Professor ContrerasOctober 8, 2018
Abuse in America
America’s substance abuse problems are a major public concern. Society sets up minorities to fail without realizing that it is due to social inequalities. Many of the problems minorities face in their daily life are byproducts of substance abuse and the scarcity of affordable health care. Such byproducts include: poverty, addiction, violence, crime, childbirth out of wedlock, and single parenting. Society’s view on minority stereotypes may also be to blame. Easy access to media, especially the news, causes people to become easily influenced by others opinions. Often times these exposures alter people’s views and encourage racist arrogances.
Los Angeles is a city viewed by others through rose colored glasses, the same type demonstrated by the excerpt of Taisha Paggett. Within the streets of Los Angeles, there is a staple of the city. A landmark of some sort. The “dark side” of the glitz and glamour of the world famous Los Angeles, Skid Row. Los Angeles’ very own center for poverty in the middle of downtown. Skid row stretches across 54 blocks in downtown. An overrepresented demographic of a homeless person on Skid Row is a black middle-aged male. Minorities/people of color, black and Latino, are struggling the most out of any other ethnicities. Although, one does not have to be homeless to be considered living in poverty in Los Angeles. According to the US Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, “Los Angeles has more people in poverty than any big city in America…14.7 percent of the US residents are living below the poverty level. The numbers in California are similar. Just over 15 percent…slightly higher than the national rate.” Living in Los Angeles, many of my friends, family, and I contribute to the 15 percent of poverty in California. Living costs in Los Angeles are at an unfathomably high. According to statistics, rent on average in Los Angeles is $2,265. The problem may not be unemployment, but the problem may be families of color are not earning enough to pay for their necessities due to the high living costs and racial inequalities placed by the government and society. How can people be expected to flourish in society when their basic needs cannot be met?
Being a black male in America is not easy. One in eight black twenty year old males are currently serving time in prison. Mostly, for offenses having to do with drugs. “As incarceration rate steadily increased, employment rates decline…For blacks, the incarceration rate increases about 30 points and employment declines by about 10 points from 1982 to 2008.” (Western and Muller 177). According to AFSC, “Nationally, approximately 5.3 million Americans are denied the right to vote because of laws that prohibit voting by people with felony convictions…an estimated 13 percent of black men being unable to vote.” In our reading, When They Call You a Terrorist, Cullors states, “There are moments in each of the days and weeks that follow the election…I am not crying for myself. I am crying for our families still living in poverty.” (244), this expresses that there is a problem within our government that is affecting those in poverty and because there is someone in office that has never struggled financially, he will never understand what it’s like; Therefore, he will never be capable of helping those that fit that demographic. What if those 5.3 million people were able to vote? How would that have impacted the election? Would have Donald Trump still won? In the 1970s, there were funding cuts to mental healthcare and low income housing. Of course, majority of the impact was felt by those in lower income areas. From my own experiences, within the black and Latino communities of Los Angeles poverty and addiction go hand in hand. There is a vicious cycle of poverty, untreated mental illness, and addiction.
The war on drugs began in the 1980s, primarily affecting black and Latino communities. This caused thirteen times more drug offences at the time. Sending more minorities to prison than ever. Established in the 1930s, The United States labeled marijuana as a Mexican drug. This is because marijuana in the late 1930s was popular among Mexican American immigrants. This caused marijuana to be the central focus of the government. They taxed marijuana and labeled it as a “gateway drug”. Taking the opportunity to imprison those that are in possession of marijuana, cocaine and other narcotics. Mostly, those that are people of color. By the 1970s, treatment for drug addicts spread across the nation. This is when the law enforcement decided to enforce criminal justice policies, instead, of treating addiction as a disease. They chose to frame drugs as the most horrible thing you can partake in. Allowing the government to act out and release more anti-drug propaganda. By the early 1980s, it was known that when it came to drugs each race had their own preference, white people chose cocaine and African-American’s chose heroin. In the later 1980s, black communities were introduced to crack cocaine. Even then, white people were not getting criminalized the same as blacks. A white person could carry more cocaine than an African-American carrying crack. Deon Joseph, a LAPD officer who patrols Skid Row explains his experiences of growing up in Los Angeles, “Being African American and growing up in the 80s, I saw how this disproportionate problem of crack cocaine devastated communities of color. Some people could go get treatment in Malibu, but black and brown people ended up in prison, and we still see the effects today.” Joseph witnessed the cultural injustice gap early on in Los Angeles.
In poverty ridden areas, you will most likely find people with undiagnosed mental illness that self-medicate whether they choose alcohol or other narcotics. In black and Latino households, it is uncommon to see out psychiatric help and to be aware or acknowledge the possibility of having a mental illness. It is common for alcoholism and domestic violence to be an issue in a poverty household. Usually, this involves the male/father in the household. From my experiences, none of my friends or I have good father role models. All our fathers struggle with undiagnosed mental illness that causes them to choose alcohol over their responsibilities. In American Journal of Sociology, Ringheim states, “As affordability slope of many Metropolitan housing markets got steeper, low-income tenants began slipping downward. Those burdened with mental illness or addictions were most likely to slide farther and faster, falling out of the market all together and onto the streets or into shelters.” I have witnessed this firsthand. My 46-year-old aunt that struggles with alcoholism recently, moved in to our four bedroom apartment with her alcoholic 27-year-old son and 7 year-old-daughter. Her addiction became so bad that she lost her job, lost her home and has no motivation to go back into the workforce. The same goes for her son. My father also struggles with alcoholism which is why he agreed to let them in our home. He mistakenly thought that they would have contributed to paying the bills. Allowing him to spend more money on his hobbies. Placing my father on that same slippery slope. He likes to indulge himself in the gentleman clubs and alcohol. Addiction is a hard battle for everyone that is involved. The abuser ends up in debt and lashes out in anger because they are miserable within their own lives. The abuser is often just step away from homelessness.
From observing within my own community, daughters are more likely to be blamed for the father’s wrong choices in life, become victims to their father’s drunk violent spurs, or are mistaken to be their very own mother. Our fathers have all abused our mothers, cheated, and believe that our mothers are the ones to blame. With society’s awareness to these types of issues in low income areas, women are thriving. Women know they are no longer alone in their battles with abusive relationships and leave the situation for their own well-being. Leaving the fathers to project their old abusive ways onto their children. The impairment from the drugs cause the men to believe that they weren’t to blame for their violence. Gas lighting those before them to make everyone else, the victims, feel as if they are to blame. Domestic violence starts a vicious cycle where the victim is more likely to cope using drugs and alcohol. Victims are also more likely to develop some sort of mental disorder. Children that are exposed to this violence as well struggle with mental illnesses such as, PTSD and depression. They may also cope with the abuse using drugs and alcohol.
There are various forms of violence. This includes physical, sexual, emotional, and psychological abuse. It is common knowledge that many crimes are not reported in minority communities because of the shame or risks that coincides with “snitching”. In Los Angeles, one can find a liquor store on almost every other corner. Could violence and alcohol have some sort of correlation? According to research by Giancarlo and Corman, “Acute alcohol consumption is related to aggressive behavior, as evidence by both correlation and experimental studies…alcohol is involved about 50 percent of violent crimes.” So yes, it does have a correlation. Violence and crime have plagued minority community for years. Although, research shows that crime is slowly declining making our neighborhoods safer than ever. Kneebone and Raphael explain how crime rates in diverse communities have declined over time,
“As crime rates fell and communities diversified, relationships between crime and community demographic characteristics weakened significantly. The association between crime and community characteristics—like the proportion of the population that is black, Hispanic, poor, or foreign-born—diminished considerably over time.”
Could this mean that minorities and people as a whole are educating themselves on the issues and limitations set by society? Are public policies aiding in the declining numbers of violent crimes?
In Brennan Center For Justice: What Caused the Crime Decline? it states, “Various explanations have been offered: expanded police forces, an aging population, employment rates, and even legalized abortion.” In What Caused the Crime Decline?, it is emphasized that the legalization of abortion is a one of the key factor in crime reduction. This is because unwanted children born to unready parents partake in more criminal activities as an adult. I also believe that this caused fewer children to go through the trauma from orphanages causing less rebellion against a failing government. In today society, people are having children much later in their lives. They want to have a career and make sure they can take care of themselves before they can take care of a child. Younger citizens are aware of more social issues and the root of these issues. Which I believe people that are older did not really talk about. I was born out of wedlock to my parents at the young age of 21. At the age of 23, I could not imagine having a child. As a minority, I have gone through the waves. I’ve lived in a home of poverty, substance abuse, violence, and under the rule of a strong single mother, just like millions of other children in the United States.
The National Survey on Drug Use and Health, placed 8.3 million children under the age of 18 years old living or have lived with a parent with substance abuse problems. Parental substance abuse can affect a child in many different ways. Which is more noticeable in males than females. Young African-American boys are written off as trouble, in need of special education, or too active in the classroom. They are often misdiagnosed or expelled in early childhood education classrooms. Boys are more often to act out, as they are experiencing trauma. Yet, young girls act in and are seen as reserved or shy. Usually, slipping through the cracks and as adults and falling into the same behaviors as their parent or living a life with mental illness. Substance abuse also can lead to neglect of a child from one or both parents. Causing the child to grow up faster than he or she should. If the sober parent manages to get away from the addicted parent it can be beneficial towards the child. If the child has at least one positive role model there is a chance for him or her to flourish in society. As long as there were more protective factors than risk factors.
As, societies aging population are laid to rest, younger people are taking action and speaking on behalf of everyone. With a rising society the use of crack has decreased, alcohol consumption has decreased, unemployment has decreased, income growth has increased, incarceration has increased, and mental illness along with abortion have become less taboo. Creating a safer space for those after us.
Bergman, Ben. “LA Has More People in Poverty than Any Big City, Census Says.” Southern California Public Radio, 18 Jan. 2017, www.scpr.org/news/2016/09/15/64657/census-los-angeles-still-has-more-people-in-povert/.
Calhoun, Stacy, et al. “Improving the Outcomes of Children Affected by Parental Substance Abuse: a Review of Randomized Controlled Trials.” Current Neurology and Neuroscience Reports., U.S. National Library of Medicine, 28 Jan. 2015, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4315541/.
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Kneebone, Elizabeth, and Steven Raphael. “City and Suburban Crime Trends in Metropolitan America.” Brookings, Brookings, 28 July 2016, www.brookings.edu/research/city-and-suburban-crime-trends-in-metropolitan-america/.
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