The novel by Angie Thomas is a powerful expression of a black teenagers life caught between privilege and deprivation. It is an expose of racism but also it is very much about how society fails the very people it should protect.
The death of a young black man by a policeman and how society turns on an essentially innocent young person is deeply disturbing. The reason the policeman gets away with murder is because of people’s views of black young men, and the painting of a picture of him that he was no better than a THUG. The use of stigma to justify the states action against the individual is very unsettling.
I cannot help but draw parallels with the people Kaleidoscope works with. In the UK we are seeing record amount of drug related deaths and at the same time in many parts of England significant cuts to budgets to help people. In any other health related matter normally such increased fatalities would be met with increased support not a reduction in funding.
The cuts to services are possible because for many people drug users are criminals, or they have made life choices that have led them to the situation they find themselves in. The drug issue is not seen as a health issue even though it is very well documented that many clients have a deep routed trauma, from when they were children (ACE’s – Adverse Childhood Experiences) or suffer from significant mental health issues. There are not that many drug users that decide they want a life of drug dependency.
The recovery orientated treatment system employed by many is often used as a pretext for supporting the deserving and undeserving. So those who are committed to becoming abstinent will get help and the others are less of a priority. If you understand the reasons for drug use are complex you would not apply such an approach. In reality, what is happening is those most in need are excluded from treatment and thus we see increased drug related deaths. I guess if we applied this logic to general illness we would help someone who has a cold but if they had cancer we would say it is too expensive and complex to treat.
I recently attended the International Harm Reduction Conference. I was heartened by the zeal of delegates to stand alongside people who take illicit drugs. In many countries the war on drugs has led to mass executions or mass killings of suspected people in deprived communities. The Philippians has seen over 12,000 people murdered according to Human Rights Watch https://www.hrw.org/tag/philippines-war-drugs At the conference it was wonderful to make a small gesture of solidarity with those in the Philippians with a clear message to President Duarte.
It is easy to forget that the War on Drugs still rages and is costing lives. It leads to killing of people in China, Philippians, the US, Brazil etc. I would argue that many people dying from overdoses are also victims of this war and we certainly endorse Anyone’s Child https://anyoneschild.org/
The big lesson from the HR Conference was, yes we need to provide the best services possible, we need to have good engagement with people who have substance use issues, we need to be responsive to changing needs but we also have to campaign for change. This means we have to confront the stigma drug users face that allow society to see people as sub human, we need to bring policy change.
Here is a photo of Tommy and Kath who were part of the welfare team in Porto.
Below is a photo which is about Pakistan citizens facing the death penalty for drug offences. Many foreign workers globally find themselves at risk:
Women are often the biggest victims of drug use; In North America drug overdose is seen as an epidemic and is bringing people out to campaign.
In Brazil a young man was carrying an umbrella in a Favela and is shot dead by police who think he is a threat. Below is the shirt he was wearing when he was killed: