Today most narcotic addicts are thought to be black.' Most of them live in three Northern cities (New York, Chicago, Washington, D.C.) and Los Angeles. The majority of black people, however, continue to live in the South where the addict population is quite small and mostly white.2 Race by itself, then, cannot account for the likelihoodthat blacks will use narcotics much more than whites. The question is: What factors do produce this, and are these the same as were operating in the earlier cases we have looked at?
The history of black narcotics use is actually quite a short and recent one. The earliest mention of the phenomenon was an article appearing in the North Carolina Medical Journal in 1885. The author, a medical practitioner named Roberts, reported that in all of his experience he had "heard of but three well authenticated cases of opium-eating in the negro." One of these had occurred in his own state, the others in South Carolina.3
Although it is quite likely that blacks consumed opiates in the patent medicines they bought at this time, there is no sign that this led to habitual use, as it supposedly did in the same region among whites. Roberts explained this in terms which fitted the Negro stereotype of the time but left narcotics use out of it:
He [the Negro] has not the same delicate nervous organization and does not demand the form of stimulant conveyed in opium—a grosser stimulant sufficing. . . . [Since the opium habit is generally contracted] from the physician's prescription being too long continued [the Negro is less liable] first on account of his general ignorance, and next from his poverty, as well as from the less desire he has for this form of stimulant.4
Thirty years later in Georgia the picture seemed not to have changed. Only six drug cases involving blacks appeared in the records of the Georgia State Sanitarium between 1909 and 1914; two only were for the use of opium.5 In 1913, in Jacksonville, Florida, a survey of prescription records required under a local ordinance turned up 541 opiate users in the city, of whom 134 were black (28.8 percent). Since over half of the city's total population was black, the survey confirmed that "the white race is more prone to use opium than the negro.' 6 Two years later in Tennessee, where state law required a system of registration for regular opiate users, Brown found only 10 percent blacks in this group—significantly less than their proportion in the state overa11.7
In the Southern states more generally, blacks were underrepresented among the narcotic users, although the region had a higher rate of addiction than the rest of the country.9 Kolb and DuMez explained this high rate as due "to the known value of opiates in treating diarrheal diseases . . . but also for the discomforts arising from such diseases as hookworm and malaria, these diseases being much more prevalent in the states enumerated than in the remainder of the country.' 9 Of course, if it had been simply this, blacks ought to have been as liable to narcotics addiction as they were exposed to the diseases, but this was not so.
Roberts had believed this might change among blacks migrating to the North, as their income rose, and Green, the author of the Georgia study, predicted that "in communities in which the negro is more prosperous, drug psychoses are often found."w We can see how far this proved correct in Figure 5-1, which illustrates the racial composition of the addict population in various cities and areas up to 1940, as provided by the available surveys.
Whites clearly predominated in every case, northern and southern alike, and the Jacksonville group amounted to the largest proportion of black addicts for nearly 30 years.
What the chart does not indicate are the major shifts in the black population from south to north, and the consequent change in the size of the black and white population from place to place. Since these will have affected the racial proportions of the addict group also, what we need to know is the relative likelihood of blacks becoming heavy narcotics users compared with whites over the same period. A simple way to express this is to take the ratio of black to white users for each area and divide it by the ratio of the black to white total population for the same place. At unity we can say that blacks were as likely to use narcotics as whites in that locality; for fractions, the smaller the score the more underrepresented blacks were among the users, and above unity, the larger the score, the more overrepresented and hence more likely they were to become users as compared with whites. (See Figure 5-2.)
Two things become clearer. Although the number of blacks among drug users was still small during the period, by 1929 they were more than twice as likely as whites to be among this group. Compared with Southerners, Northern black users were more likely to exceed their popular distribution.
The case of the New York City Narcotic Clinic is an interesting one. It will be recalled that the widespread rumors of a cocaine epidemic among blacks, in New York in particular, were largely groundless. Here is evidence, however, that the use of opiates was unusually widespread among the city's blacks—yet almost no public notice was taken of it at the time. The city health commissioner, reporting on the drug problem early in 1920, failed to mention the race of the clinic's patients; what struck him most was that the majority of them was under 25, "mere children"; and that there was "hardly a calling or occupation without representation. Apparently the evil is so widespread that it reaches every stratum of society and every nationality."12 He reported that over two-thirds of these people were straight heroin users; only 10 percent admitted to mixing cocaine with morphine or heroin; and an insignificant number claimed to prefer the use of cocaine by itself. The clinic experienced almost no demand for it.13 In other words, the drug which a generation of publicists and legislators had blamed on the bladks was relatively uncommon in 1920, while the heroin habit, which young blacks were developing at a faster rate than whites, was all but invisible.
A similar situation may have been the case in California where in 1935 a relatively small proportion of blacks was arrested on narcotics charges, although this amounted to more than ten times the popular distribution. This, too, was invisible, concealed by the public obsession with marijuana and the "Mexican problem."
It pays not to read too much into these statistics, for the sources and methods of collection vary widely between them; they are useful as rough indicators of the regional or racial distribution of narcotics users at static points of time, but they cannot reliably be used to point up changes over time. For this we need a continuous statistical series based on a constant method of measurement. The two commonest examples are the yearly enumerations issued by the Federal Bureau of Narcotics or its predecessor units since 1915; these list the number of people charged with criminal violations of the Harrison Act, and are separate from the enumeration of violators of the Marihuana Tax Act. The second series is the yearly enumeration of nonfederal narcotics prosecutions collected by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and published in the annual Uniform Crime Reports." Figure 5-3 (below) indicates the overall trend for the two series between 1915 and 1962.
The FBI series differs from the FBN's by including marijuana cases; in 1953, for example, marijuana arrests amount to 12.4 percent of the annual total; the following year, this was up to 16.6 percent.15
This is not the only problem with interpreting the Uniform Crime Reports. For example, while the FBN series is essentially complete and comprehensive for the whole country, the FBI Reports are missing information (especially fingerprint records from which racial data are obtained), and frequent changes in the reporting system cast doubt on the accuracy of the figures available.
These have been variously interpreted to mean, on one hand, that there was a steady and deep decline in the number of addicts from the passage of the Harrison Act to around 1948, when narcotics use began to rise again. In particular, this was the view of Commissioner Anslinger. In the decade before 1948 he told a congressional committee that "addiction had reached an irreducible minimum."18 Addiction in this context was synonymous with an arrest record on narcotics charges, no matter what the individual circumstances.
On the other hand, critics of this view have argued that since the average age of reported addicts kept falling during the same period, at the very least the group must have been reproducing itself, and since the time period was too short to permit the typical addict to "mature out" of his habit, it is likely the total number was on the rise.17 Changes in enforcement practice, measurement error and a calculated "public relations effort" are said to be behind the Anslinger and official interpretation.18
A third possibility is that both of these things were happening at once. This was possible because large demographic changes and a gradual change in enforcement policy beginning in the middle of World War I, almost as soon as the Harrison Act came into force, produced a divergence in the geographic and racial composition of narcotics offenders, or addicts as of course they were officially known.
Compared to the North, the southern offense rate continued relatively high until 1948 when the sharp upturn in the national picture (Figure 5-3) was primarily a phenomenon of the northern cities and Los Angeles.
There is a problem with regional comparisons, however, because marijuana and opiate offenses cannot be disaggregated from the FBI totals for each region. Since the marijuana campaign originated in the Southwest and West and was pursued most forcefully there, the figures for the states in these regions must be considered inflated as an indicator of opiate offenses.
The FBI reports nevertheless illustrate a parallel decline in drug arrests for all regions of the country through the late years of the Depression and during the Second World War. At the same time, however, the proportion of blacks arrested rose steadily. The figures on the racial characteristics of narcotics offenders show that all races reflected the central tendency, illustrated in Figure 5-3, of an overall decline between 1933 and the end of the war. Most of this was due, however, to the intervention of the war, and the large spurt in arrests between 1939 and 1940 and again between 1945 and 1946 suggest that there was no "natural" decline in addict numbers due, as Anslinger used to say, to the success of his bureau's enforcement efforts.
The ratio of blacks to whites among reported offenders shows an almost unbroken linear increase toward more and more blacks, fewer whites, until 1950 when the number of blacks became a majority for the first time. In all likelihood what this means is that Northern, urban blacks were steadily increasing their representation among narcotics offenders at the expense of the Southern whites who were dropping out of the habit or out of sight of the police. These were the older addicts; it was the steady influx of youthful black users which was pushing the mean age of the official addict population downwards.
Did the white addicts simply disappear? From the FBI records they did, and whether or not they continued using narcotics, all that can be said is that from the early thirties on, they were less and less likely to be arrested. In the same period a black's chance of being arrested increased, and, according to these statistics, it came close to two-and-ahalf times greater than the white's.
A common explanation for the racial shift in arrest rates is that the police enforced the law differently on racial grounds alone, at the same time as fewer people of both races were being arrested on narcotic charges. Black jazz musicians and the clubs where they played, for example, seem to have been singled out by the authorities for close and constant surveillance. "Practically all the outstanding players of bop were arrested during this period.' 19
This was probably characteristic of enforcement policy in the North rather than the South (I say probably because the FBI figures are not further broken down to reflect race by region for the same offense), although it remains to be settled whether the actual prevalence of narcotics use among urban blacks was disproportionately greater than among whites and arrests simply reflected it, or else whether the police used the narcotic laws to attack blacks arriving from the South in the same way as we saw the marijuana laws used against the Mexicans.
Writing about Chicago in 1919 Tuttle found common stereotypes about blacks to include that "they consistently sold their votes, carried razors, habitually shot craps, and had one front tooth filled with gold with their first earnings' 20—no mention of drugs. At exactly the same time in New York, as noted before, opiates were circulating quite widely in the black community although unnoticed by whites. Katzman, who has published a history of the Detroit ghetto, has evidence that drugs were commonly available in saloons patronized by blacks in the late war years, but that this was ignored by the authorities for as long as the practice was confined to a limited quarter, usually the "red light" district of the city.21
A number of factors combined to drive this more into the open. During the war a nationwide campaign to protect soldiers from contracting venereal diseases, enforced by directives from the Secretary of War, led to the break-up of many of the established urban vice areas, but this only encouraged the dispersion of the trade into previously "respectable" areas of the city. This increased the visibility of drug use, which in turn stimulated greater enforcement efforts. The steady flow of black migrants into the cities during the twenties, and the expansion of the black residential areas increased this visibility in general, while Prohibition may have increased the marginal advantage of drugs over alcohol to consumers on low incomes.
It does not really matter whether the FBI figures represented accurately the prevalence of narcotics use from the early thirties on, for even if they do not, they still reflect an important change in the focus of official concern regarding the potential threat of the narcotic problem—who was (and who was not) susceptible to addiction and the circumstances in which new measures might be required to deal with the problem. Either way, we learn that the potential for a distinctive black narcotics problem was in evidence soon after the First World War, at least in New York, that it was concentrated in the urban North and West, and that it continued to grow through the thirties despite a decline in the overall number of reported users.
This potential could have been expected to manifest itself concretely as the black share of the inner-city population steadily increased; the 1940 figures were an indication of what was to come immediately after the war was over. However, to the authorities the drug problem was all but forgotten—except for the Mexicans and marijuana. Table 5-1 provides the arrest statistics for 1934-41, the eight years when, as we have seen, the agitation over the "Mexican problem" reached its peak and during which the FBI reported Mexicans as a separate racial category.
In light of the widespread publicity given to the Mexicans and the intense public concern for the dangers of marijuana at this time, it is surprising to find that the average number of Mexicans arrested annually on drug charges was smaller than the number of any one of the other races. In simple numerical terms the major drug problem at the time was a white one, but Anslinger and his agents treated this as residual and inoffensive. If racial concentration of drug use gave this problem its popular visibility, then it was not the Mexicans on whom everyone should have fixed their attention, but the Chinese instead. Their offense rate was higher than the highest rate of addiction ever estimated for the country as a whole, and yet nationally it was almost completely ignored at the time.
Why this was so will take time to explain adequately. For the moment it is important to emphasize the lack of any relationship between the true dimension of the narcotics problem and the nature of official and public concern about it. The Mexican problem was a small one relatively speaking, yet it created a national furor; the black and Chinese problems were larger but were totally ignored.
Immediately after World War lithe number of narcotics prosecutions began to rise (Figure 5-3) and the rate of increase among blacks was three times faster than that among whites. Although this number has continued to rise steadily ever since, 1951 was what was officially described as a peak year because in that year the number of offenders under 21, and hence the most recent recruits to the drug, reached the highest proportion to be recorded until nearly 20 years later.22
From then on, the statistics show a steady pattern of aging among the offender or addict population, as the proportion of new and younger offenders declined and the proportion of older and repeat offenders grew.23 The number of new offenders never dried up altogether, but we can reliably treat the period between 1949 and 1953 as a distinct episode in our overall story.
Officially this was the period of an adolescent epidemic in drug addiction. For example, the Kefauver Committee Report on organized crime stated in 1951 that it was "this phase of the narcotic problem [which] is a matter of acute public interest and widespread alarm,"24 despite the fact that offenders under 21 never made up more than a quarter of the total at the peak of the period in the city most affected—New York. This distortion helped obscure the fact that the majority of so-called addicts uncovered in the "epidemic" postwar years had begun using narcotics before the war or during it, and that consequently the sharp rise which precipitated public concern between 1949 and 1953 was largely the result of a gradual but steady rise in the years before. This was one way that the narcotics enforcement agencies avoided policy dilemmas of their own making, at the same time as they helped stimulate the very problem they were supposed to suppress by encouraging the substitution of heroin for marijuana among the drug-using population.
According to the Bureau of Narcotics, the greatest concentration of offenders was in three cities, New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles.25 What we can learn about this episode is most readily gathered from focusing on the first two.
In New York several agencies reported on the number of narcotics users entering their overlapping, sometimes separate jurisdictions. Table 5-2 summarizes these reports at the same time as it reveals a number of discrepancies and inconsistencies that typically exist between sources.26
Since these are, strictly speaking, tabulations of arrests, not of individuals, and only of those individuals falling into the hands of the law, estimates of the number of addicts in New York at this time differ both from these figures and even more widely from each other. Between 1952 and 1955, Police Commissioner Kennedy told the Daniel Hearings, there were 10,638 known addicts in the city, 87 percent of them (9,255) heroin addicts." Inspector Joseph L. Coyle of the Narcotics Squad estimated that between 1952 and 1958 there were 22,909 "drug addicts," but he did not distinguish heroin-users from marijuana- or cocaine-users, and included an unidentified number of people convicted of selling drugs, though known not to be users themselves.29 Anslinger reported from FBN statistics that between 1953 and 1954 there were 7,937 addicts in New York.29 Yet another estimate was provided by Peter Terranova drawing on the register of addicts maintained by the State Board of Health after 1951. According to this source, there were 14,196 addicts in the state between 1952 and late 1955, of whom 18.2 percent were under 21.3° Rough reliability for this is suggested by the finding of Chein and his associates who carried out a most extensive search of institutional records in New York City between 1949 and 1955. They identified 3,457 new cases of boys (only) in the 16-20 age group who were discovered to be involved with narcotics in that period. About 500 of these youths were caught each year; the peak year was 1951 when over 800 new cases were presented in the courts or hospitals of the city.31
According to the State Board of Health, 57.9 percent of the addicts were black, 24.1 percent white, 14.9 percent Puerto Rican, and just over 3 percent Chinese. In 88 percent of all cases, heroin was the drug involved. Curiously, Chein never presented a simple tabulation of the race or ethnic origin of the youthful offenders he was able to identify, although a breakdown of the boroughs and census tracts in which the offenders lived showed a very high concentration of drug use in predominantly black and Puerto Rican areas—Harlem, the Morrisania section of the Bronx, and scattered sections of Brooklyn, notably Bedford-Stuyvesant. Altogether, across the city, 15 percent of the tracts, containing 29 percent of the 16-20 year old boys, contributed 83 percent of all cases on record.32 The concentration of black and Puerto Rican population significantly marked off the areas where drug use had reached "epidemic" proportions from those areas where its prevalence was low.
At the beginning of the period surveyed by Chein (1949) more than half the drug offenders were using marijuana, with only a small proportion using it together with heroin, cocaine, or something else. Within a year this had changed and by 1952 heroin completely dominated consumption patterns.
Superficially it looks as if high rates of drug use and high rates of juvenile delinquency in general (apart from drug use) went closely together. It was a common belief that the former led to the latter as drug users were forced to resort to crime to finance expensive habits. Actually Chein found that the total amount of delinquency was independent of drug use, and that the reported rise in other than drug offenses reflected increased activity on the part of the police. Areas with high drug use did not reflect a rise in delinquency which was significantly more marked than the rise in areas where drug use was low, although the types of offenses committed did vary along these lines. High drug-use areas showed a greater concentration on income-producing crimes such as robbery, burglary, jostling, shoplifting, etc. The delinquency of the low drug-use areas tended to be more violent and antipersonal in nature—assault, disorderly conduct, nonrape sex offenses, and auto theft were more common. These findings suggested to Chein that there were two quite distinct patterns of delinquency in the city—one drug use, and the other, the delinquency of gangs and fighting."
Both kinds of delinquency were concentrated in the same parts of the city, even though within a section there was differentiation between groups of delinquent drug users and delinquent nonusers. We can get a good idea of what these areas were like by examining those combinations of variables which had the highest correlation with drug rates in each of the boroughs.
In plain language this means that around 1950 you were highly likely to become involved in drugs—or at least to get caught at it—if you lived in a neighborhood of New York in which household incomes averaged less than $2,000 annually, in which the men who worked had jobs which were low in demand, low in skill and productivity, and low in wages—what economists call the secondary labor market. Lack of income also meant a neighborhood with relatively few television sets and a lot of crowding in tenements. Or else you were highly likely to be reported as a drug offender if you were black or Puerto Rican.
These conditions do not by any means explain why people became drug users between 1946 and 1953, but the correlations are high enough for us to say that they do identify the kinds of people who did.
In Chicago the picture was similar. In 1955 the Chicago Police Department estimated that there was a total of 3,500 heroin addicts in the city.35 Kobrin and Finestone, who searched the institutional records for the period 1947-53, claimed that there were about 5,000 habitual drug users in Chicago at the end of that time, but they did not divide the heroin users from the rest. In general they found that "of those persons with official records as drug users, approximately 90 percent used heroin."36 In 1950, however, the psychiatrist in charge at the municipal court remarked that there had been an increase in drug use in the 17-25 age group, but that this was mostly confined to marijuana." Thee arrest records for 1954, the one year in which the specific drug used was reported, show, however, that of over a thousand cases of sale or possession of drugs, 26 percent involved marijuana.38
It is worthwhile to clarify where possible the exact nature of the offense charged. The Chicago police, for example, typically used to pick up people known or suspected to be drug users and charge them under a disorderly conduct provision of the municipal code, which had been amended early in 1951 to include drug-users. These arrests were generally for the purpose of getting information on the drug trade or of forcing a trade of detention time and harassment in exchange for names and other incriminatory evidence. Just as we saw similar statutes used by California police to drive Mexicans out of the local area in the 1930s, so these tactics of selective and arbitrary arrest were used in Chicago against the predominantly young and black population of the early fifties.
Charges under this provision were never fewer than 50 percent of all narcotics charges. For the years between 1951 and 1955 they made up 52 percent, 70 percent, 72 percent, 70 percent, and 69 percent, respectively. In effect, drugs were a pretext; barely half of the arrests resulted in convictions. The system was admittedly an illegal one, the state's attorney for Cook County told the Daniel subcommittee, but "you have to go along with a certain amount of the fringe violation, if you see what I mean. . . . [We cannot] get too excited if a known addict has been unlawfully arrested and then discharged, knowing that because he is a known addict the police have to take little extra measures."39 The fact was that the numbers of arrests far exceeded the true number of known heroin addicts, and that as many as a quarter of those charged used marijuana and were not addicts in this sense at all. Since the age at which drug use started was typically around 16, and since a quarter of those arrested in 1951 were close to this age, the police could not have known who or what these people were when they were arrested—except, of course, that they were black teenagers. The operation, in other words, was a dragnet aimed at a whole section of the urban population, and the only justification for it, that "in order to catch a dope peddler, you must have an addict,"" was an ex post facto rationalization of the operation itself.
The numbers of adolescents using heroin did nevertheless rise in this period. The best evidence for this is not police figures but rather data on first admissions from the Chicago area to the federal narcotics treatment facility in Lexington, Kentucky. These show that between 1947 and 1951 a total of 357 under-21 year olds were admitted as compared with only four between 1937 and 1941. As a proportion of the total Chicago admissions this group was over 24 percent in the later period, 1.4 percent in the earlier one. The numbers and percentages are still small, small enough to justify dismissing claims that this was primarily an adolescent phenomenon. In any case the number of new offenders of any age rapidly trailed off after 1951, and by 1954 the police reported 85 percent of their narcotics arrests were repeats.41
The geographical concentration of police activity and of reported drug use was quite as evident in Chicago as it was in New York. The police identified four sections on the city's South Side as the hub of the narcotics traffic: these, Prairie, Wabash, Hyde Park and Woodlawn, were mostly black.42 In all, 91 percent of the Narcotics Bureau cases lived in fifteen community areas containing only 25 percent of Chicago's total population. Since blacks made up only 14.1 percent of that total (1950 Census), but nearly 90 percent of the drug offenders, they were many more times more likely than whites to be involved. (See Table 5-4.)
Chicago's drug users were not newcomers to the city. Most of the new and young ones had been born in Chicago or had spent their adolescence there,43 and most had been born in the middle years of the Depression to parents who had migrated at that time from the South. A similar pattern was true also of the younger New York users."
Kobrin and Finestone were not in a position to investigate patterns of delinquency and crime apart from narcotics use in area by area of the city, although they did find that adolescent heroin users had probably "engaged in delinquency in a group-supported [read gang] and habitual form either prior to their use of drugs or simultaneously with their developing interest in drugs."45 Both Senator Daniel and his witness, the sheriff of Cook County, agreed that in general, addicts had a history of crime prior to their using drugs. 46 The onset of addiction increased the frequency with which crimes were committed, however, and altered their pattern somewhat. Street-fighting and gang assaults, Kobrin and Finestone observed, died down when gang members began taking heroin, and after addiction they became more specialized in the kinds of crimes they would commit. In general they would not engage in more serious (more antipersonal and violent) crimes than those committed before addiction.47
These then were the main features of the narcotics situation as it existed around 1951 when public concern stimulated the first official reactions, and vice versa.
Several already familiar themes were drawn together in 1950, during the life of Senator Kefauver's Special Committee to Investigate Organized Crime. "There can be no doubt," the committee concluded in its final report, "that the narcotic traffic is highly organized crime." 48 The shape of the organization, the identity of its members and the power that its money could buy were the subjects of the committee's hearings, held in 14 cities and televised around the country. These launched the specter of the Mafia and such Italian masterminds as Frank Costello, Lucky Luciano, and Tony Accardo, together with Jewish confederates such as Meyer Lansky and Mickey Cohen who had reportedly introduced to the world of crime such basics of the legitimate economy as market concentration, lateral and vertical integration, and the division of labor.
"It would be most unfortunate," the committee warned, "if any inferences were erroneously drawn in any way derogatory to the vast majority of law-abiding citizens of Sicilian and Italian extraction."49 Nevertheless, the foreignness of the criminal gangs was a recurrent point in the testimony and was used to bolster the image of a nationwide, indeed international syndicate, linked by organic ties of kinship and ethnic loyalty and disciplined by an age-old Sicilian code of secrecy, which had subverted vast segments of native American life. The nativism of this approach, however, produced a paradoxical account of the narcotics traffic in the immediately preceding period.
Thus while testimony obtained by the Kefauver Committee brought to light the rise of drug offenses following the war, other testimony contradicted the official Bureau of Narcotics line that the traffic in drugs had largely been suppressed from the mid-thirties on. A powerful New York gang was identified as having successfully smuggled narcotics from China until around 1940; New Orleans was reported as having been a center for incoming marijuana and opium grown in Mexico during the war; a Mafia group operating in Kansas City and supplying narcotics throughout the Midwest was apparently able to maintain an uninterrupted flow of drugs from Havana, also during the war years.50 Either these activities should have been reflected in the arrest statistics for those years or else, if the latter figures are to be believed, the Mafia was nowhere near as powerful in the drug traffic as was claimed.
The rise in drug addiction after the war was again largely supplied by gang sources, according to Kefauver. Cocaine was introduced from Peru in 1948 but reportedly was suppressed by the Bureau of Narcotics a year later. There was a "tremendous flow" of marijuana from Mexico under the direction of "some of the most astute, wily and desperate criminals who operate interstatewise"51; the influx of heroin immediately after the war was largely credited to Lucky Luciano, who had been deported to Italy early in 1946, and who was alleged to have funneled drug shipments both from there and from Cuba the following year.52
At the opening of a new round of hearings, in April 1951, the chairman, Congressman Boggs said:
I first became interested in this legislation about a year and a half ago when I received a letter from a member of a Federal grand jury. This juror said that about 50 or 75 percent of the time of the Federal grand jury in New Orleans was being consumed by second, third, and fourth offenders; maybe more than that, of the narcotics law, so it became quite obvious, after I took it up with the [Federal] Bureau [of Narcotics], that one of the greatest difficulties in enforcement was the fact that the penalties were not severe enough.53
At the time the records of the United States Fifth Circuit Court indicated that narcotics violators in New Orleans were in fact being convicted and imprisoned in significantly greater proportions than the national average, and the typical sentence was longer."
Boggs had been convinced, however, that the city was the center of a Mafia-run narcotics traffic. This was the view at least of the FBN agent in charge at New Orleans, Thomas McGuire, who had testified to that effect at the Kefauver Committee hearing in New Orleans late in January 1951. The evidence for this was, in fact, slim; the only notable seizure of drugs mentioned was a small one—$21,000 by police estimate; and no evidence was introduced that heroin use in the city had increased at all. It appears, moreover, that what the Kefauver Committee referred to as narcotics was in fact marijuana, smuggled in from Mexico. 55 The reputed kingpin of the city's drug traffic, Carlos Marcello, had a long criminal record but the only evidence of his involvement in drugs pointed to marijuana and nothing else. 56
The peculiar sensitiveness of New Orleans officials to this drug was noted before; the original political context for their concern had been an anti-working-class one at the time Huey Long was building a successful populist alliance against planters and the business interests of the city. It had also carried undertones of hostility toward the Italians of New Orleans who had been the whipping boys of the city's political machine since the late nineteenth century.
In 1951 a similar constellation of political forces was organizing in an effort to overthrow Earl Long, Huey's brother and the governor of the state since 1948. The opposition was largely based on support from the rural planters and urban business groups, whose attacks on the corruption and mismanagement of the state by the Long administration found a strong echo in the Kefauver Committee's exposé of criminal racketeering in the city and elsewhere in the state. Charges of bribery and of official complicity in the rackets, made in the hearings, helped structure the shape of the gubernatorial campaign for the following year.
One of the candidates was to be Congressman Boggs whose political task was a difficult one. In fact, he was a Long candidate and owed his political debts to both the governor and his son, U. S. Senator Russell Long. His district in New Orleans, however, was a middle-class one which showed every indication of voting for the anti-Long candidate in the gubernatorial primary. What Boggs had to do was to gain popular visibility, maintain for himself the working-class votes which traditionally went for the Long candidate, and at the same time somehow capture the middle-class vote for efficient government, law, and order."
The Kefauver hearings offered the basic campaign ingredients and had resurrected that classic device for cutting across class politics—the ethnic scapegoat. In New Orleans terms the Mafia had existed all along, ever since there had been Italians, and the Kefauver Committee's final report went along by identifying the city as the virtual origin of the organization in America.° What Boggs was to do in his hearings was to pinpoint the one racket in New Orleans which involved the smallest number of people, had the least public support (as compared, say, with gambling which was very popular), and was as innocuous as marijuana use had always been in the city—and introduce it as a national problem of epidemic proportions. This was how Boggs discovered the narcotics problem and began running for governor.59
"Gentlemen," one of the witnesses told the hearing committee, "somewhere right at this minute a little boy like yours, or a little girl like mine, is getting a first taste of the needle; it is going into their bloodstreams. Their bloodstreams are coursing the drug that will soon destroy them."69 As the testimony presented the problem, it was primarily one involving juveniles, but one which cut across class lines to occur in almost any social environment:
The most terrifying thing about the drug disease among the youth to parents and citizens who are worried about its rapid spread is that it happens to normal and average children—not only to subnormal children but to normal and average children as well.°
Mrs. Wright, from the General Federation of Women's Clubs, added similar sentiments:
We feel that these rats who peddle drugs are more of a menace than even a potential murderer. They kill the very souls of those with whom they traffic; they rob them of all moral values; they take their health away; they drag our boys and girls into some circle of Hades where those who love them are unable to reach to help.°
The clear implication was that the drug was heroin, although no evidence at all was presented to indicate the relative prevalence of heroin, cocaine, and marijuana use. Had this existed, though, and even supposing marijuana had been the most common one, the hearings developed the view that one drug inevitably led to the other. Anslinger, for example: "The danger is this: over 50 percent of those young (heroin) addicts started on marijuana smoking. They started there and graduated to heroin; they took the needle when the thrill of marijuana was gone."63
The theory of drug use was essentially that the young were victims of an unscrupulous network of smugglers, dealers, and pushers who seduced the innocent and unwary into addiction by stages—first marijuana or perhaps cocaine and then heroin.
There was no doubt about the identity of the network. "Is it a fact," Boggs queried Congressman James Donovan of New York, "that Lucky Luciano is now the principal exporter from Italy?"" "Have you found any connection with the racketeer Luciano there [in Italy]?" he asked Deputy Narcotics Commissioner Cunningham." And again, this time in an exchange with Anslinger:
MR. Boccs. And you have to strike at the center of the octopus really to wipe it out?
MR. ANSLINGER. And at the big fellows, and the big fellows are not being sent away. . . .
MR. Boccs. Under the Harrison Narcotics Act—this may be an elementary question and possibly I should know the answer to it, but I will preface my remarks by putting it this way—I understand quite a few aliens are involved in the dope traffic.
MR. ANSLINGER. Yes, sir."
If the identity of the sources of the drug traffic was never in doubt, what about the consumers? Did Mrs. Higgins, Congressman Yates, or Mrs. Wright mean Harlem or the South Side of Chicago when they referred to "a little boy like yours" or "normal average children"?
The answer is no, which is the strange thing about the Boggs hearings: in testimony of more than 15 witnesses, running to over 200 pages, there is virtually no record of the fact that most narcotics users, young or old at the time, were black, poor and concentrated in just three cities.67 Of course, the witnesses may have been afraid that drug use would spread out of these areas, but such a fear belied almost total ignorance of the social characteristics of the susceptible population. No evidence existed then, before or since, that narcotics (heroin) have ever spread beyond a fairly narrow segment of the urban working class.
Blindness to the real situation, then, made it possible for the Boggs subcommittee to uncover a variety of spurious relationships between the prevalence of drug use and enforcement policy. In Southern states, for example, such as Tennessee where, as I reported earlier, blacks had been underrepresented among the addict population, the low arrest rate was thought to be a consequence of a policy of heavy prison sentences for offenders.68 (A year later, according to the FBI reports, the rate shot up in spite of this policy.)
The subcommittee was told that inadequate enforcement was responsible for the new situation in the drug traffic after World War II. There was a paradox in this, however, and something of a dilemma for enforcement officials. For according to the FBN, a relatively small enforcement effort had been able to reduce the addict population to an "irreducible minimum" around 1948. Between then and 1955, on the heels of the epidemic, the federal field force was increased slightly, and enormous expansions were made in city narcotics squads. In 1950 there were 10 men on the New York Police Department squad and seven on the Chicago squad; in 1955 these had jumped to 200 and 96, respectively.69
This increased enforcement did not reduce the drug traffic, however; the reverse occurred. More police meant a higher volume of arrests, which continued to grow throughout the 1950s (Figure 5-3). As a measure of the addiction problem, a rising index justified further demands for larger forces, although eventually it would become evident that there was a self-sustaining, vicious cycle here. The policy dilemma was that the police agencies could not for their own sake afford to be successful, for as the Bureau of Narcotics had discovered, a falling index, the goal of enforcement effort, had led in the forties to a withering away of agency budget and strength." The newly expanded bureaucracy of enforcement which came into being after 1950, was thus bound to fail in the strict interpretation, but it could not appear to be doing so.
The buck had to be passed on, and the Boggs subcommittee accepted the idea that it was a feeble court system which was to blame. It was not only a case of inadequate sentencing, which the Boggs bill's minimum sentence provisions were designed to remedy; there was an underlying ideological current to the criticism of the courts, and also to the explanation of where the drug epidemic had come from. Congressman Harrison, a member of the investigating subcommittee, declared:
I just do not know how you can, by legislation, supply some of these Federal judges with the spine that they do not have. There are a very great many fine men on the Federal bench today, but there are just too many political touts and parlor pinks utterly incapable of understanding the danger of organized crime and organized subversion.7'
Organized subversion? This was a theme with many different elements in it. The Kefauver Committee had claimed, for instance, that the Chinese tongs, vilified 60 and 70 years before in San Francisco, were behind narcotics distribution in some parts of the country." They operated exactly like the Mafia; they even had a supply connection with Lucky Luciano." But their principal source of supply was China, which, in 1951, meant Communist China.
The possibility that the narcotics epidemic was some form of Communist plot was introduced tentatively in the Boggs hearings. Anslinger spoke of Communist China as a definite point of origin for heroin, and reported the arrest in Japan of "two or three Communist leaders" for involvement in the traffic.74 Chicago Police Commissioner Prendergast was quoted as warning that "there are certain people in our country who want to destroy our Government, and we don't know whether that element is sponsoring the advancement of the use of narcotics or not.'
Three years later, before the United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs, Anslinger formally charged the Chinese Communist regime with "distributing drugs abroad and . . . selling heroin and opium in large quantities to the free countries of the world." The opium crop was grown in Yunnan, transported by land into Thailand or Burma, and transhipped to Hong Kong, from which processed heroin was distributed to Japan, the United States, and all over the world. The commissioner claimed, moreover, that "millions of dollars obtained through the sale of opium and other narcotics are used by the Communist regime . . . for political purposes and to finance agents who have been found actively engaged.""
In the course of the 1955 Daniel hearings, reviewing the narcotics traffic for the whole postwar period, a parade of well-known public officials repeated Anslinger's claims—Frank Berry, an Assistant Secretary of Defense, James Ryan, the Bureau of Narcotics chief in New York, Jacob Javits, and Governor Harriman.77 Senator Daniel expanded on this testimony by suggesting that the Chinese employed heroin to subvert U. S. Army personnel fighting in Korea and to try to demoralize the free nations of the world in the context of the cold war struggle." A year later a further congressional committee was being lectured by a witness on the "pattern of Communist narcotic aggression":
Drug addiction in the free nations is a subtle and diabolical form of conquest in which the victims pay for their own enslavement. . . . The export of narcotics brings about mass self-destruction among peoples marked for slavery by the Red imperialist. . . . That this conspiracy also has had its effect upon America cannot be doubted."
The truth of the matter was that it was not the other side in the cold war but our side which was responsible for the heroin traffic in Southeast Asia. Specifically, it was not the Communist Chinese but the Nationalists who were involved in both the cultivation and first-stage refining of opium as a profitable sideline to their guerrilla campaign on the Burmese and Thai sides of the border with China. There is additional evidence that in almost all the Southeast Asian states allied with the United States or France after the war, opium cultivation not only flourished—it was directly encouraged by American military and intelligence units as a counterweight to the growth of popular liberation movements.80 In France, also, it appears that the American commitment to stopping the Communists led to CIA partnership with the Corsican crime syndicates of Marseilles in the period of labor strifeirom 1947 to 1950. After 1951 the same syndicates began to operate the heroin laboratories which have been the principal source of supply for American consumers ever since.8'
The Mafia and the Reds, a criminal conspiracy and political one—congressional investigators produced numerous permutations and combinations of these elements to account for a rising narcotic problem that seemed impervious even to the rapidly growing powers of enforcement.82 Of course, as explanations of the drug phenomenon, these were concentrated wholly on the supply side of the traffic. On the demand side I have already pointed out the manner in which official reaction and public concern were blind to the real characteristics of drug-users; this persisted more or less without change or criticism throughout the Daniel hearings in 1955 and the further series of hearings conducted by Congressman Boggs and by Senator Kefauver later in 1956.83
Now even if we make allowances for the statistical inflation due to changing enforcement policy and increased manpower, there is no doubt that there was an increased aggregate demand for heroin between 1947 and 1953. Why should it have happened then?
The conventional answer has been to regard the drug as so attractive at first, so compelling afterward, that increased supply, whatever the reason for it, would automatically translate itself into increased demand. Why, then, was the geographical distribution of demand so limited? The efficiency with which the supply networks were thought to operate all over the country should have resulted in the reticulation of drug use far beyond the major ports of entry and distributing points—at least as widespread as the slot machines and gambling houses which preoccupied the Kefauver Committee's attention. If Meyer Lansky and Joe Adonis dominated the rackets of Miami, in league with Luciano and Santo Trafficante, who managed vast narcotics smuggling operations from Havana and used Florida as an entry port, why was the offense rate for the Florida area one of the lowest in the country? The answer, that narcotics which entered Florida were destined for New York, does not explain why the supply created a demand in the latter but not the former place.
There was obviously more to the picture than supply factors. Not only was the increased aggregate demand for narcotics concentrated geographically in the three largest cities in the country. Within these cities the demand was sharply differentiated by race and was characteristic of only the poorest sections, where the black population lived. This was one problem which did not have to be officially accounted for because officially it was barely acknowledged. Nevertheless, why them?
I have pointed out that blacks had been overrepresented among the numbers of heroin users in the North since the end of the First World War. In all likelihood they were young men at the onset of addiction, which was and has remained the typical pattern for most narcotic addicts. In 1916, 18.9 percent of the drug offenders appearing in the New York Court of Special Sessions were under 21. Later in 1919, of the first 3,000 patients admitted to the New York City Narcotic Clinic, 27.8 percent were under 20, and well over 90 percent of the total reported that they had been using drugs for two years or more."
The blacks attending the clinic were probably not recent immigrants to the city, but had either been born there to immigrant parents or had moved from the South quite early in their childhood. Likewise, the whites were mostly (69 percent) American-born, though of immigrant parents, with a disproportionately large number of Jews among them.85
The jump over time in the proportion of black drug-users is perfectly obvious, but so is the rise of the black population as a proportion of the total one. Had the rate of increase been the same in both cases, the number of black users would have risen, but the index would have remained constant, unless, of course, the susceptibility of blacks to drug use, as measured by the index, also increased.
The table shows that between 1920 and 1950 this is what happened, although to differing degrees in the two cities. This certainly makes it appear there was something about being black as a racial characteristic which determined whether a person would use narcotics. However, we cannot really tell whether this is so from the Table because it ignores some very important historical changes and economic differences which were occurring among the white population as a whole.
The Hubbard report on the New York Clinic, which, of course, operated legally and was open to anyone, indicates that fewer than 7 percent of the patients could be classed as professionals, managers, or proprietors—the majority of these, in fact, were actors or actresses. Of the rest, most were unskilled or semiskilled manual workers (the two commonest occupations listed were driver and laborer) followed by skilled tradesmen and, last by clerks and salesmen (10 percent)."
This suggests that the addicts of the time were economically members of the working class rather than the middle class and tended to be concentrated in the bottom of that class, in jobs with the lowest pay and greatest insecurity. This did not change between 1920 and 1950, as Chein's correlations indicate (Table 5-3).
By measuring change in the susceptibility of blacks and whites to drug use in terms of gross population movements, we obscure the class and ethnic characteristics among whites, which have historically made all the difference between drug use and not. If Jews, for example, were big heroin-users in New York in 1914 and unheard of in 1951, perhaps their social, economic, and occupational mobility had something to do with the change. If class, therefore, is related to drug use, then change in the aggregate demand for narcotics between blacks and whites may be related to shifts in the relative blackness or whiteness of the working class or that bottom segment of it in the urban, industrial North. Simple but important demographic changes will help settle this question of race or class.
World War I effectively halted the flow of European immigrants into the United States and the swelling of New York's population from Europe. Unemployment, inflation, and general economic conditions were so severe after the war that when foreign immigration began to regain its old momentum, the federal government decided to limit the inflow by fixing a quota on each nationality. At first the effect was to stabilize the size of the foreign-born population and then, over the decade, to diminish the totals of certain ethnic groups (foreign-born generation). Between 1920 and 1930 the numbers of Russian-born people had fallen nearly 16 percent; the Irish dropped by 11 percent; both Germans and Greeks registered slight declines. Italians, however, increased their numbers by just over 11 percent. Counting all foreign-born whites in 1920 and again in 1950, we find an overall decline of 25 percent.87
All the while blacks continued to move north, especially to New York and Chicago, and the jobs they took were the ones the European immigrants had traditionally taken. By any criterion they were the worst jobs. In the slaughterhouses and meatpacking plants in Chicago, for example, this was the picture in 1909. Foreign-born white workers outnumbered the native-born whites and blacks by nearly four to one; blacks were only 3 percent. The largest ethnic group was the Polish (27.7 percent); the Lithuanians came next (12 percent), followed by the Germans (10.4 percent) and the Czechoslovaks (9.6 percent). In 1928 the situation was quite different. Blacks were now the largest group (29.5 percent) and native-born whites came after them (27.3 percent). The number of Polish-born had dropped to a third of what it had been (11.9 percent), Lithuanians were down to 7.8 percent, Germans to 2.9 percent, and Czechoslovaks to 2.1 percent."
In steel in the Calumet region between 1912 and 1928 much the same thing occurred. Blacks went from being 1.5 percent of the work force to 12.3 percent, while the Poles fell from 25.7 percent to 14.1, the Sb-yaks from 6.2 percent to 3.8, and the Croatians from 9.4 percent to 3.9.89
Fairly quickly blacks became concentrated in the jobs at the bottom of the occupational structure, and the foreign-born ethnics who had been there before them moved out. In part this reflected some real gains which the white working class made through union organization and agitation," gains made at the expense of the black work force which was excluded from union membership and shut out of the wage bargains the union was able to achieve. In part, it also reflected broader obstacles of racism and prejudice which stopped blacks getting the education or skill enhancement needed to justify higher wages or jobs in industries with relatively high technological development, expanding productivity, and stability of employment.
Blacks entered the Northern and urban labor market, having been lured there from the stagnation and poverty of the South by offers of higher wages. They were almost totally ignorant of the real value of these wages and were thus induced to sell their labor relatively cheaply. They were without effective labor organization to change the terms of this sale—indeed, the first generation of black community organizations commonly had been set up by the major employers of blacks, such as the meatpackers, to contain and pacify any stirring of industrial discontent.91
Since blacks were frequently recruited as strike-breakers for management to throw against militant white workers, they were in no position to gain white allies in a struggle to improve their own wages, and compared to Southern conditions, these were, after all, not too bail.
Here we have several of the classic conditions of what economists call a split labor market—a market in which at least two groups of workers are channeled into different and more or less watertight compartments of industrial work. One, called the primary labor market, has all the good jobs; it is characterized by high wages, productivity, stability, and rates of technical progress. The other, called the secondary labor market, is characterized by low wages, productivity, and security, as well as low rates of technological development. 92 Economists have shown that, once started, such a system not only maintains itself but steadily increases the gap between the conditions of work and workers in each of the segmented markets.93 This has probably been more true in times of general prosperity and/or inflation than in periods of depression."
Over the period 1920-50 this split labor market not only evolved into a distinct pattern of occupational segregation, it was paralleled also by changes in the working-class residential pattern across the face of the city. Areas which had initially been racially mixed were rapidly filled up by thousands of Southern immigrants. This kind of pressure on housing supply naturally forced rents up, but in the case of the black ghetto there was nowhere else for blacks to go to seek lower-cost housing. They were hedged into a few areas like Harlem, Bedford-Stuyvesant, or the South Side of Chicago where racial borderlines were effectively policed by the combined hostility of the law and the white gangs.
The European immigrants had never been hedged in this way. Residential segregation in their case was based on low rents, the proximity of the factories and work, and the willingness of the existing community to help the newcomers out. Nevertheless, the advancing population pressure pushed their rents up also, as did the competition of industry for the same land. Eventually, with changes in the zoning of the center-city immigrant neighborhoods and the opening up of outer-city tract developments, the white working class began to move out.
The blacks were not in that position. Their areas were further away from the plants and sweatshops, and after 1920 the housing scarcity within the ghetto was much greater than had been felt in the white areas. Land costs went up steeply but the potential productivity of black labor living on the land, locked into the secondary market as it was, failed to match this rise.
There were two consequences. From the businessman's point of view the price of land in the ghetto (per unit of his capital) was higher and rising faster than land further out of the city. The gains to be made from high-productivity employment were not available by hiring ghetto labor, and so industry too shifted location further and further away from the ghetto.
This left poor people and poor business in racial enclaves from which there was and would be no escape. Rents rose relative to the returns on the employment of labor or capital, which meant that most of the investment in the areas stayed in residential housing. Scarcity of housing, high rents, low wages, and overcrowding resulted in the common situation in which blacks paid more of their income to the landlord than the rest of the working class, and he provided less and less housing services, since keeping the tenements in good condition did not affect his rent, but would only increase his costs and lower his profits.95
In this manner the effects of occupational and residential segregation historically accelerated the displacement of whites by blacks in the heart of the Northern cities, producing the kinds of concentrations familiar today. It was in these concentrations that narcotics were to be found between 1949 and 1953. The fact that institutional racism in the economy and society produced the ghetto explains why narcotics users living in those areas were black. It does not explain why they chose to use drugs in the first place. But I want to emphasize that in the period just before the urban labor and housing markets were so forcibly split down the middle, when the Lower East Side of New York was a working-class Jewish area and Little Italy south and west of it was similar in economic characteristics, narcotics use was to be found there, too. By displacement I mean exactly that: blacks literally took the place of Jews and Italians in the bottom half of the working class, and black drug-users took the place of Jews and Italians in the addict population reported by the police.
A number of other demographic factors were bound to increase the number of these users over time, especially in the immediate postwar period, and make them more visible. One of these was the age structure of the black urban population. The birth rate among blacks arriving in the North during the thirties remained higher than among whites, notwithstanding a significant fall-off owing to the Depression. Both fell, but the black rate fell less steeply.
The effect was to widen the disparity between the two birth rates. Thus in 1920 the nonwhite rate was 35 (live births per 1,000 population), just over 30 percent higher than the white (26.9). In 1936, however, the year when rates for both racial groups reached their loest point in recorded history, the black rate was nearly 43 percent higher than the white (25.1, 17.6). In 1934 the gap had been even greater-45.3 percent.
A person born in 1934 turned 16 in 1950. This meant that, compared with earlier years, the numerical gap between blacks and whites reached a maximum from 1949 to 1951 and that there were then bound to be relatively more blacks aged 16 than whites of the same age—the age, remember, at which heroin addiction usually starts.
The demography of the urban working class between 1920 and 1950 can help explain two things once we accept that narcotics use was and is a permanent feature of the condition of working-class life. It helps to explain why the addict population was blacker in 1950 than in 1920 and why this seemed to have happened so suddenly between 1949 and 1953.
I have shown that public concern about narcotics and the intensity of law enforcement were functions of a surplus condition in the labor market. I should qualify that now by saying that it has never been the overall market which counted but rather the secondary one. In other words, in times of scarcity when unskilled labor was hard to come by, popular anxiety about and police arrests of drug-users who came from this segment of the market used to fall to a minimum. This occurred again during World War II when unemployment rates touched bottom and labor force participation rates reached record highs.96
But times of labor surplus, the late 1870s in California, the early and late teens of the century in New York, and the thirties across the country, were times of industrial unrest, working-class agitation and militancy, and sharpened political conflict. To these manifestations, increased law enforcement has been the typical response of the State—a term which here covers every public authority from municipal police to federal narcotic agents. Repression is the simple word for it.
Of course, public officials with this purpose do not announce it as such, like a gang of blackshirts. Instead, drug enforcement became one of the ways a basically repressive policy directed at an entire class of the American people has been carried out—by all appearances legally and under the pretext of meeting a new and vicious threat. First, prohibition of liquor and then prohibition of drugs were the testing grounds of the constitutional guarantees of personal freedom in such cases, but the courts allowed the expansion of police power to override the guarantees and virtually handed over the role of determining what public welfare required and what threats to it were genuine and serious, to popular usage, prevailing morality, or strong and preponderant opinion—the words were those of Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes.97 This police power gave legitimacy to anti-working-class politics at the same time that it provided a method for splitting and factionaliz'ing the class against itself, by identifying ethnic or racial minorities as scapegoats for larger and more fundamental social ills.
In 1950 drugs were not the only threat to society. The Communists and the Mafia were feared from within and without, and purportedly the traffic in drugs was carried on by both. This was the ideology of the time, but what about labor conditions? How did they affect the black dope addict of this episode?
Teenage employment is a sensitive indicator of changes in the broad labor market. Being unskilled and inexperienced, teenagers are usually the last group to get hired in prosperity and the first to be fired when things turn around.98 Economists think that the more teenagers there are in the population, the lower their wage rate falls. Since this widens the gap between teenage and adult wages, employers get an inducement thereby to hire the cheaper teenaged labor. The effect is not necessarily to increase teenage participation in the labor force, because when wage rates are too low, there is a tendency for teenagers to stay on in school. This, in turn, cuts teenage unemployment on a technicality, but it explains why it happens that, even in a strong economy, teenage labor force participation can be low, at the same time as their unemployment is low. They simply give up looking for jobs."
When the size of the teenage population is falling, however, supply and demand factors keep wage rates up, and labor force participation rises. This is invariably true for whites, but for blacks the situation is markedly different. As teenagers they find it hardest of all to find jobs, and so, when their share of the total teenage population increases, general teenage unemployment rises, along with teenage/adult wage ratios, while labor force participation rates decline.'"
Table 5-5 illustrates the basic demographic picture between 1920 and 1970. Two important things were happening. One was that the nonwhite (or black) share of the total teenage population rose by nearly ten percent between 1940 and 1950. (The same thing happened again between 1960 and 1970, before the most recent narcotics episode.) This was despite the second population shift, which resulted in the teenage share of the general population (blacks and whites) going down by 25 percent. This amounted also to a decline in the total number of„teenagers of 1.7 million.
According to the economic theory, the second decline should have produced a rise in aggregate teenage employment and a contraction of unemployment. The decennial census figures bear this out. For 14-19 year olds the 1940 labor force participation rate was 34.4 percent (males) and 19.0 percent (females). This had risen in 1950 to 39.3 percent and 22.6 percent, respectively.'"
But the theory also says that if the proportion of blacks to whites among the teenage population goes up, so does unemployment, as discriminatory hiring practices reject blacks and push them to the very end of the hiring line. Did this also happen?
The record shows that both things happened. For the teenage group as a whole, there was a significant increase (14 percent) in the numbers entering the job market. But this increase was entirely absorbed by whites (rise of 17 percent males, 26 percent females). Black labor force participation actually fell during the decade and among males continued falling through 1970. This is the first sign that a deteriorating labor market was directly connected to the narcotics epidemic.'" There are several others.
When a 16 year old who wants to leave school and get a job cannot find one, he can decide to stay on in school, continue looking for a job and then go on welfare,'" or join the hustler pool. This is the group of people who are neither enrolled in school nor at work. When this number expands you can expect narcotics use—as well as every other kind of crime and juvenile delinquency—to increase. But I want to illustrate how the demographic factors I have mentioned, together with labor market forces, produced the potential numbers for a larger hustler pool, and hence addict population, between 1947 and 1953.
The fall in labor force participation among black teenagers just observed might have led to more people staying in school, only this is not what happened.
Since 1940 white teenagers have increasingly taken advantage of longer periods of schooling and consequently the ratio for them has shown a consistent decline. Between 1940 and 1950, however, black teenagers, blocked from entering the job market, did not stay in school, and in fact the relative number of dropouts increased. Put another way, we find 67.7 percent of the black boys in this age group in school in 1950, and 72.4 percent of the whites. The difference in ratios meant that there were nearly 2,000 more black teenagers out of school and needing a job than would have been the case if the ratios had been the same.
Among the (male) nonattenders now, how many found a paying job? This is a hard question to answer, both because teenage school dropouts slip out of sight of the Census taker and because Census tables for 1940 and 1950 are not exactly comparable. Table 5-7 provides a clue at any rate.
It is safe to say that, as far as finding employment, blacks were worse off than whites in 1950, just as they had been in 1940. Table 5-7 also suggests that the relative severity of unemployment for blacks grew in the decade, because the ratio of black to white unemployment rates ran from 1.2 to 1.7—the latter figure covers the whole of the United States; in New York or Chicago the ratio was probably closer to 2.0.104 Unemployment itself reached a peak between 1949 and 1950, after the period of wartime labor scarcity. From then on, it has seesawed between high and moderately high rates.'" Relatively speaking then, let's say, blacks were more in need of a paying job than whites in 1950 and hence more likely than whites to end up in crime to provide income.
Even those in legitimate jobs can be shown to have earned substantially less than working whites.'" In addition, in black families this income was more urgently needed. Although relatively few teenagers actually contribute to their family's resources 24 percent or more of its annual income, twice as many blacks as whites typically do so.107
The range of economic pressures on black youth was therefore particularly broad and intense in the postwar period, when there were relatively more of them to feel it. This was the situation which led the police virtually to declare war on all black adolescents and when public concern about narcotics was whipped up to provide the justification for it.
There is no denying that black teenagers used narcotics, but why they did is less of a historical question than a social-psychological one—one which has not differed much from generation to generation.
However, this was not the first time black youth had used heroin, although it was the first episode in which it was noticed. It was also the first occasion that public concern, however reluctantly to begin with, identified addicts as disproportionately black. This fact did nothing to alter the working-class nature of the phenomenon, and demographic shifts explain most of the color change.'"
Race and racism are central features of the way in which the labor market operates. To the extent that blackness condemns a person to working his life out in the secondary labor force and bars almost all occupational mobility (upwards), it also determines the particular black susceptibility to drug use which this chapter has recorded.
But this can change, just as the conditions of working-class life have changed and as the membership of that class varies. These are the things that make the ideology of drugs an antiworking-class ideology and that determine the recruitment of new drug-users. By 1967 a new labor surplus, especially among the young, was imminent once more, and again there were signs of a new heroin epidemic. This time, however, the Vietnam War had a unique impact. The effect was to introduce large numbers of white working-class young men, veterans of the war and the military, into the addict population for the first time in almost half a century.