In the United States, more than 183,000 people have died from prescription opioid overdoses. The CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention) reports from the data of over 60 million death certificates from 2010-2013, that the rate of heroin-related overdoses has tripled.
These disconcerting statistics are all connected to the rise of mortality rates among white people. The New York Times reports that death certificates for young white people have risen to numbers that are close to surpassing the number of deaths that occurred towards the end of the AIDS epidemic. In stark contrast lies the drastically falling death rates of young African-Americans in the United States which declined to a record low in 2014. Death rates for white women and men aged 25-54 have been on a steady incline since 1999: all as a result of illegal and legal drug usage. More and more white people are dying from drug-related complications, and at an even rate, more people are becoming concerned with stopping the fatalistic consequences of drug abuse. The increase in white death has created a “new” ‘War on Drugs’ aimed to mitigate the effects of drug abuse on the white community.
The term ‘War on Drugs’ was mainstreamed after President Nixon declared drug abuse as “public enemy number one of the United States” during a press conference in 1971. Since 1971, the ‘War on Drugs’ has become directly correlated with the racism and discriminatory culture that has become embedded within the United States. However, the “new” ‘War on Drugs’ seems to have been proposed with a drastically different, and positive connotation. The “new” ‘War on Drugs’ presents itself as the antithesis of the fight against drug addiction and abuse that has pillaged African-American and minority communities for over forty years.
John Ehrlichman, President Nixon’s domestic policy chief plainly explained the direct attack that the ‘War on Drugs’ has/had against black people in a cover story for Harper’s Bazaar by saying, “The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and black people. You understand what I’m saying. We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.”
Perhaps it appears antagonistic to compare the “new” war on drugs to the (disproportionately aggressive towards minorities) “old” war on drugs, but the comparison is necessary to identify the roots of discrimination within the historically racist ‘War on Drugs’. Of course, the benefits of stopping drug abuse would be a tool for progression for all people regardless of their background. The only confusion that comes along with the United States’ sudden desire to yet again eradicate drug problems, is why must the United States attack drug abuse if supposedly it has been doing so since Nixon poured life into the words ‘War on Drugs’?
The Obama Administration began to draft implementation that would link opioid and drug addiction as public health issues. This variant of the path towards ending drug usage is genuinely helpful, whereas the system that has been enacted within the States is inherently racist and insidiously harmful. Commonly, minorities have been arrested and criminalized as a result of drug addictions. Instead of being given hospital treatment for what is now deemed a public health issue, hispanics and blacks have been forced into jail cells.
The era that the United States’ population is currently attempting to endure is one of re-visited, and perhaps even more acute historical oppression under the reign Donald Trump. Ideas connected to unfair treatment have become so identifiable in everything that it is almost impossible to not “bring race” into everything for all people (as the majority of minorities have been exposed to this before the year 2017.) That is why the widespread terror about opioid usage and white death rates has created another area in which intolerance has the opportunity to metastasize. Now, the race that was thought to be impenetrable is becoming diseased, and that is something that has been unthinkable for certain groups of people for centuries.
Steven W. Thrasher of the Guardian states: “The war on drugs is itself a kind of opiate of the white masses, hustled and imbibed to stoke white people’s fear of people of color – even as there already about 1.5 million black men already disappeared from U.S. society by early death or incarceration.”
Recently, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has proclaimed that he wants to return to the national crime strategy of the 80s and 90s when the war on drugs reached its apex. It should be noted that this is also when one of the pinnacles of racism in United States history was reached, and how these policies are hands the pushed minority communities into the never ending pits of mass incarceration that still affect the communities today.