Devon is an African American, who was recently involved in a wrongful drug charge and was sentenced to 25 years in jail. He resides in the USA, which is known for its ethnic and cultural diversity. Devon, a Detroit resident recently pleaded guilty to drug trafficking .While walking along the streets in his hometown, he was stopped by two officers of a different ethnicity. The officers commanded him to extract all the contents in his backpack .He was found with a plastic bag full of an excessive quantity of white powdery substance , contained in a coffee can in his backpack, alongside a weighing scale. The white substance was quite similar to cocaine. A field test was performed by one of the officers and the substance tested positive for cocaine .The initial police report asserted that Devon was in possession of 50.8 grams of cocaine. After three months, laboratory tests were taken to ascertain the type of drug , and it was confirmed that the white substance was not cocaine butin fact powdered milk that Devon had obtained from a food pantry. Devon, 24, confirmed that indeed the powdery substance was powdered milk. He also confirmed that he had been initially wrongfully detained for another drug charge and was held on 80,000 bond. He confirmed that he had pleaded guilty because he wanted to be released from detention after spending several weeks for an offense he had not committed. Moreover, he could not afford an attorney and therefore could not post the bond.
Whereas the law advocates the equal treatment of all individuals regardless of gender, ethnicity or race, there are still relevant challenges encountered when dealing with the drug war. The de facto situation manifests even in drug-related convictions whereby individuals of particular ethnicities are at increased risks of being wrongfully accused in the fight against drugs. From this scenario, there is evidence of cultural specificity. Undeniably, the law enforcement officers were working efficiently to effect the drug war policies, however; it appears as though they had pre-conceived conceptions about the suspect based solely on his race. They presumed that he must be involved in drug crimes, after they identified that he contained a white substance almost similar in appearance to cocaine.
How Cultural Specificity Impedes the Implementation of a Drug War
Generally, cultural specificities in a drug war, facilitate racial disparities. Several analysts contend that severe forms of drug misuse are disproportionately concentrated in economically-disadvantaged communities of minority groups .These conditions combined with law enforcement’s tendencies to target outdoor drug activity are reasons for racial disparity in drug convictions. Alternatively, other analysts argue that relatively high numbers of drug arrests among minority groups are resultant from racial bias instigated by lieutenants of a drug war (Beckett et.al., 2005). Multiple convicts in the USA are largely detained as a result of the war on drugs. Misguided drug regulations and harsh sentencing requirements generate extremely disproportionate outcomes for colored persons. Even though, the extent of drug use and sales are comparable across ethnic and racial lines, Latino and black individuals are highly likely to be criminalized than white persons (Alliance, 2016).The drug war contributes to mass incarceration and race disparities in U.S judicial systems. Penalties for drug law violations are meted by the criminal justice system and policies denying voting rights, student aid, business loans, public housing and employment to individuals with criminal records. Moreover, such records frequently lead to the denial of entry for noncitizens and deportation of legal residents. Even when an individual is not detained, a drug conviction regularly disrupts several aspects of his or her economic, political and social life. With such cultural specificities, individuals of dominant groups who are involved in drug crimes, may persist in drug use and sale, certain that they are unlikely to be imprisoned. Hence, drug crimes persist and the drug wars persist as well.
Drug war concerns are further exacerbated by individuals’ divergent views. To illustrate, the Afghan poppy cultivation exemplifies the linkages between local effects and external influences. Power relations have impacted cultivation patterns, production and trafficking of opium. Simultaneously, poppy cultivation demonstrates an internal development that has influenced regional power politics and state control (Maley, 2020). The cultivation of poppy plant is significant to its economy. However, the drug cultivated is illegal when consumed for recreational purposes or when consumed in great amounts. Considering the opiate problem in America, the USA has challenges regarding the policies to be implemented to curb the drug misuse. The Afghanistan citizen may appreciate the significance of the product, however an individual from a different country may not share similar views. Such cultural specificities may therefore hinder the effective implementation of drug war policies. In essence, it is difficult to implement drug policies that are applicable to all cultures since several cultures may accept the consumption of a particular drug while others may be completely against it.
In addition, the colored persons may presume that they are the probable target for drug crimes, hence they may resort to engaging in drug crimes because after all they are highly likely to be jailed whether or not they possess a drug. As aforementioned, detainees are likely to experience numerous economic, political and social challenges once they complete their sentences. They may be unable to access employment or even start businesses. Consequently, they may resort to former illegal behaviors such as being involved in drug crimes. This implies that drug wars will increase to combat the increasing drug crimes. Insensitivity towards cultural specificities or the disregard for others culture therefore, promotes the cycle of drug crime.
Angles That Might Be Taken To the Problem
Field workers should be enabled to recognize that the relevant approach to dealing with one’s assumptions is by not pretending that they are inexistent but rather by acknowledging them, and utilizing the concept on the lack of neutrality to inform conclusions. . Comprehensive awareness regarding cultural settings is linked to the pursuit of understanding personality on extent beyond perceptions of inherent behavior (Thompson, Camp & Trimble, 2020). Through understanding others’ cultures, field workers may begin to understand why particular groups of people engage in drug crimes or why they are more prone to becoming victims of drug war compared to others .They should be further trained on social justice components and their centrality in legal regulation initiatives. Field workers should be requested to advocate for the change in policies that exclude individuals with criminal records from accessing basic rights and opportunities. For instance, they should recommend that such individuals be allowed to access business loans, financial aid and public assistance. Field workers should contend the elimination of policies that result in disproportionate arrests by suggesting changes in law enforcement practices and repealing drug penalty disparities. Moreover, the practices employed among those wrongfully convicted, should implement a sensitive approach.
Field workers should be informed on the impacts of drug misuse and why it is important for drug wars to be implemented. Therefore, they should be informed that drug wars are not necessarily negative because they aid in the eradication of drug crimes. The fieldworkers should further be sensitized on the effects of drug war and race as well as its impact on national development. They must be enabled to understand how racial disparities facilitate an increase in drug crimes. They should be allowed to propose measures that address cultural specificities’ impediments on drug war. Additionally, they should comprehend individuals’ cultures prior to forming pre-judgments. Field workers should be advised to first determine the reasons why particular drugs are utilized in particular communities in higher amounts .They should then classify the reasons for drug use; whether for medical or recreational purposes .
Field workers should be trained on the significance of respecting all individuals’ rights. They should be inculcated with knowledge regarding cultural relativism .They may be informed to consider others’ beliefs, values and cultures and not assume that their cultures are superior to others. They should be trained to regard that all individuals are essentially similar and taught to integrate generalized values, concepts or norms to others in spite of their culture or race, and regardless of geographical contexts in which they are located. Particular norms such as focus on human rights and needs should be prioritized and based on the perception that all individuals are equal. For instance, the drug war should not target particular minority groups but instead all individuals; anyone who offends, whether from a minority group or from a dominant group, should receive punishment. Similarly, the sentencing guidelines should be applicable to all individuals regardless of their culture or ethnic group.
Literature These Field Workers Should Read
Field workers should be provided with literature on cultural relativism. Through such literature, they will be imparted with knowledge on how to value others’ cultures. This ideology will prevent individuals from judging other cultures in comparison with their particular culture or ethnic group. Ethnocentrism is the belief that one’s values, culture and race are most significant or that several or all aspects of one’s race or culture are better than those of other groups. The literature on ethnocentricism should be proposed so that field workers can identify its effects at community and national level. They will be enabled to discourage ethnocentrism and promote cultural relativism. A review on literature on various cultures will also be advocated to enable field workers to accept cultural diversity and integrate it in their lives. Field workers will also be requested to refer to literature on the history of drug wars and determine the influence of cultural specificities on drug war. They will be required to pinpoint whether they identify a pattern of particular groups being predisposed to drug crimes as well as determine the causes of such behaviors. Recent literature focusing on the number of individuals in detention as a result of drug crimes may further be recommended to enable the field workers make further comparisons. From such literature, they may identify the proportion of individuals of a particular culture who are often arrested for drug crimes and determine the reasons for the high numbers.
Alliance, D. P. (2016). The drug war, mass incarceration and race. February 2016 note.
Beckett, K., Nyrop, K., Pfingst, L., & Bowen, M. (2005). Drug use, drug possession arrests, and the question of race: Lessons from Seattle. Social Problems, 52(3), 419-441.
Maley, W. (2020). POPPIES, POLITICS, AND POWER: Afghanistan and the Global History of Drugs and Diplomacy. By James Tharin Bradford. Pacific Affairs, 93(3), 669-671.
Thompson, J., Camp, J. R., & Trimble, J. E. (2020). Universality vs. Cultural Specificity of Personality. The Wiley Encyclopedia of Personality and Individual Differences: Clinical , Applied, and Cross‐Cultural Research, 281-286.
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