Over the past year anyone following the heroin epidemic has heard people making statements like, “The only reason the news is using the phrase epidemic with the word heroin is that white kids are dying, now.” or ” When we were in the midst of the Crack explosion in the 80’s the crimes committed by black addicts were given heftier sentences. No one cared that they were addicts.”
It’s not about who is dying but the amount of people who are dying that make it an epidemic. The definition of epidemic is:
1.a widespread occurrence of an infectious disease in a community at a particular time.
It’s absolutely true that we have been wrong in how our government and society has treated drug related crimes and addiction in general.
My heart breaks for the families that have suffered under the cruel drug sentences handed out in the name of the three strikes law. Most that fell into the three strikes category were addicts. Life in prison for drug charges is deplorable. Knowing what we know now about addiction makes thinking of the treatment of individuals with Substance Use Disorder in the past cringe worthy.
In the 80’s when crack cocaine became huge in the urban black communities, we all failed. Just the word crack in a courtroom made the sentence longer. The worst part is that those people were suffering from Substance Use Disorder and are no different than those who today use heroin because of the same disorder. The families that had loved ones who were using crack were forced to face these things without, support, and suffocating stigma.
The problem is that they were villainized while today we are pushing for courts, police officers and doctors to soften their approach to drug related crime. Now we don’t even want people to use the word addict or addiction. The term that should be used has even changed.
If we could travel back in time and stop “The War on Drugs” we would. Unfortunately, we don’t have that option. The good news is that we are waking up to the truth about addiction and slowly seeing a shift in the treatment of addicts. Social Media has moved mountains in fighting the views of addiction.
It also doesn’t hurt the cause that people in high places have been forced to look at addiction in a different light. People of all walks of life have been rocked by the Opioid Epidemic and maybe that is why things are changing. We must take the good with the bad. No matter what, the ideas of yesterday needed to be history. Let’s all fight to ensure that the ideas of today and tomorrow are correct for all of our communities
Placing blame does not change the destruction that unethical drug laws, did in black communities. It does, however, make people think of hate instead of change. So if you hear someone making the argument that we only care now because white people are dying just explain to them that no, we care because the way it was handled in the past was wrong. The only thing we can do now is to make sure it never happens again. In order for us to fix the issues that have and will continue to hurt people of all races, is by working together. So, let’s do it! Let’s make sure this doesn’t happen to any community ever again. After all, isn’t that the best that we can do anyway?