The war on Drugs has never been about Drugs —Charles Bowden (American non-fiction author, journalist) Eugene Jarecki was born Jewish from immigrant parents who fled Europe during the holocaust in the early 1930s. He is a director, author and film-maker who has been awarded the Grand jury Prize twice for two of his documentaries. In his 2012 documentary The House I live in, Jarecki argues the relevance of racial division and lucrative systemic control over minorities through mass incarceration in the War on Drugs. Jarecki reveals to his audience through his use of logos, ethos and pathos how widespread the strain on American society is throughout the War on Drugs.
The testimonial of Ta-Nehisi Coates’s in Between The World and Me successfully supports Jarecki’s argument. In the following essay, I will analyze Jarecki’s main arguments and connect its effectiveness and enhancement through Coates’s relevant claim, identifying the evidence revealed in his book. I will cover the different types of rhetorical and film strategies used in pursuance of communicating his claims to his audience, provoking a reaction. Coates was born in Baltimore, Maryland in 1975, into a family whose father was a political activist, publisher and a former member of the Black Panthers, and to a mother who was a school teacher. Both his parents played a significant role in influencing Coates; his father bestowed passion and the urge to struggle for justice and his mother helped to develop his writing skills. He has worked for The Village Voice, Time and the Washington City paper. He is now employed as a national correspondent for The Atlantic magazine, where he spends most of his time writing columns regarding social, political and cultural issues. In his 2015 book Between the World and Me, which Coates wrote in letter form to his fifteen-year-old son, he strives to thoroughly explain to him what it truly means to be black in America and cautions him about all the dangers black people have suffered through for centuries, by exploring personal and historical examples. He argues the fact that the white culture of today in America was built on the abuse and inferiority of African Americans for centuries throughout history, which turned into wealth for the white man.
Coates uses rhetorical strategies, such as narration, diction and logos, in order to appeal to ethos and pathos. These serve as tools to encourage his audience to ponder whether racism will ever be overcome in the society we live in. Born in Connecticut in 1969 and raised into a Jewish family, Jarecki, a Princeton graduate, is a prosperous director and film maker that has been awarded multiple times for his contributions within the film industry. In his documentary The House, Jarecki attempts to uncover how the War on Drugs has failed and the corruption that exists within the justice and political systems by presenting his audience with in-depth interviews and shocking statistics to draw their attention. He starts to develop his documentary by sharing personal experiences about his family and, most importantly, his nanny and her side of the family, as she is a black woman working for a wealthy white family whose own son had dealt with the fatal consequences of drugs. He continues his search for answers as he listens to firsthand accounts of prisoners on drug sentences, judges, correction officers, as well as family members and friends. Jarecki uses both rhetorical and visual strategies throughout, such as narration and interviews, as well as the Aristotelian appeals, in order to create an emotional appeal and sense of logic from the viewer. Jarecki explains in depth how the preservation of “the system” and job positions that white people have held within The War on Drugs have been sustained by decades of mass incarcerations, and focusing on the policy aspects of this “war”.
The manner in which the drug policies are written, directly target minority groups and lower-class ethnic communities. This claim is relevant to Coates’s personal experience as a black man who effectively supports Jarecki’s documentation. As far as the policy aspect of the War is concerned, it has been established by politicians that the War on Drugs has a strong appeal on white voters and it is a means of political opportunity and gain. In fact, according to Jarecki, the term “War on Drugs” was first launched during the Nixon campaign, and was further empowered through the incorporation of US intelligence Community services, which evolved the war from a public health issue into a full-scale national issue. Jarecki’s use of narration here, concludes how there is a driven system in an unstoppable motion that is supported by the political, judicial and legal systems as well as the powerful influential media, to draw the viewer’s attention. Jarecki reveals how the youth self-destructively emulate the “role models” in the ghettos and how lower-class communities are deeply-rooted in this “cycle” of incarceration.
For example, according to the documentary, the government has spent over one trillion dollars over the last four decades, and continues to invest in correctional facilities, resulting in more than forty-five million arrests and creates a one-sided system of lower-class absorption into these facilities. He explains how unjust and disproportionately the legal system is applied to African Americans of lower-class using crack cocaine, versus white affluent Americans using powder cocaine. African Americans may represent fifty-six present of those incarcerated for drug crimes, but only comprise thirteen percent of the US population. Through the use of this statistic, Jarecki appeals to Logos by revealing the furious and offensive sentencing that not only deprives those incarcerated of a life, but also of their children, of a future. Studies have shown that children with incarcerated parents are more prone to getting involved in drug dealing and using. However, this is not correlated through DNA, but rather through social influences within the depriving community they grow up in. Drug dealers are viewed as saviors supplying food, supplying clothes, supplying money and ultimately supplying drugs and a way of life, making it “like Christmas” every time they came around. By acknowledging this tragic and repetitive cycle that families like these are enclosed, Jarecki appeals to Pathos and creates empathy from the viewers. Jarecki provides a platform to both experts, and addicts on the streets. To those who are incarcerated and to those who raced mandatory sentencing laws through congress.
He gave a platform to scholars and to his nanny, who only knows how much she misses her son who died. Many of those interviewed, concur “how much the drugs hurt them but how much the Drug War had hurt them more.” Through the use of such interviews, Jarecki is able to build his credibility and create undeniable Ethos. Jarecki shows how the War on Drugs stems to a war on minorities, and how it has become an epidemic which has considerably failed. He also uncovers the depth of corruption that exists in our justice systems through the use of Aristotelian appeals and strategies, leaving the audience in solemn wonder. The purpose of Jarecki’s documentary seems to attempt to educate and awaken his audience, because through unity and stimulation society can break free from the status quo.