Our relationship to punishment and our relationship to white supremacy and anti-black racism intersect. Within a carceral logic, “criminals” deserve to be punished. But blackness itself is always already criminal. Ideas and misconceptions about drugs, addiction and criminality mean that derivative moral judgements and racialised logic about "criminals" - as opposed to facts about drugs - is shaping drug policy. This is bad for all of us, and bad in particular and distinct ways for black communities.
Kojo Koram, editor of The War On Drugs And The Global Colour Line, articulates it like this: “To appreciate that racial classifications of difference are porous is to begin to understand better the violence that accompanies the instance of race’s certainty; the sub-humanity, the animalism and the deviancy projected onto the racial subaltern subject is a betrayal of what already exists in-potential within the idealised (European) human.” Racism goes further than a politics of different human identities, it actually configures who gets to be human.
If we think of drugs as ‘transgressive substances’, read as having the power to transform “even the most rational, autonomous, enlightened and sovereign European ‘man’ into the lazy, violent, depraved figure of the sub-human”, what happens when we hold this up to the fact of blackness? If blackness always already signifies a lack of humanity, we get to an awful and intriguing argument: that the criminalisation and stigmatisation associated with drugs as an act of transgression is the always already lived reality of black people, whether or not we consume drugs.