Former first lady Nancy Reagan, perhaps best known as the face of the "Just Say No" campaign against youth substance abuse and a matriarch of the modern war on drugs, passed away Sunday at the age of 94. A day later, a petition on Change.org is making a tongue-in-cheek effort to pay tribute to that legacy by calling for rapper Fetty Wap to perform his hit single "Trap Queen" at Reagan's funeral.
More than 2,000 people had signed the petition as of Monday evening, but no matter how many signatures it gets, Mr. Wap will not be on hand this Friday to drop bars about a girl who helped him cook and sell crack cocaine. Let's just get that out of the way.
But while the futile Internet campaign may seem to be making light of Reagan's death, it's also a reminder that the failed policies of the Reagan era helped give rise to an illicit drug trade, without which "trap queens" -- in their original sense -- would not exist.
The petition, which refers to Nancy Reagan as "the most famous Trap Queen in American history," begins by pointing out the CIA's role in cocaine trafficking in Central America during the Reagan administration, which fueled the ensuing crack epidemic in South Los Angeles.
"While her husband, Ronald Reagan, was linking up with Papi to flood the streets with narcotics, Nancy was on TV telling kids to 'Say No To Drugs,'" the petition reads. "Her infamous 'anti-drug' phrase encouraged strict laws on drug possession that led to a school-to-prison pipeline we're still dealing with now. Blacks and Latinos went to jail in droves for possessing drugs her husband gave them. It was an incredible sleight of hand that would make any wannabe Trap Queen hide in shame for her inability to be as diabolical as Nancy."
In a blog post Monday, Tony Newman, director of media relations at the Drug Policy Alliance, explained how the rhetoric pushed by Nancy Reagan and her husband in the '80s sparked an explosive growth in the U.S. prison population, which took a particularly harsh toll on communities of color.
The Reagans' "war at home" was not only ineffective, it was disastrous. Upon taking office in 1981, Reagan shifted drug control resources from health agencies to the Department of Justice. It was under Reagan's guidance in 1986 that the worst of the federal mandatory minimum drug laws were passed into law. These laws included the crack sentencing guidelines that meant that someone possessing just 5 grams (two sugar packets) worth of crack received an automatic 5 years in prison. These laws filled our prisons for decades with low-level drug users.
Punitive action alone proved an ineffective way to address drug use, and it did little to stem the flow of illegal drugs onto the streets. Crack addiction and endemic over-incarceration further ravaged communities that were already economically depressed. The drug trade became an employment opportunity that many people couldn't avoid.
And as profits from these drugs grew alongside supply and demand, so did hubs for drug dealing and other illicit activity. First came the "trap." Then came its queens and kings.
"So, to commemorate her contribution to the Trap, we'd love to have Fetty Wap perform 'Trap Queen' at Nancy's funeral," concludes the petition. "To usher her to a better place...where she's probably cooking pies with her baby."