You so rarely hear about the benefits of racism — you now, the positive stuff.
That’s understandable, of course, seeing how bigotry and hatred have caused more death, destruction, and misery than any other single factor in the history of humankind. And that’s without even getting into how the soul-crushing, dehumanizing force of prejudice has held back our advancement as a species, and plagued every society that has somehow crawled out the muck, cobbled itself together, and declared itself “civilized” in spite of ample evidence that we are no more sophisticated than our monkey ancestors, who by the way, at least didn’t kill each other over the color of their fur. I mean, damn it, people. The monkeys don’t do this shit to each other — the damn monkeys!
But I digress…
In any case, Newsweek recently reported that the opioid epidemic that is savaging America has largely bypassed Latinos and African Americans. And the reason may be because “racial stereotyping is having a protective effect on non-white populations.”
Yes, racism has (arguably) protected Hispanics and blacks from getting hooked on the feel-good pills.
How can this be?
Well, the article points out that “doctors are far less likely to prescribe prescription opioids to their black and Latino patients, making them less vulnerable to develop an addiction to those drugs.”
Basically, we don’t get prescribed the drugs as often as white people do, so we’re less likely to develop an addiction for them. And why don’t doctors prescribe painkillers to us?
Research suggests that doctors often think non-white patients are more likely to sell their pills on the street (you know, because we’re all drug dealers). Or doctors may be “less concerned about pain in that population.”
That’s a nice way of saying that doctors often think blacks and Latinos are subhuman and don’t feel pain. Or they believe ethnic minorities are so loathsome that they’re not worthy of pain relief. Either way, non-white patients are “systemically undertreated for pain relative to white Americans.”
The result is that about 82 percent of the people who have died in the opioid epidemic are white.
Of course, when white people are primarily the victims, that’s when it becomes a real problem.
After all, “in the 1970s, black and Latino communities faced an unprecedented rise in heroin use and overdoses,” and “the crack cocaine epidemic of the 1980s and 1990s mostly affected minorities.”
But as we all know, there were no unified calls to declare those epidemics public health emergencies. Nor did we hear elected leaders express sympathy for the addicted and pledge to help shattered communities.
No, the governmental response during these crises was to “criminalize drug use and enforce mandatory minimum sentencing laws.” The question was not, “What kind of treatment can we offer?” The only question was, “How fast can we lock up all those dark-skinned addicts and throw away the key?” It’s blindingly clear that the race of those affected explains the difference in response.
However, the “opioid epidemic has penetrated the white middle class, and because of that it’s now being conceptualized as a disease instead of a moral failing.”
It just happens to be a disease that Latinos and African Americans are less likely to get. In this case, simple bigotry functioned as a vaccine.
Featured image: Cristian C/Flickr