In 1971, President Richard Nixon declared a “war on drugs” in America. Over the course of the next 55 years, Congress has passed, and presidents have signed, laws targeted at drug users and sellers. These laws have, for the most part, been skewed in favor of the rich (and white) Americans as compared to the poor (black and Hispanic) Americans.
Just take the example of crack cocaine. Federal legislation made possessing crack cocaine four times the penalty of powder cocaine. Who were the main users of crack? Poor, inner city black Americans. Who were the main users of powder? Rich, suburban white Americans. Fair? Hardly. But I am sure someone out there will say it was Obama’s fault.
Today, though, things have changed. From the president to the fake news media, we hear the shouting of a “opioid drug epidemic” that is cascading across white, middle-and upper-middle-class America. Trump and the news anchors demand that we must do something, because these opioid addicts are the heart of America. They are the real Americans and therefore we must make this a national crisis.
Will Congress and the president enact harsh new laws that will target those who abuse and sell opioids? Hell no. When it comes to opioid abuse the government and media has now decided it’s a public health issue. With that in mind, Trump has announced rules that will allow states to divert more money into treatment programs for those who are addicted.
The poor and minorities in this country better start abusing opioids instead of the drugs they have been abusing. It's their only hope for treatment. Abuse OxyContin and you will get treatment. Get caught with a crack pipe and you are heading for prison.
We are a country that still views each other through the prism of color and wealth. We only have ourselves to blame.
I became a cop in 1983, and I still remember the first overdose death, a high school kid in Albuquerque’s North Valley. Dead with a needle in his arm. Only his family gave a damn.
Flash forward 30 years and we have politicians and media from around the country crying on TV because of rich white kids in the far Northeast Heights of Albuquerque, and in white, middle-class America are overdosing on heroin and prescription drugs. They demand that America must care, all of us. That America must do something and that their kids need treatment.
Where were these Americans when it was the poor minority kid who was dead from drug abuse?
The wealthy never cared until their children started dying from drugs. They never gave two shits about the poor and minorities who have been trapped in drug abuse. All the wealthy did, for years, is demand the government make new, tougher laws, directed at the putting the poor in prison for abusing drugs. Back then drug abuse was a crime, not a health issue.
American racism is alive and well, but we keep telling ourselves we aren’t racist. Maybe we are just high.
Dan Klein is a retired Albuquerque police sergeant.