Dear Black America, Dear White America,

Sylvester Salcedo

Please, put an end to the War on Drugs in America.  Today.  Now.

The hand-written posters across the nation, seething with rage, anger and frustration, are terse and direct: I can’t breathe.  Stop Police Brutality.  Black Lives Matter.

America is burning, in the midst of a worldwide public health pandemic, from years of pent-up racial tension, anger and fear not experienced since the civil rights movement of the 1950’s and 60’s.

Everyone is talking, but no one is really listening to one another. Certainly, no one listens to me.

Everyone has an opinion about race and race relations in America, but to date, I have not heard one concrete, specific solution offered to the nation as a first step.  Nothing specific or actionable with a definite timeline has been offered by the usual line-up of well-known, smartly poised, expertly programmed cable news TV pundits, elected or appointed officials or so-called experts invited from the Left, the Right, the Centrists or the Independents to pontificate on unfolding “breaking news” events, coast to coast.  No one really knows what to do.  Only rethreaded political party playbook sound bites abound. And the burning goes on.

Certainly, no one listens to me.

Being neither black nor white in America, what could I possibly contribute to a discussion on race and race relations in America today or in a million years?  I’m just a Filipino-American.  Not black, not white, just a distant descendant of a President McKinley Little Brown Brother 120 years later.  By the fortunes of accelerated world travel since 1521, a world war and a survivor of the Death March of 1942, I am a non-black, non-white American by birth.  In black or white America, no one, generally speaking, seeks out voices like mine or inquires about life experiences like mine.   I am just an in-between black and white America kind of guy. Shades of gray is brown, I would guess.  Sometimes seen around, but never heard.

Certainly, no one listens to me.

But I want to say something.  And I say this:  Dear Black America, Dear White America, put an end to the our American war on drugs.  I implore you.  As a first step, it is actionable, achievable, measurable, desirable and most important for right now; this nation can eliminate instantly one of the main platforms for racial inequality and unchecked police brutality.

You know about Selma, Alabama in 1965, and you should know about Tulia, Texas in 1999.  The almost 50-year, Nixon-initiated American Drug War has perverted and overloaded the American justice system, militarized police department weltanschauung (budgets, tactics and self-measurement of community policing), marginalized the drug-addicted, exacerbated racism in American society and exploded the disproportionately minority jail-bound population.

The inequalities are felt.  Unfair treatment is well known.  These days the resulting blatant police abuses are captured, more and more, on ubiquitous cell phone cameras and instantly uploaded on social media.  Stop and frisk programs.  No knock drug raids, in daytime or nighttime.  Racial profiling.  Mass incarceration.  Buy and bust operations.  Tactical narcotics teams.  And yet, all political parties continue to fund and support blindly the American Drug War.

Certainly, no one listens to me.

The use and abuse of illicit drugs, like the corona virus, is a public health matter and emergency.  It should be addressed, evaluated and resolved by doctors and nurses, medical experts, supported by science-oriented researchers and statisticians, not by the police and soldiers, prosecutors and judges.

The use and abuse of illicit drugs is not a national security threat to be fought by the U.S. military forces or by the militarization of local, state or federal law enforcement agencies.  The War on Drugs is supposed to be a metaphor to save lives and to prevent drug addiction.  Just say No.  In fact, it is a public health issue that has lead America to the creation of the most senseless, wasteful, expensive, racist political narratives to enact draconian drug laws that have, in turn, harmed and jailed more individuals, disrupted more families and widen the nation’s racial divide more than ever.

The drug war is the American political and social policy cooking bowl in which to openly foment racism and to instill centuries old racist sentiments and policies.  In almost 50 years, America’s metaphorical War on Drugs has become a real war on its own people. It is a war on its poor, its sick and drug-dependent, its urban minority communities, and on now on its suburbs and rural districts racked by uncontrolled heroin/opioid addiction.

And no one listens to me.    I remain sincerely,

Your Little Brown Brother

Sylvester L. Salcedo of Orange is a retired naval officer who served from 1979 to 1999, including work in Department of Defense-Department of Justice counterdrug operations.

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