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39 MIN READ TIME

Denying Racism

THE WAR ON DRUGS is one of the most ill-conceived, racist, and harmful government initiatives of the past half century. Yet it was also very effective—just not in the way its proponents claimed. The successes have been in politics, not in public health. By all indications, the health challenges presented by drug abuse today are as bad as they have ever been. But over this same period, the Republican Party has effectively reconfigured itself as a party of white racial backlash against the relatively progressive racial and economic policies of the Great Society and the New Deal. From Nixon’s Southern Strategy to Reagan’s states’ rights speech at the Neshoba County Fair and Donald Trump’s entire campaign and administration, Republicans have leveraged white racial resentment to shift political narratives and claim power at all levels of government.

Donna Murch convincingly connects Trump’s racist ramblings about the opioid crisis and immigration to a much broader field of racialized (and racist) rhetoric and policy that has informed the U.S. government’s approach to managing licit and illicit drugs in this country for over a century. But while that history has deep roots in our political institutions and in the capitalist structure of the drug market, it is important to highlight the distinctiveness of the current era.

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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.