"...Of all deaths in 2015 from opioid and heroin overdoses in Tennessee and nationwide, about 90 percent of the people were white.
Black people accounted for little more than 6 percent in Tennessee and 8 percent across the country, according to U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data.
Among African-Americans critical of the modern drug war launched four decades ago by President Richard Nixon, the fact that the opioid epidemic is primarily striking the majority race helps explain why it is largely being called an epidemic and treated as a public health crisis, rather than a war.
"Look at the inner city, it's always been what we consider an epidemic," said the Rev. Ralph White, pastor of Bloomfield Full Gospel Baptist Church in Memphis.
"If this had been the case in other areas, the community would have been crying out long ago," White said. "But now that it's taking the lives of European Americans, we find that it's at a time of crisis."
Michael Eric Dyson, a Georgetown University sociology professor as well as minister and author, offered a similar view after an appearance in February at the University of Memphis.
"White brothers and sisters have been medicalized in terms of their trauma and addiction. Black and brown people have been criminalized for their trauma and addiction," said Dyson, whose latest book is "Tears We Cannot Stop: A Sermon to White America..."