When drug abuse been public enemy number one back in the 70’s, people of color became the face of addiction abuse. Black (and brown) men and women were given swift justice, in the form of harsh prison sentences for their role in this “war” waged against drugs. Fast forward to 2017, and drug abuse is skyrocketing in rural areas– places where the addicts look more like the police officers and judges. In an effort to get addicts off of the streets, the local government in these locations have come up with a proposal of epic proportions. They’re pushing for supervised heroin injection facilities.
This is an effort to get addicts off of the streets and into treatment. The compelling part of this is that they want to put these in the small towns, where population is majority white. The location would be staffed with a medical staff, should an overdose occur, there would be a medical professional there to step in and offer assistance. Also, none of the addicts that were to take advantage of this would face any charges.According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 47,000 Americans died from drug overdoses in 2014, most of them due to opioids, OTC’s and heroin.
Now, the fascinating part of this entire scenario is that has been such an increase in white heroin users over the past couple of years. The numbers are astounding in this case. 90% of first time users are white, and a growing number are coming from middle class areas. With the rate increasing at a mind blowing rate, it seems that the government is all of a sudden dedicated to ending this pandemic as quickly as possible. Even going as far as to contributing over $133 million in Federal Funds to combat the war on heroin. One has to wonder aloud why has America taken such a stance now? As a man of color, it is frustrating that there seems to be a much higher level of tolerance and sensitivity for drugs of any type once they move into suburban communities.
There is clearly a racial divide in this synopsis. Back in the 80’s, during the peak years of the War on Drugs, nonviolent drug offenders were sent to prison for decades, some of these individuals are still incarcerated for charges from nearly 30 years ago.
My question is, are the policymakers going easy on today’s heroin users than their predecessors did when they were confronted with the disenfranchised and financially impoverished? Or better yet, can anyone explain the reaction to the heroin epidemic from the 1970’s, in which it was handled with an iron fist, and heroin use today which is treated as a disease and there’s all types of research to find a cure, without saying that race plays a huge role in this?
Bottom line, the reality is that whenever the users of a particular substance are primarily people of color, the public reaction is to punish and demonize all involved. When it’s white’s involved, people do everything in their power to search for answers. We’re not asking for anything more than what is right—either hold the current addicts just as accountable as in the 80’s or amend the sentences of the Prisoners of War that were convicted of the crimes that others are getting treatment for.
Unfortunately, we know that’s not going to happen…