Marian Miner Cook

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The Suburban Crisis: White America and the War on Drugs

Wed, February 28, 2024
Dinner Program
Matthew Lassiter

Matthew Lassiter, professor of history at the University of Michigan and author of The Suburban Crisis: White America and the War on Drugs, will provide an overview of American drug control politics and policy from the 1950s to the 1980s, with particular focus on Southern California. Drug warriors have long positioned white middle-class youth as sympathetic victims of illegal drug markets who need rehabilitation instead of prison whenever they break the law. The futile mission to deter drug use by white suburban youth shaped the nation’s first mandatory-minimum narcotics laws in the 1950s, a massive spike in white marijuana arrests during the 1960s and 1970s, and the combination of “just say no” moralizing and militarized urban crackdowns in the 1980s. Politicians, the media, and grassroots suburban activists crusaded to protect white families from perceived threats while criminalizing and incarcerating urban minorities, leaving a troubling legacy of racial injustice that continues to inform the war on drugs today.

**This is a "flipped Ath" event, in conjunction with the Open Academy: the reception will be held at 5:30 PM as usual, followed directly by the public presentation at 6:00 PM. Dinner (and conversation!) will follow at 6:45 PM, and then Q&A at 7:30 PM.**

Matthew D. Lassiter, Professor of History and Arthur F. Thurnau Professor at the University of Michigan, is a scholar of the twentieth-century United States with a research and teaching focus on political history, urban/suburban studies, racial and social inequality, and the history of policing and the carceral state. His most recent book, The Suburban Crisis: White America and the War on Drugs, was published in 2023 by Princeton University Press. He is also author of The Silent Majority: Suburban Politics in the Sunbelt South (Princeton University Press, 2006); coeditor of The Myth of Southern Exceptionalism (Oxford University Press, 2009); and lead author of the website exhibit of Detroit Under Fire: Police Violence, Crime Politics, and the Struggle for Racial Justice in the Civil Rights Era (U-M Carceral State Project, 2021). Lassiter is co-director of the U-M Carceral State Project and co-PI of its Documenting Criminalization, Confinement, and Resistance research initiative. He is also director of the affiliated Policing and Social Justice HistoryLab, which involves undergraduate and graduate student researchers in collaborative public engagement projects.

Professor Lassiter's Athenaeum presentation is co-sponsored by the History Department and the Salvatori Center for the Study of Individual Freedom and the Modern World at CMC.

Marian Miner Cook Athenaeum

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