Opioid abuse by white people is considered a health or addiction issue that ruins potential and harms families, but crack cocaine used in black communities was treated as a criminal issue that was nothing less than an existential threat to America.
We won’t see any mass incarceration crime bills targeting white people addicted to prescription drugs and heroin. No politician is going to make speeches calling white people superpredators. Congress won’t pass laws intended to block white people from receiving food assistance, or housing assistance, or Pell grants, just because they had an addiction problem.
Empathy, access to drug intervention programs and multiple second chances for white people, but dehumanization, punishment and more punishment for black people. “Tough on crime” is code for tough on black people. America didn’t get more compassionate towards drug users since the 1990s, it just values white people more than black people. A lot more.
This is what we mean by “two Americas,” there is one set of rules and harsher penalties for black people, and another set of rules and compassion for white people.