Racial and Ethnic Relations

Question 1

Antonio Gramsci’s theory of hegemony attempts to understand how capitalist states survive in most advanced western countries. The theory asserts that in most cases in capitalist states or civil societies, the dominant group practices hegemony, the intellectual domination over the outranked groups. Gramsci termed the predominant method of ruling as a class rule and was interested in illustrating how solid institutional systems and material relations of production predominated (Kalyvas, 2000). Hence, coercion or brute domination could achieve class supremacy and propagation of its associated production modes. However, Gramsci observed that class rule or dominance was maintained primarily through consensual means, moral and intellectual leadership in more advanced capitalist states. In his observation, Gramsci developed two superstitious societies, the civil society, and the political society. The political class ruled through force while the civil society governed through consent and constituted the hegemonic class. According to Gramsci, the hegemonic class can get the consent of other social groups/forces and retain the consent in an ongoing project (Kalyvas, 2000). However, the hegemonic class must understand its interest relative to the mode of production and the interests, aspiration, and motivation of other groups to secure the consent. Civil society relentlessly shaped mass cognition in advanced capitalism, articulating and distributing popular concepts beyond the narrow class interests through religious institutions, media, and student bodies to manufacture consent (Kalyvas, 2000). The class rule often extends beyond capitalism to racism, using science to justify racial actions.

Science has often been adopted to project, propose, and enact racial-based social policies. The political and philosophical foundations of ideas linked to racial inferiority and superiority first acquired scientific credence and legitimacy with Charles Darwin’s publication “The Origin of Species” (Pressman, 2017). Scientific ideologies, including social Darwinism, the creation of intelligence testing, and the eugenics movement, were adopted to advance racism beliefs at the period when quickly advancing scientific knowledge was considered truthful, prestigious, and irrefutable. Social Darwinism is derived from Herbert Spencer’s interpretation of the theory of natural selection by Charles Darwin. Spencer coined a novel perspective of the theory, developing the term “survival of the fittest” (Pressman, 2017). Social Darwinism theory postulates that species have an innate/inborn tendency to struggle for self-preservation, leading to competition, and eventually, the winner is the species whose strength shows the potential for survival. According to the Social Darwinism principle, racial conflict is an example of natural evolutionary progress. The natural, persistent, and inevitable struggle for social progress through competition and conquest is exemplified in the conflict between races, and the loser of such battle is inferior and unfit. For instance, Nathaniel Shaler, Harvard Dean, in 1884 claimed that “blacks” were soon becoming extinct. The claim was widely picked and used to show that blacks were inferior based on the natural order (Pressman, 2017). This shows how scientific theories propagated racism.

Question 2

            It is broadly assumed that legal drugs are good and applicable in disease treatment and prevention. It is also broadly presumed that illegal drugs are harmful and have unwarranted side effects that can cause psychological and physical dependency on a person or society, such as addiction, violence, and mortality. However, in a psychiatric nursing setting, some antipsychotic drugs/medicines have had adverse impacts on the patients, such as resistance, agranulocytosis, and damaging white blood cells. In terms of illegal drugs, cannabis has been used for patients with chronic schizophrenia. Opioids have also been prescribed legally as pain relievers despite belonging to the class of illegal drugs. Opioids include illegal drugs, heroin, and synthetic opioids, including fentanyl and pain relievers such as oxycodone, available legally through prescription. However, the public response to illegal legal drugs seems racially motivated. For instance, the White opioids appear distinctly contradictory to the reactions to illegal drug use in Black communities and Brown neighborhoods, characterized by policy discrepancies analogous to the gaps between legal punishments for crack contrary to powdered cocaine. The White drug war has imprinted a less punitive medical realm for the white community where their drug usage is legitimized and considered mainly a biomedical disease to preserve white supremacy (Netherland & Hansen, 2017). Overall, the loose boundary between illegal and legal drugs serves profoundly to reinforce racial hierarchies.

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            The War on Drugs disproportionately impacts African American communities than any other community in the United States. The US has pursued aggressive policies to curtail the distribution and use of illegal drugs since the 1980s. The so-called national “war on drugs” benefits and costs are viciously debated. However, what seems undebatable is that the apparently race-neutral effort has to curtail distribution and use of illicit drugs has been waged predominantly against Blacks. Black Americans are disproportionately arrested and incarcerated on drug charges.  In 2001, a report by Boyd indicated that America had about 25% of the world’s convicts, making it the leading jailer globally, with the Blacks disproportionately represented in these statistics (Boyd 2001). Boyd argued that the drug war is marked by pervasive racial targeting. The number of African-American men incarcerated, at 792,000 as of 2001, was roughly four times the imprisonment rate of black men under the Apartheid in South Africa and surpassed those incarnated in 1820 (Boyd 2001). Currently, more Blacks than Whites, between 5 and 7 times, are incarcerated, and more than half of all convicts convicted of at least one year for drug-associated offences (Rosenberg, Groves & Blankenship, 2017). The findings suggest that African-Americans are disproportionally impacted by the drug war than any other community in the US.


Boyd, G. (2001). The drug war is the new Jim Crow. NACLA Report on the Americas35(1), 18-22.

Kalyvas, A. (2000). Hegemonic sovereignty: Carl Schmitt, Antonio Gramsci and the constituent prince. Journal of Political Ideologies5(3), 343-376.

Netherland, J., & Hansen, H. (2017). White opioids: Pharmaceutical race and the war on drugs that wasn’t. Biosocieties12(2), 217-238.

Pressman, L. (2017). How Evolution was used to Support Scientific Racism. Trinity College, Hartford Connecticut.

Rosenberg, A., Groves, A. K., & Blankenship, K. M. (2017). Comparing Black and White drug offenders: Implications for racial disparities in criminal justice and reentry policy and programming. Journal of drug issues47(1), 132-142.