Today we heard from social justice advocates Brooke Feldman and Evan Figueroa-Vargas regarding how race impacts addiction and the recovery process. Feldman and Figueroa-Vargas also shared their own personal stories of struggling with addiction. They opened up to our class about what it is like being a person in long-term recovery.
It spoke to me when Feldman stressed that recovery is not just for someone’s own personal benefit. In reality, when a person finds recovery they can then go on to make a much larger impact on communities at large. This is one of the many reasons it is so important that people with addictions receive proper treatment.
Figueroa-Vargas was open about how mental health is not discussed too much in the Latin community because of the community’s emphasis on machismo. The War on Drugs disproportionately impacted minorities and that still persists in the addiction and recovery world today.
The opioid crisis has affected predominately white males and the social response has been to recognize substance abuse disorder as an illness and move toward a health system oriented response. Further, the issue with having a white-centered recovery advocacy program is that the solutions to addiction will then only truly benefit white people.
There is also the issue of the stereotypical whitewashed addiction stories painting white people who are addicted to drugs as victims of pharmaceutical companies. In comparison, minorities are more harshly looked down upon for having addictions. To address this in our reporting, Figueroa-Vargas pointed out it is important we include people of color in our stories that include positive aspects of recovery. He told us we can either help or harm addiction topics with our journalism and it’s up to us decide which we will do.
Feldman added that if anyone responds negatively to our solutions journalism work or is offended by the work we should follow up with them to determine why. She said even if we don’t agree with their feedback, there is potential to learn and grow from their comments and reactions.