And a crime spree when they are black. The front page of my local tv station’s website has this taking up valuable real estate:
From the comments section below, this piece:
Thirty years later, America is again seeing an epidemic of drug addiction, particularly heroin. The surge is so great that for the first time in generations, mortality among young white adults has risen. But the national attitude toward drug addiction is utterly different. Even Republican presidential candidates are eschewing the perennial tough-on-drugs speeches and opening up about struggles within their own families.
More important, police chiefs in the cities most affected by heroin are responding not by invoking military metaphors, weapons and tactics but by ensuring that police officers save lives and get people into rehab. As one former narcotics officer described his change of heart on addiction, “These are people and they have a purpose in life and we can’t as law enforcement look at them any other way.” In his inability to name the change that allowed this epiphany, his words also capture our cringe-worthy self-denial. Suddenly, police officers understand crime as a sign of underlying addiction requiring coordinated assistance, rather than a scourge to be eradicated.
It is hard to describe the bittersweet sting that many African-Americans feel witnessing this national embrace of addicts. It is heartening to see the eclipse of the generations-long failed war on drugs. But black Americans are also knowingly weary and embittered by the absence of such enlightened thinking when those in our own families were similarly wounded. When the face of addiction had dark skin, this nation’s police did not see sons and daughters, sister and brothers. They saw “brothas,” young thugs to be locked up, rather than “people with a purpose in life.”
To be clear, no one laments the violence that the “crack bomb” set off in inner cities more than African-Americans. But while shootings, beatings and robberies cannot be tolerated anywhere, the heroin epidemic shows that how we respond to the crimes accompanying addiction depends on how much we care about the victims of crime and those in the grip of addiction. White heroin addicts get overdose treatment, rehabilitation and reincorporation, a system that will be there for them again and again and again. Black drug users got jail cells and “Just Say No.”
One of the most eye-opening things for me was about 20 years ago when it was pointed out to me in a class how in every crime tv show or movie from my youth, the villains were almost always black. The days of Charles Bronson and Dirty Harry and Hill Street Blues and Bernie Goetz. Today of course, we have progressed. They’re mainly Muslim.