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  • From the Battlefield to the War on Drugs: Lessons From the Lives of Marginalized African American Military Veterans

    This article examines how the drug war impacts the lives of a rarely studied population: African American military veterans. The article draws on select narratives from respondents‘ detailed life histories documented at length in a recent book by the first author. The richness of these detailed life history interviews allows for further exploration of matters relevant to this symposium‘s focus on America‘s ongoing drug war. Veterans‘ narratives provide a unique view of the drug war in the context of concentrated urban poverty in marginalized communities of color. In this way, our objective is to provide an expanded and novel critique of longstanding drug war politics of "us and them"—a taken-for-granted narrative of "white denial and black blame" that has long been used to rationalize harsh punitive drug laws that have driven unprecedented numbers of poor African Americans into the bondage of mass incarceration. Indeed, as of 2010, "[m]ore young (20 to 34-year-old) African American men without a high school diploma or GED are currently behind bars (37 percent) than employed (26 percent)." It is important, however, to investigate multiple perspectives from the African American community. To this end, we attend to the experiences of unemployed, impoverished African American male military veterans.