Last week PBS hosted a powerful essay by law professor Ekow Yankah. He points to how the new opioid addiction crisis is being talked about very differently than addiction crises of the past. Today, he points out, addiction is being described and increasingly treated as a health crisis with a human toll. “Our nation has linked arms,” he says, “to save souls.”
Even just a decade ago, though, addicts weren’t victims, they were criminals.
What’s changed? Well, race. “Back then, when addiction was a black problem,” Yankah says about 30 years ago, “there was no wave of national compassion.” Instead, we were introduced to suffering “crack babies” and their inhuman, incorrigible mothers. We were told that crack and crime went hand-in-hand because the people involved were simply bad. We were told to fear addicts, not care for them. It was a “war on drugs” that was fought against the people who had succumbed to them.
Yankah is clear that this a welcome change. But, he says, for African Americans, who would have welcomed such compassion for the drugs that devastated their neighborhoods and families, it is bittersweet.Lisa Wade, PhD is an Associate Professor at Tulane University. She is the author of American Hookup, a book about college sexual culture; a textbook about gender; and a forthcoming introductory text: Terrible Magnificent Sociology. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram.
kafkette — April 6, 2016
i dont know why i read this thing. it's always self-important self-indulgence, & i really hate being infuriated. especially by ignorance. ignorance wrapped in arrogance: the worst.
try meth, lady. it's a white drug, associated with, ah, white trash. it's not exactly been five thousand years since we were talking about it in strangely nearly identical ways as we did crack. not so much meth babies, because crack babies had already been disproved. but all the rest of it was the same.
this is a very cheap & simple way of deciding our drug war conversation has changed. it fits right in with academia & academic thinking, is good for academic yammer, advancement, perhaps job creation. it speaks clearly to the microaggression crowd—& we all know how important that is, & they are.
what it doesnt understand is ANYTHING AT ALL about the world of drug users. it's so far from them it could be on a different continent. &, just like everything else about the self-absorbed, self-righteous know-nothing crustless upper middle class, it is.