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36 MIN READ TIME

Black Drugs, White Drugs

DONNA MURCH SHOWS that we continue to live in a world made by Reagan, one where corporate empowerment both benefits from and reinforces racialized regimes of punishment. In this smoke-and-mirrors theater of national distraction, nonwhite populations are stereotyped, locked up, and otherwise sacrificed so that corporate exploitation and dispossession can proceed apace, behind closed doors and beyond the reach of public accountability. Trump thus represents only the most recent—and chaotic—outbreak of a much longer epidemic of racial capitalism. His public speeches often sound like a hallucinatory rehash of sound bites from the history of U.S. conservatism, parroting the racist drug policy and rhetoric of earlier administrations. The age of Trump is thus an age of unveiling: his language blatantly exposes the usually unstated logic of state violence and its predation on vulnerable populations in the name of corporate theft, capitalist accumulation, and widening social immiseration and dispossession.

Murch gives the example of Purdue Pharma’s OxyContin market strategy, which sought to avoid the PR and regulatory stigmas of being associated with “urban” (black) drug users. The result was a white market that took shape through aggressive marketing campaigns and targeting of states with majority white populations that were also known for their hostility to federal regulation. Thus the “white drug” was born. There is also the racialization of the crisis itself, which Murch does not discuss: the suffering and deaths of nonwhite users are virtually invisible, obscured by a discourse focused on saving innocent white users from harm. Purdue’s consumer strategy thus produced two dynamics: a market of control, in which white patients in pain became addicted to opioids, and a market of abandonment, in which black pain is ignored.

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About Boston Review

Paperback, 130 pages Racist Logic tackles how racist thinking can be found in surprising—and often overlooked—places. In the forum's lead essay, historian Donna Murch traces the origins of the opioid epidemic to Big Pharma's aggressive marketing to white suburbanites. The result, Murch shows, has been to construct a legal world of white drug addiction alongside an illicit drug war that has disproportionately targeted people of color. Other essays examine how the global surrogacy industry incentivizes the reproduction of whiteness while relying on the exploited labor of women of color, how black masculinity is commodified in racial capitalism, and how Wall Street exploited Caribbean populations to bankroll U.S. imperialism. Racist logic, this issue shows, continues to pervade our society, including its nominally colorblind business practices. Contributors not only explore the institutional structures that profit from black suffering, but also point the way to racial justice. Forum Lead essay by Donna Murch. Responses by Max Mishler, Britt Rusert, Julie Netherland, Helena Hansen, David Herzberg, Michael Collins, Julilly Kohler-Hausmann, Jonathan Kahn, L.A. Kauffman, and Donna Murch. Essays Peter Hudson, Jordanna Matlon, Alys Weinbaum, and Richard Ford.