As We Tear Down Confederate Monuments, The Civil War Lives On In The Addiction Crisis

Unless we demolish the racist systems that continue to hold back black Americans, we cannot end the drug epidemic in America.

Alt left. Alt right. Mix in a little Russia and some nukes and we’ve lost a very important national focus on substance use disorder. We need to talk about recovery from addiction and work on a major reduction in our addiction epidemic, which includes the current spike in opioid overdoses. The change we need is so close that the recovery community can almost smell it.

It seems like, every time the authentic recovery community movement gets a little wind in its sails, a special interest group pops up and deflates our efforts. Right now, new man-made crises eclipse the normal barriers, and that is just downright rude.

Our nation is accelerating its efforts to erase our Civil War history, and all the statues erected to the second-place finishes. Has it occurred to anyone else but me that we still have an oppressive criminal justice system that was pretty much created by the Confederates’ mentality? This system is sucking up our black communities. Black Americans are incarcerated at more than five times the rate of whites. Blacks and whites use drugs at similar rates, but incarceration rate of blacks for drug charges is almost six times that of whites. The imprisonment rate of black women is twice that of white women. Blacks represent over 12% of illicit drug users, but 29% of those arrested for drug offenses and 33% of those incarcerated in state facilities for drug offenses.

It’s ironic that an 18-year-old white kid can smoke the same pot at University of Virginia that an 18-year-old black kid smokes in Westhaven, a housing project in Charlottesville. The main difference is that UVA has campus police, who keep the drug user on campus and out of jail. It’s to protect the college’s interest: conserving daddy’s $300,000 investment in the Charlottesville economy. The same city pays Charlottesville police to arrest the black kid, run him through the criminal justice system, demonize substance use disorders, felonize their addiction problem, bureaucratize dollars that should be spent on treatment, and monetize the industrial prison complex. Hell, Wall Street and Main Street are jockeying daily to see who wins the lobby wars in Congress.

At the end of four years, the UVA graduate gets to go on to law school. Maybe he’ll become a prosecutor, judge, or a prison guard who will probably make warden one day. The poor kid is facing a future condemned to life on the installment plan in the criminal justice system. This system is modern day slavery for many. It ensures the same slavery for the poor kid’s children, via the kindergarten-to-prison pipeline. All this happens to him for no better reason than the fact that he is poor and black. It’s all just the way both sides of the Civil War left it.

Now, I know this sounds crazy to some. But think back to 1982. That’s the year I got clean and sober. I started attending jail and prison meetings as a recovery volunteer. I saw our culture change firsthand.

Look at our housing projects’ crime and drug arrest rates. Listen to politicians who promise to get tough on crime and keep fighting the war on drugs. Three strikes, you’re out!

In early 2000s, blacks constituted more than 80 percent of the people sentenced under the federal crack cocaine laws and served a lot more time in prison for drug offenses than whites, despite that fact that more than two-thirds of crack cocaine users in the U.S. are white or other non-black races.

Zero-tolerance policies hurt black kids more than white kids. Because of these policies, over twice as many black kids get expelled from school than white kids. There is so much evidence of the disparity between black and white communities, you could choke a horse with it.

Also understand that, per population comparison from 1982, the addiction rate has basically stayed level, with the exception of the opiate manufacture bump. The main increase has been the “war on drugs.” This is fed by the special interest industry our nation created: that is the real addiction problem. We can’t seem to get the elected officials weaned off the campaign funds or their ego-neurotransmitter addiction.

Our fearless leaders and bureaucrats invented the drug war and all the cottage industries that have popped up in response to it. This irresponsible invention has gone on long enough. We need to stop the decimation of our communities and stop crushing taxpayers, expecting them to pay off our politician’s campaign debts.

I feel like America is relieving the spirit of the Missouri Compromise all over again. Some states are dialing back terrible drug laws, while others want to increase addiction penalties. Now, more than ever, we need Congress to step up and do the right thing. They must abolish irresponsible drug laws. We must emancipate people suffering from substance use disorders instead of mandating shackles, chains, and correctional facilities. The government must provide us with authentic recovery support services.

Let’s come together as a nation and restore our common decency to each other. Let’s strive for pre-1982 incarceration rates. Let’s get off our correction addiction and start healing families and saving lives, not lock our people because of our addiction to power and money.

Not everyone wanted to end slavery. A lot of people made a lot of money off slavery: just because it was legal didn’t make it right. A lot of people are making a lot of money off the drug war, legally, but that doesn’t make it right, either. Addiction is another form of institutionalized slavery. We must act, and stay focused. We can’t stand by idly while atrocities are inflicted on one of our most precious and vulnerable population.

CONVERSATIONS