High 5 (Rock the Blogosphere).

I haven’t spent much time on the blogs lately, and so I missed a ton of the hot fire the good folks at Pandagon have been spitting for the last few days.  First, there is Amanda Marcotte’s great post on the huge discrepancy between the U.S. media’s reaction to Michael Phelp’s marijuana use, and the recent revelation that Mexico saw at least six thousand drug-related murders in 2008:

The remarkable thing about the Phelps story is that most of the people viciously condemning have probably smoked weed and aren’t sorry about it.  But they enjoy getting into a sanctimonious snit over the evils of drug use, so they don’t let that kind of hypocrisy bother them.  Unfortunately, our national hypocrisy about drugs is super-deadly on the Mexican-American border. That is, after all, why this war is going on—to control the trade routes to get drugs to Americans using criminal methods because drugs are illegal in America.  (And Mexico, too, but they appear to have more of an export issue than an import one.) To really face this story would be to face what we don’t want to—either everyone who uses drugs stops, or we give up the War On Drugs.  Only one of these is realistic.  And while we have plenty of drug addicts in America, we have even more sanctimony addicts who need their fix.

If we’re a “nation of cowards” when it comes to talking about race, then we’re almost certainly a nation of goddamned fools when it comes to talking about drug use.  Despite mounting evidence that the drug war is an utter failure on all fronts, we are still loath to admit that our national approach to drugs is untenable, unsustainable, and well, wrong.  Like Marcotte notes, part of that is the fault of sanctimonious myopia on part of a lot of people, and part of it is the fact that we rarely hear about the costs of the drug war.  In a rational world, every reasonably informed American would have heard about the outrageous drug violence in Mexico, and we would be having a real, honest discussion about our drug policies.

I would be remiss if I didn’t also mention that Pandagon’s Jesse Taylor has a very good post up on one of the major obstacles to having an honest national conversation on race and race relations:  namely, that many white Americans are either reluctant to admit or ignorant of the fact that the black community’s problems didn’t simply rise “out of the ether” and are the result of conscious decisions on part of the white majority over the course of a good hundred years:

Buchanan pointed out the sad statistics that plague the black community, from crime to family structure.  But he did the very thing that makes an honest conversation on race so terribly difficult to have – he treated the statistics as if they simply arose out of the ether, the product of a series of conscious decisions on the part of black people to sling drugs and live in ghettos.  But the history of America, even to this day, revolves around how the white majority has chosen to shape our communities, and the steps to which they’ve gone to mask the nature of their decisions.


The great welfare fight of the past 40 years has been (in the public mind) over black people getting public money to live in shitty urban housing and take the bus; the untold welfare story of the same time period has the great public subsidization and restructuring of society to allow white people the ability to avoid black people.  The highway system, the placement and scope of public housing, the grading of neighborhoods for FHA loan approvals, the constant new incorporation of microtowns with their own tax bases, so on and so forth – black people didn’t choose the ghetto, the ghetto was chosen for them.

You should definitely do yourself a favor this evening, and read both posts in full (there’s a reason why Pandagon was one of the first blogs I started reading regularly, and five years later, is still one of my favorites).


Jamelle Bouie is a writer for Slate. He has also written for The Daily Beast, The American Prospect and The Nation. His work centers on politics, race, and the intersection of the two.

You can find him on Twitter, Flickr, and Instagram as jbouie.
  • The situation in Mexico makes me incredibly sad.

    In September, there was a bombing during an Independence Day celebration in Morelia, Michoacán. Morelia is the home state of President Calderón. It’s also the city where my great-aunt and her family live. I’ve visited a few times, most recently in August. And recognized the place that was bombed. I worried for a few days and asked my dad to contact his aunt, just to make sure everyone was okay.

    Surprisingly, the bombing in Morelia (deep in central Mexico) affected me much more than the daily murder stories in Tijuana and other cities along the border. I can dismiss the violence Tijuana, Ciudad Juárez and Monterrey just like I’ve dismissed the hundreds of gang murders in LA: it’s just gangs fighting; it doesn’t affect me, I have no close friends and family involved in that. I know that sounds callous, but if I cried for every cholo killed — or even the innocent kid who caught a stray bullet — I’d be crying all the time. Morelia was different. The target was the average Mexican trying to celebrate el Grito in the city’s main square.

    I’ve put off making trips to Mexico. I hear about the narcos in my mother’s hometown in Zacatecas. Everyone comes back with a story of a brush with the narcos and their henchmen. But surprisingly, I don’t really worry about the grandparents’ frequent trips to Tijuana. And I still go there.

  • Scott

    So what is the point of this, that Mexico is turning onto a narco state and it it as usual the US’s fault?