The Opioid Epidemic is Racist
By Lou Ford
Our biggest health crisis right now that is devouring the nation, the Opioid epidemic, is one that is uniquely racial and biased. It is one that until more recently had been strictly a white problem. It is one that has killed more people than car accidents and gun violence combined. It has arguably helped to turn Mexico into the 2nd dangerous conflict zone in the world. It has left hundreds upon thousands destroyed in its wake. An entire Indigenous population is being decimated by that hunger. That population is the Native Americans. Now just to get the full scope of the situation accord to an article in last weeks USA Today with 175 people dying everyday from overdoses the body count could hit 1 million by 2020 (https://www.google.com/amp/s/amp.usatoday.com/amp/1074336001). As horrible as that sounds that is not what really makes this singularly different. What does is how it is now being chosen to be dealt with. It's with mercy. Not so much in the past with waves of drug abuse, which was deemed best, contained by harsh laws, and demonization.
In the 80s and 90s during the crack epidemic the way that was deemed the most effective was the "tough on crime" method. That meant stricter laws, longer jail time, and more militarized law enforcement. That had started more memorably with politicians like President Nixon's and his "Tough on Crime" idea that Reagan carried on which had then been continued by all the other presidents until Obama. Obama changed that by granting clemency to those with non-violent drug offensives in his efforts to revamp the criminal justice system. Those drug laws affected minorities more than whites, and many criticized them as being directed at minorities. The simple fact is that the war on drugs had done more to traumatize than correct. Now we have something different occurring, a hellacious health crisis that is being handled differently due to race. In other words Whites are dying in scores because of drugs and by God they need treatment. They need hugs and kisses.
As said, during the 80's and 90's the tough on crime approach had caused prison populations to triple, and even quadrupled, causing over population, further criminalizing, and state budgets to hemorrhage at the seams. It also disproportionately affected Hispanics and Blacks. It's still a fact that despite drug use and crimes between whites and non-whites being about the same, minorities are the overwhelming recipients of arrests and jail time. With this new epidemic being mainly a white one, and even with a Trump White House that is all about law and order, the price that the same players played in the 80's and 90's is nowhere nearly as costly. It's different; it's hugs and kisses.
That is what has made the opioid epidemic so much more different; it is how our country is now trying to deal with it. It is how the opioid epidemic is racist.
The reason I say hugs and kisses is because when it's whites that are in distress then something has to be done to make it correct. But some would argue that when it wasn't white then it was alright. That was due not only to the fear of the collapse of our society, but anti-drug extremism. The fear that fueled it was biased mainly on race. It was a terror that those who were underprivileged and less educated were going to bleed out the consequences of the drug crisis that devouring many of their communities. That was pushed by the anti-drug extremism of many like Nixon, and earlier politicians like Harry J. Anslinger.
That is the dissimilar contradiction and what has made the opioid epidemic so much more frustratingly different. Those in minority community’s were/are treated like beasts for a sickness that had pillaged their homes. It's how our country is now trying to deal with it. There is no longer a focus on militarizing the police (which means giving police departments old surplus military hardware including tanks) instead it's rehabs, drug courts, and halfway houses. Now it's blaming those "rapist Mexicans" for this crisis which is uniquely American. It is now about a wall. The opioid epidemic is racist.
While all this is happening we forget about the destruction inflicted in the process of feeding that beast. We dismiss the pain that ordinary, innocent people have to suffer because of our nation's aching, hallow need. All the villagers, and farmers who are victimized and extorted for organized crime's benefit. Those who are caught inadvertently in the gunmen's cross hairs. First it was Pablo Escobar, and now it's the Mexican drug cartels. It is the Mexican cartels that are extorting avocado and lime farmers. It's the Mexican cartels that are the ones hanging people from overpasses and decapitating on video. It’s the Mexican cartels that kill the children of those they hate. It's the Mexican cartels that a vigilante group fought because the government was/is too corrupt. We seem to forget that our nation is the most valuable drug market in the word, one that has enabled drug cartels to operate, and be just as profitable as almost every multimillion-dollar corporation around. We have just as much responsibility as the drug lords have for this issue.
We seem to forget that companies like Purdue pharmaceutical are in many ways the true villains of this current disaster, and our government is just as compliant for accepting the money offering from their lobbyists. Those same companies are the ones that started the whole epidemic that we see now by their peddling of harmful drugs that they lied about. We also seem to neglect the truth that those drugs were targeted towards those who were most vulnerable, the uneducated poor working class whose only source of income was high-risk injury jobs. Those companies are not held liable by the Trump administration, but instead Mexicans and brown skinned people are. The wall needs to be built to keep all the criminals out, but the companies like Purdue, the real drug dealers in this case, well they go free. No responsibility is mandated for them.
This is a health crisis that is destroying lives, and the one thing that doesn't seem to be taken into account by our current president is that the companies are paying the government to operate freely. Trump is the candidate who ran on that claim of shutting down this epidemic, and now he has a council of officials with no experience, medical or other wise, working to stop it. And yet nothing has been done. Nothing seems like it can be done with a government where pharmaceutical companies spending more money than the NRA lobbying congress for a free pass, or the justice department letting banks (like HSBC) known for money laundering for cartels off the hook for fear of an economic backlash.
The worse part is that as this continues to go on, and the approach, right or wrong, is treatment as opposed to criminalization there will be anger. And just as long as those who the treatment is directed at are whites the more animosity there will be about the response to this crisis by those in minority communities who are still feeling the effects from the war on drugs. This generations AIDS epidemic that affects mainly whites is offering solutions sympathetic to whites because they are white. The opioid epidemic is racist.
Copyright © Andrew Bruce 2018