The House I Live In

America’s “War on Drugs” has been underway since the late 1960’s, almost half a century. Yet, we are no closer to isolating an enemy nor any particular victim. The documentary “The House I Live In” sheds light on both sides of the drug war and conveys the neutralities of it that are not always so apparent in the way drug crime and enforcement are portrayed in the media. There seems to be no good or bad in the struggle against drug use and abuse, rather there is only a tireless game that goes back and forth, yielding no substantial results. Plenty of resources have been sunk into the enforcement of a drug trade that consistently responds with resiliency and adaptation, making it more or less impossible to put a dent in the sale or consumption of drugs. One of the most salient points that the documentary makes is that the policies behind drug enforcement have become mostly about statistics rather than results. It has become a numbers game, the obstacle of which is mostly always young blacks or latinos who have turned to the economic benefits of the drug trade mostly out of a lack of opportunity.

In order to better understand the nature of this struggle it is very important to identify which communities are under the scrutiny of drug enforcement agencies: inner-city ghettos. The cycle of poverty that exists within most ghetto infrastructures is the primary motivator for living the “drug life.” Most drug dealers are in fact pillars of support to their community as they are able to provide money and guidance to many youths and families in need. It should come as no surprise that growing up to become a drug dealer has a significant allure to it. Cultural elements of the ghetto have been largely affected by this simple truth. The music of rappers like Jay-Z, The LOX, Cam’ron, Gucci Mane, Clipse, and UGK has had incredible commercial success and is of particular importance to the hood. Their rap is mostly predicated on the realities of ghetto life and being a drug dealer. A strong demeanor and level-headed respect for money come to the fore and these are values – good and intelligent values at that – which are communicated to those who listen. But for those who aren’t on the radio and selling records the reality of dealing drugs remains and it retains a similar zeal for those values.

What is not so valuable to these communities is the violence that hangs over them. Though, it is most commonly believed that the violence is due to the unlawful activities of the “criminals,” who are “ravaging” their communities, one need not look too deep to realize that a large portion of this violence is brought into the community from the outside. Drug enforcement has increased so much over the years that it has become one of the largest departments in city police forces nationwide. Domestic drug law enforcement has rapidly militarized and begun to carry-out SWAT style raids on Americans left and right, mostly for non-violent drug offenses. There is an escalating sense of danger in the drug game mostly due to the intense level of discrimination against drug users and dealers on a domestic front.

If the high volume flow of drugs into our local communities is to be stemmed it must be done so from the source, not the destination. The unbelievable amount of money and manpower being sunken into the drug war in our local communities is staggering. When matched with the results it is all the more disheartening to realize that the level of effort applied to the issue has done relatively nothing. Domestic drug enforcement agencies have become rapt with arrest and seizure statistics to the point that it has become a business which requires these statistics in order to continue.

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