Devin Reaves was our first guest speaker that intertwined class and race with the issue of addiction.
Reaves grew up upper-middle class, graduated in the top 10 percentile of his class, and attended Drexel University on a full ride. He isn’t the stereotypical drug user or person in long-term recovery and that was exactly his lesson to us. Addiction can happen to anyone. Unfortunately, although addiction can happen to anyone, not everyone is treated equally.
Reaves begins his lesson to our class by focusing on the ‘War on Drugs’. Addiction was treated like a crime. Public policy had the implication that it’s possible to incarcerate America’s drug problem away. It’s not actually possible. Both laws and the media blamed poor black people for America’s drug problem. Legislation like mandatory minimums and the discrepancies between crack versus cocaine punishment disproportionately affected black communities. The media only showcased narratives such as ‘crack-babies’. It was unlikely for a news station to showcase a suburban white kid who had an addiction problem.
Although there have been progressions, America is not post-racial. Pennsylvania is cracking down on its opioid epidemic. However, it should be noted that this has only become a ‘problem’ to mainstream media after white suburban people began to be hooked on prescription drugs and then graduated to heroin. There is an undertone of classism and racism. Because this is painted as a new epidemic, it was the implication that people of color who have been dying for decades because of this just simply didn’t and doesn’t matter.
Reaves presented a perspective I simply never thought about. Systemic racism bleeds into all realities of life, even addiction.
Money equates to resources. Money leads to widespread awareness.
In some ways, Reaves revealed that it requires people with less melanin and more finances to make lawmakers care.