Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Is Drugs Liberalisation Racist?

In the early 2000s, a policeman came to talk about drugs to the care staff at a large children's home. He had a ponytail. He showed a variety of drug simulacra, named them and explained their effects.

His manner suggested an unspoken complicity with the carers - among whom racial minorities were well-represented - on the subject of the use of these chemicals. Until someone told him that black people suspected that the liberal attitude to drugs was a strategy to keep their kind down.

The official information suggests that the picture is more complex - that educational underachievement may have more to do with child poverty - see Figure 14 (p.49) here, where eligibility for Free School Meals (FSM) correlates with lower academic scores.

However it also shows that when adjusted for socio-economic status (SES), "all ethnic minority groups achieve at least as well and frequently substantially better than the White British students, with the single exception of middle and high SES Black Caribbean boys" (ibid., Figure 17.)

So there seems to be more than simply poverty - or simply drugs, though the poor are more likely to take them - holding back that last group. Perhaps, then, there should be more specific affirmative action to boost the ambition and achievements of Black Caribbean boys.

But for the poor generally, maybe it would help them to stop being cool about drugs and light-touch policing in deprived areas. When people are in the pit they turn for comfort to things that keep them in it. Our government has spent a long time liberalising the use of alcohol and gambling - that is to say, giving powerful commercial interests free rein to exploit the disadvantaged. Drugs seem to be next.

Is that kind of laissez-faire a form of what Marcuse called "repressive tolerance"?


Paddington said...

It's not just drugs, it's culture. I know more than a few parents in the US who are comfortably middle-class with children in their late teens and twenties (mostly male) who underperform in school, relative to their talents, and do the bare minimum, if that, in terms of any work at all. They prefer to spend their time immersed in electronic screens.

Sackerson said...

Yes, the rot is spreading and new forms of distraction and addiction have arisen. If we wish to sustain an advanced industrial economy that supports a high general standard of living then perhaps some controls might be beneficial.