Maine’s Drug Epidemic and Race-Baiting

No matter what Paul Lepage says, Maine’s drug epidemic is as much an internal problem, as it is an external one

A drug-epidemic is ravaging Maine. In 2015, 272 people died, in 2014, it was 208. Through June 30 of this year, there have been 189 deaths; on pace for 378. There is an apparent issue, but who or what is to blame? Supply and demand, drives the problem. Proposed measures do nothing to help alleviate the crisis; neither does the reluctance to accept federal grants earmarked for addiction treatment. The closure of facilities due to lack of funding is irresponsible, however, there are glimmers of hope.

However, the outlook is still concerning, as there is a concerted effort to cut state funding for Methadone, a well-known, oft-prescribed treatment for recovering addicts, and Naloxone, an anti-overdose drug. These efforts are not new, however, the focus must be shifted to highlight the direct causes of the epidemic, rather than focus on the shortcomings of the state:

“Now the traffickers … These are guys with the name D-Money, Smoothie, Shifty, these types of guys. They come from Connecticut and New York, they come up here, they sell their heroin, and they go back home.” — Maine Governor Paul R. Lepage (R)

See, the focus must not lie in the treatment options for patients recovering from addiction, rather, it is better to deflect blame. The attacks on entire races, draws attention away from the true problem. It is weak, to placate to historical fears of miscegenation, to draw attention to an epidemic. With such statements, the preferred method becomes fear-mongering:

“I don’t ask them to come to Maine and sell their poison, but they come and I will tell you that 90-plus percent of those pictures in my book, and it’s a three-ringed binder, are black and Hispanic people from Waterbury, Conn., the Bronx and Brooklyn.”

Then, there is this gem;

“Look, the bad guy is the bad guy, I don’t care what color he is…You shoot at the enemy. You try to identify the enemy and the enemy right now, the overwhelming majority of people coming in, are people of color or people of Hispanic origin.”

Racial profiling, in a state such as Maine, is frightening. According to the Pew Research Center, the total Hispanic population in Maine was 17,000, a mere 1% of the population. As of July 2015, a staggering 94.9% of the population, is non-Hispanic white.

It is not enough that the governor feels the need to track these supposed offenders, his rhetoric demonizes people of color; even though national data contradicts his bombastic claims. The ACLU of Maine, requested access to a binder where Lepage says “90 percent of those pictures…are black and Hispanic people.

How does such a statement not incite racial tensions? It is provocative to a point that one questions his intent. It is hard to not consider race as a talking point, when it is brought up on such a frequent basis.

When the focus is placed on race, the struggles of all those involved are devalued. Prevention does not come from funding enforcement, to the tune of 3.7 million dollars, rather, it comes from funding treatment. This is why statements that denigrate an entire race(s) of people, encourage racial profiling.

Labeling groups as “the enemy” placates to the whims of the people, whose desire is to designate an actor as the sole source of their horrific sins. The consequences of such action is problematic, as it diminishes the quality of life for those victimized by the blatant profiling.

Make no mistake, there is an epidemic afflicting the state of Maine. Blame does not make the problem go away, rather, it further entrenches behaviors that helped create the crisis. The focus on race has belittled the entire struggle, taking time and energy away from beneficial dialogue. Solutions must be found; rhetoric alone does not solve the matter. This is why acknowledging the shortcomings of government is crucial. If the people demand action, it will come. That is a guarantee.

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