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Will blacks also get treatment, not jail, for opioid addiction?

Earl Ofari Hutchinson | 12/28/2017, 6 a.m.

But will they, now that opioid addiction and deaths are no longer the exclusive province of whites? At the very least, the recent report that drug victimization knows no color line should call into question why people use and abuse drugs in the first place — and whether it is really the government’s business to turn the legal screws on some drug users while turning a blind eye to others.

The greatest fallout from the racial double standard in drug law enforcement is that it is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it embeds further the widespread notion that the drug problem is exclusively a black problem. This makes it easy for on-the-make politicians to grab votes, garner press attention and balloon state prison budgets to jail more black offenders, all while continuing to feed the illusion that we are winning the drug war. On the other, the treatment-not-jails push to deal with the opioid crisis among whites permits members of the public and lawmakers to delude themselves that the nation has become much more enlightened in how it views the drug fight.

In a statement in New Jersey in August, Trump declared the opioid crisis “a national emergency.” He again made the call and pledge for millions more in spending on treatment and prevention programs. The test will be whether blacks will be included in this benign and enlightened view of how the nation will deal with drug addiction.

Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst.