America was born mulatto, stillborn
But for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,
Aphorisms written in blood with hands trembling,
Terrified of the dark engine that would drive
A nation to prosperity, power, war—wealth
For the wealthy and Dreams for the rest,
A burning flag that dripped like wax, half a star
Fallen to the Earth, yet out of reach…
Now there are more stars, and again the wax flows
Through the land, a broken dam carrying
Broken promises, the hot debris
Too hot to cross, a line dividing
Black mother from white father, a red line
In the land like a flaming forest stopped by the sea,
Yachts on one side and charred slums on the other.
Hence the pain
Of branch snapped from branch,
Of naked foot on desert sand,
Of the squinting eye and the bright mirage—
Pain not of muscle or mind, but of nerve,
Too far ashore to reach the cooling sea.
So the people seek relief,
And the white man is prescribed his opioids
And the dark man in darkness buys his cocaine
And the kingpin and the drug maker grow rich.
Quietly, the rich man says to the white man:
“Here, take this olive branch
And take this methadone,
Your addiction is a crime
That we’ll condone
So long as this branch you climb…”
Ah, but the rich man shouts at the dark man:
“Hands above your head, hands behind your back!
This is America, the land that gave you all,
Why choose jail for a tiny hit of crack?
You, and you alone, are the cause of your downfall.”
There is an epidemic of opioid addiction in America that has resulted in calls for of billions of dollars in spending on addiction treatment, even among fiscal conservatives. Of 33,000 opioid deaths in 2015, 81.76% were among whites. At the same time, in 2015 there were roughly 20,000 deaths from cocaine and heroin; 37% of these users are black (despite being 12% of the population), and blacks are 21.2 times more likely to go federal prison on a crack charge. There has been no similar national bipartisan call for funding to treat cocaine and heroine addiction. Either way, hundreds of thousands of Americans are dying from, and addicted to, all manner of legal and illegal substances, causing untold damage to individuals and communities.