Last week, in a moment of both clumsy acknowledgment of reality and dispatching his charges of office like a dolt, “President” Donald Trump declared a state of emergency for the current opioid crisis in America. And in the typical Trumpian form of a man whose lips probably move when he reads menus, the president thought that by just audibly saying “state of emergency,” he was literally declaring said state.
For real. Y’all’s basketball-with-opinions-lookin’-ass president thought he could make formal statements of policy the same way Michael Scott declared bankruptcy on The Office.
You can’t make this shit up.
Honestly, upon hearing the news (I mean, after I laughed at its delivery), I was torn. As a black man of a certain age, I understand the ravages of drugs and narcotics. I watched as crack took over my city in the ’80s and ’90s. I saw friends and relatives succumb to addiction. I watched as the guys I grew up with became engulfed in the flames of the criminal-justice system. I was a witness to history as the systematic destruction of my community was carried out before my very eyes under the guise of a war on drugs.
I’m a veteran of that war.
I got the scars and the tattoos on my body to remind me who and what was lost.
And after decades of battles and skirmishes across urban America, drugs won.
Or, at least, the drugs and the declared war on them did their job. Black communities were destroyed, blackness criminalized, and a whole generation of black people were made null and void in society because they were either a marginalized felon, a rehabilitated addict, a traumatized witness, or some liquor poured out on a curb and an RIP T-shirt.
But like I said, when I heard that “President” Trump had taken it upon himself to speak to the current drug epidemic, I was torn. After decades of observation and study, maybe the powers that be had developed some kind of empathy and realized that this is a public health issue rather than a criminal issue. I mean, better late than never, right? Or maybe this was some kind of reciprocal irony where I was forced to view it from the other side to see if I had it in me to be the bigger person.
I wrestled with that thought for about 40 seconds when I realized that America’s addiction problem wasn’t tied to heroin or crack or OxyContin or Xanax. Nah. America’s addiction is far more insidious and pernicious, and it goes back to before the day Ricky Ross cooked up his first batch, to before Frank Lucas bagged up “Blue Magic,” to even before the days of speakeasies and opium dens. The substance from which America has derived its perpetual high is and has always been white supremacy.
From the invention of race to the stratification of class in this country, America has always had a problem with a certain kind of white stuff. You see, in America, whiteness has always had some enhancing benefits derived from its acquisition, but white supremacy gives its users a little something extra. Something that hasn’t been stepped on. That raw, uncut high that makes its users feel like they have super powers.
White supremacy loosens up your tongue, which allows you to say just about anything to anyone without worrying about the consequences.
White supremacy lowers your inhibitions so you don’t have to worry about the appropriateness of your behavior.
White supremacy gives you a sense of super strength that leads you to believe you can and did pull yourself up by your own bootstraps.
Merck and Pfizer can try all they like, but there’s no drug they can manufacture that can match the kind of straight opiate-induced high that comes from having a full dose of white supremacy in your bloodstream. Declare all the states of emergency you want; unless we address this most harmful opioid in our midst, we are destined to have another generation of airbrushed tees and street shrines. Only this time, they won’t be black.
Why is white supremacy an opioid? Well, like any drug, it covers up reality with a fantasy. The uncomfortable is what the fantastic isn’t. It creates a high that allows one to deny the facts of his current situation and replace them with a fake feeling of invincibility. A manufactured dream peddled by pushers who have no other interest but to get others hooked to perpetuate their profits.
And the white supremacy pushers and dealers and distributors knew exactly what they needed to do to get the people hooked. They laced the education system with it, sprinkled some on real estate values, spiked policing policies with it and watched as people began to turn against their own rational self-interest in order to get that high.
The white supremacy high led its users to believe that cutting taxes for the rich would somehow trickle down to the middle class. The white supremacy high made its users think that poverty was a problem created and perpetuated by black and brown people. People got so gone off that white supremacy that they elected a man who lacked the personal qualifications, skills, background, temperament, judgment or ability to be the leader of the free world.
What they didn’t realize was that they had started to get high on their own supply, and in their quest to keep folks coming back by making the white supremacy stronger and stronger, the dealers and pushers got too close and now they’re hooked in it, too. Just like they thought they could contain the crack and the heroin that eventually made it into their neighborhoods, they never thought that white supremacy could destroy them, too.
America is so addicted to white supremacy now that we’re left to wonder if our body politic will be able to survive its ravages. While our commander-in-Cheeto makes vague declarations about fixing an opioid crisis, he and others like him overlook the people on the streets suffering from the white supremacy that’s literally killing people in so many ways: from police shootings to unequal access to health care to lead in our water. All of these issues require uncomfortable and sober analysis that we can’t engage in because our country is run by a bunch of country club types that can only think about their next high.
White supremacy is a helluva drug.