CRACK STILL KILLS

An outraged pastor will explain that while opioids may be a national crisis, for Black America, crack is still a curse that kills.

Aired on November 13, 2019.

TRANSCRIPT

> ACCORDING TO THE JOURNAL OF THE AMERICAN MEDICAL ASSOCIATION, OPIOID OVERDOSES HAVE CUT AMERICANS LIFE EXPECTANCY BY AN ASTONISHING 2 1/2 MONTHS.

THIS NEW ANALYSIS WAS RELEASED JUST ONE MONTH AFTER THE LARGEST FENTANYL BUST IN NEW YORK CITY HISTORY WHICH UNCOVERED ENOUGH SYNTHETIC NARCOTICS TO KILL 32 MILLION PEOPLE.

THE NYPD IS NOW ON A HUNT TO STOP THOSE TRAFFICKING THIS LETHAL DRUG BUT NOW A BIG QUESTION HAS ARISEN.

COULD THE OPIOID CRISIS PERMEATING MIDDLE AMERICA BE MAKING ITS WAY TO THE BIG APPLE?

THIS WOULDN'T BE THE FIRST TIME A DRUG EPIDEMIC HAS INVADED OUR GREAT CITY.

WITH THE LATEST DEVELOPMENT, PASTOR MICHAEL WALROND, WELCOME TO THE SHOW.

THANK YOU FOR HAVING ME.

SO WHEN YOU TALK ABOUT YOUR CONCERNS ABOUT THE WAY THE OPIOID EPIDEMIC IS BEING HANDLED VERSUS PREVIOUS DRUG EPIDEMICS, FIRST OF ALL, WHAT EXACTLY ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT?

WHAT IS AMAZING NOW, I THINK, WHEN WE THINK OF THE OPIOID CRISIS AND WE HEAR THE LANGUAGE ASSOCIATED WITH US, ESPECIALLY FROM EVEN THE PRESIDENT ON DOWN TO LOCAL LEGISLATORS AND POLITICIANS OF THE LIKE, THE LANGUAGE NOW IS OF EMPATHY AND COMPASSION VERSUS 30 YEARS AGO WHEN CRACK WAS, YOU KNOW, RAMPANT AND PERVASIVE IN MANY COMMUNITY OF COLOR.

THE LANGUAGE WAS THAT OF SCORN AND REALLY A CRIMINALIZATION OF THE DISEASE IN MANY WAYS AND SO I WAS STRUCK BY HOW NOW THERE'S THIS DESIRE TO REHABILITATE THOSE WHO ARE ON DRUGS, TO FIND COMPASSIONATE MECHANISMS TO BRING ABOUT HEALING IN THE LIVES OF PEOPLE WHO ARE BEING RAVAGED.

WE KNOW MOST OF THE OPIOID CRISIS NOW SPOKEN OF WE FIND IN MIDDLE AMERICA, SUBURBS OR RURAL COMMUNITIES, WHEREAS 30-ODD YEARS AGO WE TALKED ABOUT CRACK AND PREDOMINANTLY COMMUNITIES OF COLOR.

THE LANGUAGE WAS DIFFERENT.

THEN HOW DO WE SEEK TO END NOT THIS DISEASE, BUT THE CRIME ASSOCIATED WITH THIS, AND THERE WAS NOT ONLY CRIMINALIZATION OF THE DISEASE BUT DEHUMANIZING LANGUAGE USED TO PEOPLE IN COMMUNITIES OF COLOR, CRACK BABIES, WELFARE QUEENS, SUPER PREDATORS, AND NOW THESE ARE PEOPLE WHO NEED TO BE BROUGHT BACK TO PLACES OF WHOLENESS.

IT STRUCK ME.

IN SOME WAYS IN OUR COUNTRY, AMIDST THE DIVISIVENESS, THERE'S ALSO THIS RACIALIZATION OF COMPASSION.

EVEN NOW COMPASSION HAS A RACIAL COMPONENT WHEREAS THE FACE OF THE OPIOID CRISIS IS WHITE, THE FACE OF THE CRACK EPIDEMIC WAS BLACK AND THE LANGUAGE IS DIFFERENT, THE APPROACH IS DIFFERENT, AND THERE WAS MORE OF A DEHUMANIZING ATTEMPT BACK THEN THAN THERE IS NOW.

DO YOU HAVE ANY CONCERN, I MEAN, CONSIDERING THIS BUST THAT JUST HAPPENED IN QUEENS THAT THE OPIOID EPIDEMIC COULD BE COMING TO NEW YORK, SPECIFICALLY TO COMMUNITIES OF COLOR, BECAUSE WE'RE TALKING ABOUT ONCE AGAIN AN INEXPENSIVE DRUG.

YEAH, I THINK IT -- WELL, IT -- THE DRUG EPIDEMIC HAS BEEN IN COMMUNITIES OF COLOR FOR A LONG TIME.

I THINK NOW WHEN YOU THINK ABOUT PERCOCET AND OXYCONTIN, IT'S A DRUG OF CHOICE FOR MANY, ESPECIALLY MILLENNIALS IN MANY WAYS.

I THINK WE SEE A SURGE IN THE USAGE IN COMMUNITIES OF COLOR, BUT THE RAMIFICATIONS CONNECTED TO ADDICTIONS HAVE STILL BEEN PRESENT IN COMMUNITIES OF COLOR.

HAVE ALWAYS BEEN PRESENT.

MY CONCERN IS THAT IN THE MIDST OF TRYING TO BRING HEALING TO THOSE WHO SUFFER FROM OPIOID ADDICTION, THAT WE DON'T FORGET THE COUNTLESS NUMBER OF UNDERSERVED COMMUNITIES, COMMUNITIES OF COLOR, AFRICAN-AMERICAN COMMUNITIES, LATINO COMMUNITIES THAT HAVE BEEN SUFFERING UNDER DRUG ADDICTION FOR YEARS, AND THERE HASN'T BEEN THE SAME COMPASS GNAT LANGUAGE AND APPROACH -- COMPASSIONATE LANGUAGE AND APPROACH TO BRING ABOUT HEALING.

INCARCERATION AND HEALING ARE TWO DIFFERENT LANGUAGES.

HOW DO WE END THE SCOURGE OF THE DRUG ADDICT, THE CRACK ADDICT, NOW IT'S HOW DO WE HEAL THE COMMUNITIES AND BRING WHOLENESS.

THAT'S MY CONCERN IN THE MIDST OF TRYING TO FIND WAYS TO BRING ABOUT HEALING AND WHOLENESS, WE DON'T LEAVE BEHIND COMMUNITIES THAT HAVE BEEN DEALING WITH DRUG ADDICTION FOR YEARS.

CAN YOU MAKE THE ARGUMENT THAT THERE HAVE BEEN SOME STEPS MOVING FORWARD LIKE WE HAVE CHANGED SOME OF THE DRUG LAWS.

THERE'S BEEN A STRONG PUSH TO CHANGE THE MARIJUANA LAWS SPECIFICALLY IN NEW YORK STATE, THINGS OF THAT NATURE.

HAS THAT HELPED MOVE THE NEEDLE AT ALL AND MADE THINGS A LITTLE BIT MORE FAIR.

WHEN YOU THINK OF THE FAIR SENTENCING ACT OF 2010 THAT WAS REALLY CONTRARY TO THE ANTI-DRUG ABUSE ACT IN 86 THAT BROUGHT MANDATORY MINIMUMS.

THERE HAS BEEN A CONCERTED EFFORT TO REALLY REDUCE THE INCONSISTENCY AND RATES OF INCARCERATION, AND SENTENCING TIME THAT WE SAW AS A GREAT DISPARITY 30 YEARS AGO, WHERE YOU COULD BE CAUGHT WITH 50 GRAMS OF CRACK AND GET TEN YEARS VERSUS IT WOULD TAKE 5,000 GRAMS OF COCAINE TO GET THE SAME TEN YEAR SENTENCE, SO I THINK THERE'S BEEN AN ATTEMPT TO REALLY TAKE AWAY THE DISPARITIES WITH REGARD TO SENTENCING.

I'M JUST MORE FOCUSED ON THINKING ABOUT THE EXISTENTIAL RAMIFICATIONS OF PEOPLE WHO SEE THEMSELVES DEHUMANIZED AND DEMONIZED BECAUSE OF CRACK AND DRUG ADDICTION VERSUS THOSE NOW WHO ARE BEING HUMANIZED IN THE LANGUAGE OF REHABILITATION.

THESE COMMUNITIES OF COLOR IN THE MIDST OF THE DESIRE TO BRING ABOUT REHABILITATION ARE NOT FORGOTTEN ABOUT.

DEALING WITH THIS.

YOU SPEAK OF THE LEGALIZATION OF MARIJUANA, I HOPE FOR THE DAY IN MANY WAYS, AND IT'S FUNNY HEARING A CLERGY PERSON SAYING THIS, IT BECOMES LEGALIZED, PRIMARILY BECAUSE IF YOU THINK ABOUT THE RATE OF INCARS NCERAT OF AFRICAN-AMERICANS IN MARIJUANA POSSESSION, AND 60 ARE BECAUSE OF MARIJUANA POSSESSION.

MY FEAR IS THERE WILL BE LOBBYISTS PUSHING AGAINST THIS BECAUSE MANY OF OUR PRISONS IN UPSTATE AND RURAL COMMUNITIES THAT THRIVE OFF OF THIS PRISON OF THE OF THE PRISON INDUSTRY.

IF YOU REDUCE BY 60 BY LEGALIZING MARIJUANA, IN SOME WAYS YOU DISRUPT THE ECONOMIES OF COMMUNITIES UPSTATE, AND I'M CONVINCED MANY ELECTED OFFICIALS WILL BE FIGHTING AGAINST THE LEGALIZATION BECAUSE OF HOW DISRUPTIVE IT WOULD BE TO THEIR LOCAL ECONOMY.

WHAT IS IT WE HAVE LEARNED FROM THE CRACK EPIDEMIC WE COULD APPLY TO HELP MAKE US BETTER STEWARDS OF HELPING PEOPLE THROUGH THE OPIOID EPIDEMIC?

YOU KNOW, DURING THE ELECTION, THE PRESIDENT CAMPAIGN ELECTION, I REMEMBER HEARING FORMER PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON OFFER AN APOLOGY FOR THE CLINTON CRIME BILL THAT LED TO THIS MASS INCARCERATION ON MANY LEVELS CONNECTED TO DRUG ADDICTION IN MANY AFRICAN-AMERICAN COMMUNITIES AND THERE WAS A PART OF ME THAT CELEBRATED THAT, BUT THERE WAS THE OTHER PART OF ME THAT WONDERED WAS THIS BECAUSE OF POLITICAL EXPEDIENCY, AND I THINK AS WE LOOK BACK, WE SAW THE DESTRUCTIVE AND I THINK CHAOTIC RAMIFICATIONS THAT TOOK PLACE BECAUSE OF THESE ATTEMPTS TO WIPE OUT DRUGS, BUT REALLY WIPE OUT COMMUNITIES IN SOME WAY.

YOU THINK OF THE HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS OF AFRICAN-AMERICANS WHO WENT TO JAIL BECAUSE OF MINOR DRUG INFRACTIONS, YOU THINK OF THEIR FUTURES THAT WERE REALLY STUNTED BECAUSE NOW THAT RECORD IS A STAIN AND A SCAR UPON THEIR FUTURE POSSIBILITIES.

YOU THINK OF THE COUNTLESS CHILDREN WHO GREW UP WITHOUT THEIR PARENTS BECAUSE OF THESE MANDATORY MINIMUMS AND AGAIN, BASED ON MINOR POSSESSION.

WHEN YOU THINK ABOUT THAT, I HOPE THAT AS WE MOVE FORWARD, WE THINK ABOUT THE COMMUNAL IMPACT ON COMMUNITIES ESPECIALLY OF COLOR THAT BEGIN TO TAKE HARD LINES INSTEAD OF HEALING LINES IN OUR COMMUNITIES.

I HOPE WE HAVE LEARNED FROM THE DEVASTATING IMPACT OF HOW WE DEALT WITH THOSE DURING THE CRACK EPIDEMIC SO WE BEGIN AGAIN TO MAKE PEOPLE WHOLE AND BEGIN TO HUMANIZE PEOPLE.

THE LANGUAGE USED NOW IS A HUMANIZING LANGUAGE, VERSUS 30 YEARS AGO, WAS A DEHUMANIZING LANGUAGE.

I HOPE WE LEARN TO TREAT EVERYONE WITH THE SAME DIGNITY NO MATTER WHO THEY ARE OR WHERE THEY'RE FROM.

THAT IS A WONDERFUL MESSAGE TO LEAVE IT ON.

TO HUMANIZE EVERYBODY.

LISTEN, THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR JOINING US ON THE SHOW, AND TALKING US THROUGH WHAT IS AN INCREDIBLY I THINK DIFFICULT AND CHALLENGING ISSUE.

ABSOLUTELY.

THANK YOU.

Funders

MetroFocus is made possible by Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III, the Sylvia A. and Simon B. Poyta Programming Endowment to Fight Anti-Semitism, Bernard and Denise Schwartz, Barbara Hope Zuckerberg, Janet Prindle Seidler, Jody and John Arnhold, the Cheryl and Philip Milstein Family, Judy and Josh Weston and the Dr. Robert C. and Tina Sohn Foundation.

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