Perhaps white folks in the burbs need to stop listening to the voices of officialdom or the media, and start listening to the only folks who seem to know the score: the dealers themselves. As one associate of the accused explained: “American society doesn’t want to face the fact that white kids deal and use drugs. They simply can’t look in my face and see that a nice-looking white kid is selling drugs to their kids, because that would mean that their kids could do this too. The fact is, we do sell drugs to their kids, in their rich neighborhoods and in their rich schools.
“In the instant case, the accused, from the Prince William County hamlets of Chantilly and Centreville are youths who reporter Josh White describes as “good kids,” who “went bad.” When was the last time a black or Latino drug dealer or gang-banger was described this way? To those who study media, implicit in most news coverage when they do it is the suggestion that it’s because they were congenital criminals; it was their IQ or pathological underclass families. They don’t “go” bad, they just “are” bad.
But when stories are written about pale-faced killers or dealers, or in this case both, sympathetic adjectives fill the pages. Crime becomes human interest — a cautionary tale. We are encouraged to identify with the instigators of the mayhem in ways we never would be were they dark or poor.
For example, Kip Kinkel, 1998’s poster boy for school shootings, was likened in the major media to MAD Magazine’s Alfred E. Newman: freckle-faced, and the “boy next door.” Similar descriptions were offered for the school shooters in Arkansas, Georgia, Pennsylvania, Kentucky, Mississippi and Tennessee. Even Columbine shooters Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris, described by classmates as “dark and brooding,” were still referred to by many as “basically normal,” and gave off no warning signs in the eyes of Littleton families, teachers, or law enforcement. Andrea Yates, the Houston suburban mom who killed her five kids in their bathtub was described by one major newsmagazine as having “loved her children too much,” and having been “overwhelmed” by the responsibilities of keeping hearth and home together.
When it comes to drug dealing, the picture changes only slightly. According to the Justice Department, drug users tend to buy from same-race dealers. So the nearly three-quarters of users who are white, mainly rely on white dope peddlers, not the Jamaicans or Dominicans of popular imagery. And when it comes to drugs like Ecstasy — a hot product for the Virginia cartel — the dealers and users have long been known to be mostly white, middle class males between 14 and 32.
It’s the same story for young adults. Whites are 66 percent of 18-25 year olds, but 70 percent of drug users that age. Blacks are 13.5 percent of persons in that age cohort, but only 13 percent of young adult users, while Hispanics are nearly 15 percent of that age group, but only 12 percent of drug users 18-25.
Although blacks and Hispanics tend to try drugs for the first time at a slightly younger age than whites, by the end of high school, whites have caught up and surpassed them in every drug category. White seniors are a third more likely to have smoked pot in the past year, seven times more likely to have used cocaine, three times more likely to have used heroin, and nine times more likely to have used LSD. And it’s not just that there are more white users, as this would reflect mere population percentages, but rather, that the white rate of use is that much higher than the rate for blacks.