D is for Drugs

Graphic artist and writer "R" will be breaking down everyday racism one letter at a time in his series, the A - Z of Microaggressions. This week, the letter D



is for Drugs

The substance taken for its narcotic effects or experience which is sometimes described as an escape. Drugs physically affect people in more or less the same way, regardless of ethnicity, culture or social background. Its stigma however, doesn’t. In many cases, depending on the individual’s ethnicity, nationality, culture or social background, the stigma attached to them becomes an escape for those who perpetrate those stereotypes. All too often this has a twisted and overlooked history attached to it.

The Intern

It was Lilly's first day at the start-up office. She made sure she looked her best, first impressions and all that. The freshy braided hair, her button up shirt, funky patterned sweater and the final touch to her hipstertastic outfit - the thick black frames. If there was anyone who'd made the extra effort to fit into the company culture, it was definitely her.

After all the formalities were done, the paper work, badges, mandatory start-up presentations and such, Lilly was assigned a ‘work-mate’ for the day. The friendly, skinny, long-haired, hunch-backed designer by the name of Andrea. It wasn’t a long day at the office, Fridays saw most of the team finish work around 3:30, which meant free bar and pool table matches. This was a great way for Lilly to meet up with the rest of her new colleagues, but also a great reminder for Lilly that in their eyes, she was a paradox to the familiar stereotype.

“So, Lilly, what do you do to chill out..? I know you’ll need it after this game. I’m going to whoop your ass on this table home-girl.”

“Hah! Andrea, you know what they say about pride, right..?”

“…that it’s best served cold?”

“No, that’s the beer - which you’ll be fetching me after this game.”

“Oooh, coming from the woman who said 'you know what they say about pride, right..?’ Hahaha. No, but seriously, what do you do to chill out?”

“I swim.”

“You swim?”

“Yeah, I find it really relaxing…"

“So you don’t… smoke weed or anything…?”

“Naah. No, no… I don’t. I used to play handball in college, so drugs were definitely off limits.”

“So what? You never smoked before?”

“I mean, I’ve tried it like once or twice… But it never really did anything for me and besides, swimming… it’s great!”

“Wow. No wonder you’re in this line of work… Your Black-card’s been revoked, huh? Hahaha.”

“ha-ha-ha… Yeah… Revoked.”


The Search

The blonde man in front had a Dutch passport, as did Clarence.

The blonde man also had a business class ticket, as did Clarence.

The blonde man had neatly trimmed and well groomed facial hair, as did Clarence, although Clarence kept his shorter.

The blonde man wore a suit and was carrying a sports bag. Clarence also wore a suit and carried a holdall bag.

The blonde man two had two laptops in his hand luggage. Clarence had a laptop and a tablet with him.

The blonde man put his laptop inside the holding tray along with anything metallic before walking through the security scanner. Clarence did the same.

The blonde man walked through the scanner without setting off the alarm, as did Clarence.

The blonde man picked up his belongings, put his things together & proceeded to make his way to the departure lounge.

Clarence had his items taken aside & was led into a special room. People who had queued behind him and those who were ahead of him took notice.

Clarence was interrogated about his trip to France, the type of work he did, his reason for having two devices, his reason for travelling from the Netherlands and of course, if he’d been carrying anything for people other than himself.

After being heavily pat-down twice as well as having all his items removed from his bag to have his hand luggage thoroughly searched for 15 minutes, Clarence was finally allowed to leave and make his way to the departure lounge.

But Clarence wasn’t ready to make his way the departure lounge just yet. Instead he made his way to the nearest bathroom he could find and locked himself inside a toilet cubicle. His heart a pounding war drum, his mind a raging flutter of emotions, his anguish a cascading recollection of humiliation. Despite living up to the standards of a strict, Christian, Surinamese family, despite having grown up in Zuid and never having taken drugs or hung out with people who indulged in it, despite working hard to get the best grades in school and pave his way into the corporate world, Clarence simply couldn’t shake off the constant of association between himself and illegal narcotics.

He took a deep breath to calm himself down, but tears ran down his face. Shame and despair had returned to remind him of the time he was 12 and found himself forcefully pushed up against a wall by a male officer who taunted him, hurled racial abuse, before patting him down. Clarence found himself being grabbed in places he couldn’t understand before being shoved to the ground and threatened. Sixteen years and 22 searches later Clarence still found himself that same boy from Zuid who couldn’t take a trip anywhere without being suspected of engaging in something illegal.

After taking a moment to compose himself, Clarence stepped out of the cubicle and freshened himself up at the sink. He took a moment in front of the mirror to reflect on his blessings and prepared himself for the next wave of humiliation as he stepped out of the bathroom. Clarence made his way to the business lounge with his luggage in hand where most of his fellow passengers had already sat down and made themselves comfortable. Familiar faces from the queue went quiet as Clarence could sense the atmosphere around him get a little bit tense. His thoughts tripped over the silent judgment that was being passed between passengers who recognised him from earlier as he walked to an empty seat in the middle of the lounge. Across him sat the blonde man who was ahead of him in the queue, sitting cross-legged and reading a newspaper. The blonde man glanced up from his paper at Clarence, Clarence noticed and glanced back, the blonde man then turned his body away from Clarence and went back to reading his paper.


The Deal

Rizzy was charged up. How could he not be? He’d been waiting for this day for a whole three weeks! An empty backpack on his shoulder, £500 in his pocket and determination in his step. He’d been working his part time job at one of the local pubs, that £500 was kosher money. Rizzy’s plans with that £500 however, weren’t. Not that anything was going to stop him, he’d been preparing for this day. For a whole three weeks.

Plans, that’s all his thoughts were good for. That quiet weekday morning he made his way down Custom House to one of the council houses on Freemason’s Road in the East End, excited to pick up his two ounces.

One ounce for business, the other for pleasure. Not one to waste time, Rizzy’s little trek to the spot saw his phone going off every couple of minutes with calls and texts from mates and clients alike. Rizzy was chuffed with himself.

 "Whats the point in doing business if you can’t enjoy yourself?” he said with a smug smile on his face. He’d seen many a day like this one.

Once he’d arrived at the spot, met with the crew and made the exchange, Rizzy stepped out, relishing in the beauty morning skies greeted him with, beaming with his loaded backpack.

“It’s on.” His two word text reply to all his clients he’d made plans with for later that evening. After switching his phone to silent and turning up the music on his headphones, Rizzy found himself walking on sunshine. He made his way to Custom House station, still lost in his bubble of joy. Just as he was about to make his way towards the stairs, a tall man stopped him in his path. The pale gentleman wore an uncomfortable looking jacket, plain t-shirt with some ugly boot-cut jeans - Rizzy and mandem from his ends were familiar with that look - he hoped it wasn’t the case with him. Rizzy took off his headphones as his heart began to race, but kept a calm front.

“Look here, your bag, you’re going to hand it over,” said the gentleman looking around to make sure nobody saw them.

“(what the fuck are) Fuck you on?” Rizzy replied, unmoved by his approach.

The gentleman reached for the inside of his jacket with a smirk as Rizzy felt his insides sink into a bottomless hole. As he suspected, the man was an undercover police officer.

“So what’s it going to be? I get you nicked or you gimme that bag. Either way, I’m getting what’s in there,” he said, pointing at the backpack.

Rizzy’s options were limited. He reluctantly took off the backpack and handed it over. Still checking if anyone was around, the officer took the bag and looked inside. His face lit up. “Nice one! Looks like you just avoided 14 years for Intent To Supply my friend! Pleasure doing business with ya!” he said, giving Rizzy a hard handed pat on the back.

Rizzy’s feeling of loss turned into scathing rage, but he couldn’t do anything about it. He watched the undercover officer get into his car, slip the bag underneath his seat and drive off into the city. Little did Rizzy know that his two ounces would later be bought by a dealer in an alleyway at the back of a police station in a popular borough of North London.

Maya Acharya