Updated: Aug 30
Lunchtime once again finds me browsing around online, and I’ve stumbled across Michael “Cetewayo” Tabor’s famous 1970 pamphlet “Capitalism + Dope= Genocide”, published by the New York Black Panther Party. This is a document from a very specific stratum of anti-drug discourse: a populist anti-drug message grounded in political economy and in the race and class politics of a specific moment. I would like to know more about revolutionary movements’ anti-drug messages– past and present–and wonder if other Points readers have insights into/interests in this history? Documents on The Young Lords Internet Resource Site gesture to that group’s anti-drug stance: points # 3 and #4 in the organization’s “Rules of Discipline” address drug and alcohol use and possession (outlawing them); their “10 Point Health Program” calls for door-to-door addiction treatment, but there’s not much theorizing about addiction per se. A swift tour of the modest Michigan State University online archive of Black Panther Party publications, where I found Tabor’s pamphlet, did not reveal any additional material along this line; maybe there’s more in Seattle’s Black Panther Party History & Memory Project?
As online archives of the “ephemeral” print materials through which revolutionary nationalists circulated their version of “just say ‘no’!” become more widely available, historians might actually be able to reconstruct a genealogy of grassroots anti-drug sentiment–and it may challenge our prevailing sense of abstinence messages as moralizing, silly, and ineffective. What are the start and end points of this race and class specific critique of alcohol and drug use? To what extent did this critique take hold in the communities in which groups like the Panthers and the Young Lords were active? How (if at all) did it influence the delivery of addiction treatment services in the wake of the Great Society public health initiatives of the early ’70s? I hope some Points readers will dedicate their own lunch hours to addressing these and other questions.