Addiction And War On Drugs Ravage People Of Color
There isn’t just one problem in any society because the world is much more complicated than that. The case could be made for looking at not only the damage substance abuse causes, but also the harm created by laws and policies on addiction. As with so many other problems racism or racial insensitivity is at the heart of what addiction does to people of color in Tulsa and the nation. Despite some acknowledgement of the horror of addiction, laws to fight substance abuse seem to present a failed effort. And painful.
Not a family hasn’t been touched in significant ways of the horrors of addiction. The crime it creates, the imprisonment of family, the cost of families trying to defend loved ones, the stigma of current and past substance abuse and lack of resources to treat sufferers. Much of the discussion is fueled by racist fears of people of color. In truth more drugs are purchased by white Tulsans, who also benefit from substance sales while not suffering from runaway jail sentences. Most judges, prosecutors, juries, congressman, state lawmakers and chief executives are not people of color. Mainstream media fuels the narrative of the drug problem being synonymous with people of color. The poorer they are, the more dangerous they are is the unfounded belief. Again, that belief is not true nor is it fair.
Those states with more African and Hispanic Americans involved in government the more likely there are laws in place that don’t overtly punish people of color. Logically, lawmakers of color understand the deep and painful damage laws have on the communities of color. Tulsa and Oklahoma are not in that position of influencing in a progressive way toward better drug laws.
One of the most horrible effects of substance abuse is mass imprisonment of people of color. Many are given poor legal defense and prosecutors have almost unlimited resources in the courtroom. Too often guilt is tied to the level of defense a person of color can afford and the fines and fees tied to guilty sentences that pay for the courthouse expenses. Courthouses are poorly funded, and they count on fees and associated costs just to make payroll. Raises are of course tied to increasing the number of defendants or increasing fees. That motivation fuels high substance abuse arrests.
President Bill Clinton for all his support in the African American community worked with congress to create mandatory drug sentences for those drugs that are sold in communities of color. For those drugs that are almost identical in makeup (crack cocaine) are given much lighter sentences for drugs more likely sold and ingested in white neighborhoods (powder cocaine). Many U.S. Senators voted for the change. The result has been skyrocketing drug arrests for longer sentences in Tulsa and Oklahoma. The increase has also seen a gross increase in the number of private prisons. Those prisons are owned by private corporations and they have lobbied legislators to create harsher and longer sentences in Oklahoma. Former Vice-President Joe Biden was a senator at the time, and he voted for the mandatory sentencing law. Everyone agrees the law is one of the most harmful in history. And no one is in a hurry to totally reverse the trend. In fact, Oklahoma is forced to keep private prisons full by contract. While the state is wrestling with severe budget woes, the private prisons funding increased by several billion dollars with no way to stop the practice.
Resources for what any reasonable person would describe as the worst problem in Tulsa is sorely lacking. Funding for treatment centers in all parts of the state is needed because the first reaction to addiction should be to treat the sufferer. Jailing addicts is cruel and costly. It also is ineffective to punish someone who is suffering from a disease. The prisons are literally filled with sick people. In the end it creates more addicts and does little to stop the toll addiction takes on the state. That is the business of treatment centers, detox centers, counseling centers and support groups. Because addiction is literally at the crisis stage the state needs to triple the amount of education on substance abuse to occur in the schools and community. This also means legalizing cannabis. Our jails simply can’t hold nor should they even try to contain all the people high on marijuana. It can be abused and people too high should not be driving or operating heavy equipment. Abusers should be brought to detox centers until they come off the drug. While legalizing marijuana, cocaine, illicit use of prescription drugs, heroin and other hard drugs should remain a crime. However, those addicted should be treated in state holding facilities that address addiction instead of jail. We must become more humane and smarter. The current system is simply unsustainable.
Tulsa Race Massacre Inches Warily Toward Century Mark
Tulsa recognized the yearly anniversary of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre that still stands as the most violent and deadly racial event in modern history. In 2021, Tulsa will commemorate an event like no other as they look back at a horrible span of days that is still wrapped in mystery. How could anything so vile remain clouded in mystery? Two glaring unresolved questions are; how many were actually slaughtered and where are they buried?
As a good indicator of where Tulsa is at, one only must look at the comment section of any Tulsa World article on the Race Massacre. It is filled with some of the most disgusting racist comments. Blame Trump, blame the Klan or think about what has not changed in Tulsa. Until Tulsa comes to terms with its past, the coming 100-year anniversary will only show how bad things remain in Tulsa for the children of both sides of the nation’s worse race massacre.
Now well-meaning actions are being done to try to undo what happened in 1921. The Tulsa Chamber of Commerce just released internal documents regarding their actions in the aftermath of the massacre. What was interesting was their plan to make reparations to black families for lost homes and to help rehabilitate damaged black homes. Not sure what happened to that idea other than it looked like they stepped aside to allow government officials to handle the damage. All the government did was allow for the fires to burn themselves out. Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum is looking earnestly for suspected mass graveyards. As well meaning as these actions are, they do little to repair the long-term harm. Tulsa what are you going to do?