Blog Post

J. Cole's New Video Asks the U.S. to "Reconsider Your War on Drugs"

Kassandra Frederique

Yesterday Roc Nation recording artist J. Cole released the video for his new single “Crooked Smile.”  This powerful video is based on the 2010 murder of Aiyana Jones, a 7 year old girl killed during a police raid in Detroit. In the video J. Cole plays a loving father preparing for his daughter’s birthday party while being watched by the DEA for drug dealing.  After the party while the little girl is sleeping the police storm the house and arrest him,  when his daughter gets up to see what is happening she is shot and killed by the police officer.  The video ends with a dedication to Aiyana Jones and a plea to the powers that be to “reconsider your war on drugs” while the Star Spangled Banner plays.

Sadly the dedication page could have read like a scrolling list of names of people killed and/or traumatized by drug raids. Cole uses his medium to highlight a controversial law enforcement tactic, drug raids.  This visual is not new to the US audience, our first reality show, COPS, was a window into local police office raids on homes, but as the drug war has raged on law enforcement got more money, technology, and sadly drug raids resulted in more lives shattered. Every few years, a news clip reports a drug raid gone wrong and the aftermath of those left to pick up the pieces of broken glass left by DEA or SWAT team members.

The dramatic militarization of United States law enforcement over the last 40 years has been studied and debated for years now, but still nothing can prepare the public for the sad outcomes.

Former Berwyn Heights, MD mayor Cheye Calvo, lost his two dogs to a controversial drug raid. The film, American Violet, depicts the story of Dee Roberts and a Texas housing development raided continuously for 15 years and the falsified charges brought against her and other African American tenants.  Sadly more recently, local Atlanta rappers used their art to raise the story of Kathryn Johnson, a Georgian grandmother who was killed during a botched drug raid on her home.

Everyone, including the Obama administration, has acknowledged that the war on drugs is a failure. Incarceration and scare tactics are not effective in dealing with drug misuse.  Yet, sadly the Obama administration has not left behind the drug war tactics of old and have continued such raids.  The War on Drugs is more funded and more entrenched into the everyday policing of communities around the country.  The over militarization of our country and our young people are seen through urban cities across the states from Ms. Johnson in Atlanta, to Aiyana in Detroit, to New York City black and Latino young men being illegally searched and falsely arrested for small amounts of marijuana. 

We’ve witnessed hip-hop grow from basement parties to the Barclay’s arena rapping B.I.G along the way, we commend J. Cole for using his platform to ask the public to “reconsider the war on drugs.”

But as advocates at the Drug Policy Alliance, we want the public to do more than reconsider we want us to demand “No More Drug War.”

We never thought that hip-hop would take it this far.

Kassandra Frederique is a policy coordinator with the Drug Policy Alliance.

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