HOUSTON — American citizens, namely white people, are the key drivers behind not just the opioid crisis but also the fentanyl one. Statistics show that year after year this demographic is responsible for over 90 percent of all fentanyl drug busts at the U.S.-Mexico border. White people are also the largest consumer of these products, which, combined, fuel the multiple crises we see in the U.S. today.
The kicker? Their suppliers are often white supremacist gangs.
In March, 27 people affiliated with the Aryan Family prison gang were indicted for drug trafficking. Twenty-four people were arrested over five days after 1.9 million doses of fentanyl, over 230 pounds of methamphetamine, and 225 guns and firearm parts were seized by the FBI.
The alleged leader of the drug trafficking organization is Jesse James Bailey. Bailey and his cohorts allegedly trafficked huge amounts of fentanyl, methamphetamine, and other drugs into Washington state, Idaho, and Alaska.
“While the dozen counts in this indictment do not detail every criminal moment in this conspiracy, it does provide one remarkable statistic: 48 firearms seized in this case even before last week’s takedown,” said U.S. Attorney Nick Brown. “On Wednesday we took another 177 guns off the street and additional kilos of fentanyl and meth. The level of danger is high when you have people connected to Aryan prison gangs spreading drugs and using guns in our community.”
Adding to the decades-old epidemic of methamphetamine addiction in poor rural white communities are the myriad crises affecting those most likely to have white supremacist beliefs. A closer look at the combination of factors, including how these mafia-style white supremacist gangs operate, reveals a deeply unsettling trend: America’s drug problem is bigger than people realize and is arguably a major driver in extremist political views—an issue that has been largely disregarded.
In an effort dubbed “Operation Red Rider” in January, authorities in San Diego arrested 70 people associated with an organized white supremacist crime syndicate. In that bust, nine ounces of fentanyl, seven pounds of methamphetamine, 1,000 counterfeit oxycodone pills, six ounces of heroin, four ounces of ketamine, seven firearms, over 500 rounds of ammunition, and 24 stolen cars were seized.
Not a New Phenomenon
We can go back decades and find evidence of growing methamphetamine use among white supremacist gangs. We can also see how ignoring it made their move into the illegal opioid and fentanyl drug trades practically inevitable. Military weapons, assassinations, and people disappearing are all part of their game too.
In 2013, the BBC published a report highlighting how much power these gangs have after three U.S. justice officials that tackled white supremacist prison gangs were killed. In 2018, 80 white supremacists were arrested for possessing meth, fentanyl, and 110 illegal weapons including pipe bombs and a rocket launcher.
In 2019, the Justice Department’s Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) issued a report underlining the resurgence of methamphetamines and its association with the opioid crisis. The study showed a clear connection between the rise in violent crime and the rise of meth in rural America. Primarily affected are communities that did not benefit from recovery efforts after the economic downturn beginning in 2008, along with a lack of resources to address the problem.
“Violence and crime attributed to methamphetamine abuse are a growing public health concern,” read the BJA report. “Methamphetamine is an extremely addictive drug with a high profile for schizophrenia and psychotic disorders. In 2017, law enforcement officers were cited as considering methamphetamine to be the drug most responsible for violent crimes.”
The market for illicit drugs is so expansive in white America that even people in law enforcement have been apprehended smuggling narcotics into the United States. Border patrol officers have been caught smuggling drugs into the country while shipping guns out. Local police have been caught pushing drugs onto our streets. Even the of the police union in San Jose, Joanne Marian Segovia, was recently arrested for smuggling fentanyl.
However, the issue of drugs on American streets is only discussed as an “inner-city” problem that warrants criminalizing Black people and blaming “Mexicans” for smuggling drugs into the country in the same breath. The truth is it’s not just the demand from white America that drives the illicit drug market, it’s that they’re also the smugglers. And because the United States is built on blaming non-white people for white people’s problems, this aspect of the drug trade is widely ignored.
It’s a problem that continues to grow exponentially.
Not An Immigration Issue
As the political right continues to blame immigrants for what ails the United States, lying about the U.S.-Mexico border being “open,” it’s not asylum-seekers causing the harm. White supremacy is such that it can never point the finger at itself no matter how much harm it does to white communities. This leaves white supremacists to use immigration as a target for propaganda and assign fault to non-white communities through the art of invention.
Conservative Latinos who drive these assumptions —which manifest themselves as hateful acts that too often result in mass murder— make this an even bigger issue. They help disguise the root of the problem with animus, while supporting and bolstering white supremacist beliefs. This demographic has taken a page from the playbook of hate and they are all over social media and AM radio spreading such lies in Spanish—an issue of contention in itself.
They’re going to keep assigning fault to non-white communities, so it’s important to challenge them and expose how they lie. Bigots don’t care if their leaders and representatives lie—we can’t change that—but we can ensure that those around us, especially without our own communities, don’t fall for the age-old white supremacist okey-doke.