugs so as to get more material things (i.e. fancy cars, homes, prestige, etc.) as a way of feeling better about themselves?

The Ronald Reagan era brought about massive cutbacks in spending for neighborhood improvement, job training, educational grants as well as for health education programs and other vitally important life support systems. Now more youth are unable to attend college, get a decent job, or get job training. As a result, their options have become more limited. They can join the armed forces (possibly even get to kill other poor youth of color somewhere) or roam the streets. Locked out of decent job opportunities that pay a family sustaining wage, these youth see the drug world as enticing, as attractive.

Then, on top of all of this, all kinds of T.V. programs are telling our youth that they aren’t successful or valuable unless they are wearing piles of gold on their necks, ce tain brand-name $100 dollar sneakers, or expensive brand-name pants, etc. What do we do about this type of bombardment? We must not start viewing our youth as enemies to us, as “wolf packs” etc. They are real human beings with real human needs. To change their behavior, we have to change their thinking. We have to give them a new sense of self worth. Anti-drug education, job training, drug treatment and other programs of this nature will be major to any solution to the present drug crisis. Changing our national priorities from war initiatives (we have a 300 billion dollar war budget) to funding public life support systems (social services) will determine our final victory


Shafik Abu-Tahir

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