What if Spice Were Only a Black Thing?

June 06, 2012, 3:31 PM

With fears growing over the hazards of K2 and Spice -- forms of incense that young people in recent years have been smoking like weed to get high --Metro Detroit has opened up a new front in the battle against illicit drugs: The War on Potpurri.

While I don't mind seeing politicians, businessmen and media types banding together to fight an obvious health hazard, my impolite ass still has to ask: Just how much of this outrage over K2 would we see if most of those smoking it, getting sick from it and dying because of it were black teens and young adults in the city?

Sure, I can appreciate Detroit Mayor Dave Bing's recent anti-potpurri posturing, where he essentially told businesses selling K2 to hit 8 Mile Road as he announced a local ban on synthetic pot. Nothing wrong with taking up the battle as a region. But Bing needs to consistently show just as much backbone and defiance when addressing the more pressing hazards facing the children in the city he's supposed to be in charge of.

And he's not alone. I mean, why do so many institutions that seem so ready to fly into action when we think white kids in "Metro" Detroit are in danger, have so little to say or do when black kids in the city proper drop like flies?

Where are the forums, the policy discussions, the same cross-municipal unity when it comes to saving the young people trapped in poverty and being gunned down on our city streets? Sure, the collective outrage is still occasionally expressed. But where are the high-profile crackdowns, the fast-track legislation, the wholesale pressure on businesses to comply?

In Detroit, where someone is seemingly shot to death at a gas station every week, you can't even get many of these businessmen to agree that better lighting and security at these establishments would be helpful. But ask 'em to stop pumping K2, and not only does almost nobody raise a peep in dissent, but many of these businesses have beaten the pols to the punch and voluntarily backed off the fake weed.

And yes, I realize that it's much easier to call for a ban on synthetic marijuana than it is to tease through many of the complex issues confronting the poorest and most at-risk young people in this area. But that's also exactly why we need exponentially more attention focused on these problems.

As my homegirl Sandi Svoboda explains, these synthetic drugs are indeed "bad shit." The War on Potpurri is significant because it represents a full-scale, institutionalized, community effort to save some young people from a clear and present danger as well as from themselves.

I just wish more of us cared just the same about all of the young people around here—and the particular dangers they face.

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