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Broaden the Effort to Save Black Lives

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The righteous goal of saving young black males from needless, tragic deaths means focusing on more than criminal mistreatment by the police. In recent years, fewer than a hundred unarmed black victims perished in encounters with cops annually but more than a hundred times as many died from drug overdoses. Based on those numbers (collected by the Washington Post) reducing fatal police encounters by half  (a worthy goal!) could save as many as 50 lives a year, but cutting drug deaths at a similar rate could save upwards of 5,000 lives. Such tragic losses will, alas, never be reduced to zero, but surely we can make progress on both fronts.

Moreover, substance abuse contributes to multiple forms of misery for African American families and also plays a role in fatal encounters with police. The late George Floyd battled addiction for the last 20 years of his life and at the time of his cruel killing by Minneapolis cops, the autopsy showed methamphetamines, fentanyl, morphine and cannabis in his system. Yes, all black lives matter—and must be spared from the ravages of a pandemic of deadly drugs.

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