Speakers Brooke Feldman and Evan Figueroa-Vargas spoke to Covering Addiction about how racial representation in media is very important, especially when covering addiction. Feldman has almost gotten her master’s in social work from the University of Pennsylvania and Figueroa-Vargas helps people going through recovery at Mental Health Partnerships.

Figueroa-Vargas brought up a really important topic that I think we need to touch upon in this reporting project: representation of people of color in addiction. It’s very true that the increased number of white people affected by the opioid crisis is what’s brought it into the limelight of media coverage. But the criminalization of addiction has deep ties to mass incarceration. For people with addiction or in recovery, access to services can be really limited for people of color, whether it’s through inadvertent racial profiling or institutional racism.

I want to make sure that there’s representation of people of color in the project in a few ways. First, we need to make sure that the sources are diverse. Second, our photos of people should be just as diverse. But basic representation isn’t enough. I think every story should include the additional barrier of race because that alone results in a whole other monster of barriers. It impacts every aspect of addiction and recovery, and I think it’d be irresponsible for us to ignore.