Learning to be anti-racist: Calling IN white people and non-Black people of color

This post is written by Amelia Meman, ’15, Assistant Director in the Women’s Center.

I am trying to write this as plainly as I can because there are so many other words that are crowding racial justice spaces and many of them are stemming from the folks who could benefit from saying less in order to listen more.

Foreword: It is valid to feel and process through your pain, but the pain felt by our Black friends, family members, and community is not the same as the pain of white folks and non-Black people of color (POC). Feelings of anger, sadness, betrayal, frustration, exhaustion—all of those things make sense because we are in a time of massive unrest (and a pandemic to boot).

More importantly, it should not be Black people’s jobs to take care of and see to your pain right now. It is also not Black folks’s jobs to hold space for you to learn, to educate you, and to explain themselves.

That’s why I’m writing this. Because the burden we are placing on Black folks in all a manner of places right now, needs to be lifted. It is crucial that we center Black voices and words and prioritize creating and maintaining safe spaces for Black-identified people to feel.

Ally is a verb.

  • Being an “ally” is not a moniker that one earns through good intentions, donations, or rallies attended. You will never erase your white privilege, and just so, you will always have to work hard if you want to be an ally to the Black community.
  • Being an ally is a process-oriented way of being. It means being conscious of privilege and committed to learning more about social justice. It means that allyship comes from your actions and not from endpoints. In other words, allies are made by doing—not by showing. It is a title you are always earning and always striving to do better at.
  • Learn how to take feedback and correction. This work is messy and difficult. “Wokeness” does not come automatically (or ever, but that’s a different blogpost). If someone is calling you in or calling you out, especially if that person is Black-identified, listen and course-correct as needed. There’s no shame in changing your mind or letting people know you made a mistake. Feedback, the good critical kind, stems from a place of trust and care. Trust that you will do better. Care for you. Feedback takes work on both sides, and if someone is offering it to you, see it as a gift.

Check in with your people.

  • If you are white-identified, check in with other white people to see where they’re at. Hold space for them to be messy and for them to be uncomfortable. Use your privilege to be tolerant of others who are at different stages of racial consciousness. Yeah, it might feel better to unfriend your middle school friend who “does not understand why you’re supporting riots,” but frankly, this is not about your own sense of comfort and curated content. This is the time to dig in your heels, put on the armor afforded by your privilege, and either defend Black folks or help that person understand why they should care about racial justice.
  • If you are white-identified, check in with the POC in your lives, especially Black-identified people, and ask how you can support them. That might mean doing absolutely nothing. It might mean being okay with silence coming from the other end. It might mean donating money, giving rides, helping provide PPE for folks in marches, etc. Please offer your support and send your love, because people are hurting right now.
  • If you are a non-Black POC, check in with Black-identified folks and help to create, maintain, and safeguard Black-centering spaces. Help to uplift Black voices. Ask how you can support, and, again, be okay with silence on the other end.
  • As you reach out and check in, leave space for all of the ways of being. When a bad thing happens in someone’s life, we often default to problem solving and/or wanting to get someone to smile. I get it. It’s hard to watch and empathize with people who are pained. Right now, though, we do not need the reminder of silver linings, rainbows, or bright sides. Toxic positivity does not make us feel better—it does the opposite and perpetuates this idea that the only good way to be is happy. Here’s the thing: the only good way to be is how you are.

Educate yourself.

  • It is not the duty of Black folks to explain themselves or this moment to you.
  • Recognize that privilege and white supremacy are not just evidenced by the words we use. It is also about behavior, patterns of behavior, and the social value we give to some but not others. For example, if you are at a rally, pay attention to who grabs the microphone and what they have to say. Pay attention to the space white folks and non-Black folks take up whether through their speech or their behavior. Pay attention when a white woman’s tears are met with empathy or care, and when a Black woman’s raised voice and anger are met with eye rolls or pushback (for being “aggressive,” or “too much”). White people have access to so much more social value and acceptable behavior—pay attention to how that can dominate spaces.
  • The resources to understand white privilege and the role you can play in anti-racist work are available in many different places. Below there are a list of resources that you can search through.
  • Also! You do not need to know everything in order to do this work! Quality, not quantity! Frankly, the best thing you can learn to do is reorient your yourself so that you are open to feedback, open to learning more and/or changing your mind, and not having easy answers (see more on practicing cultural humility). Those paradigms do not come naturally to most people. We are acculturated to feel shame in not knowing and to hold fast to deeply entrenched beliefs, and so this work is difficult.
  • There are many ways to support Black lives and do anti-racist work. It’s not always about being in the streets. It’s sometimes about taking the time to have hard conversations with friends and family who are not totally getting it yet. It might be in taking the time to read a book. It might be in journaling and reflecting on how power and privilege come to play in your life. Just like any movement or group effort, it takes as much work as it does rest and reflection.

Are your social media posts effective in creating change? Or are they performative?

  • Social media messaging comes easily. It also means little to nothing beyond helping people see that you “care” about a cause. If you want to join in on hashtags and/or social media campaigns, that’s fine, but that should only be auxiliary to all of the work you can do to support Black lives. Those things include all of the recommendations in this blogpost and put more succinctly:
    • Donating
    • Reading
    • Listening
    • Contacting government officials and those in elected office
  • Always. Be. Critically. Engaged. It can be tempting to retweet, repost, share messaging from others’ making powerful statements—BUT when you’re jumping into the trend, look at the “why” and the “who” of what is being posted.
    • Quick killjoy jab: corporations do not care about Black lives right now. They care about where you would like to put your money. Just like with human activists, look at what companies DO and NOT what they SAY.
    • For a case study on this, see the origins of #BlackoutTuesday and how far it strayed from the initial campaign by Jamila Thomas and Brianna Agyemang, two black women working in the music industry.
  • Ask yourself why you are posting anything at all:
    • What purpose is this message serving?
    • Who is this message serving?
    • Who is the audience?
Graphic from the @take.back.theinternet.
Graphic from the @take.back.theinternet.

Solidarity is the way.

Quick preface: If you’re reading this blog, you have probably gotten to a place of understanding with the difference between “Black Lives Matter” and “All Lives Matter.” The idea of Black lives mattering does not negate others’ importance. Rather it shines a light on the discrepancy between how certain lives are valued more than others.

  • The only way through is together. This is not a feel-good statement—it is a hard truth. My survival is tied to yours and we can only do the radical work of anti-racism by understanding that solidarity is key. This means allying with causes and movements that do not necessarily center your own social identities.
  • Deepa Iyer writes about the difference between transactional and transformational solidarity practices. She uses the case study of attending a rally: in transactional solidarity, one would attend a Black Lives Matter rally in support and return home to post pictures from the rally on my social media profiles. In transformational solidarity practice, one brings friends to the rally, learns more about the historical roots of the cause you’re supporting, engages in deep and meaningful dialogue, and shows up to more rallies on and on.
    • Transformational solidarity practice stretches the activist and the movement in beneficial ways. The actions taken in this practice have the potential to create meaningful change.

I know that was a lot. If you’ve read to the end here, then you might be feeling many different things. Offended, confused, validated, relieved, upset, guilty–and that’s okay. This is the time and the space for sorting through the discomfort of anti-racist work.

Please know that I write this with as much love (albeit tough) as I can muster. I believe in you.

Quotation from Lilla Watson, Aboriginal Australian visual artist and activist.

Thank you to the Mosaic Center for curating many parts of the following Resources list in their recent posting on myUMBC. As UMBC’s leaders in helping our communities embrace and affirm diversity and inclusion, the Mosaic Center is more important than ever. The Women’s Center is, as ever, in close partnership and solidarity with the Mosaic, and we will always commit to that. Thank you, Mosaic Team, for all you do to make the UMBC community and our world a better place.

Resources*

* There are a lot of resources below. A lot. This work is not being timed. There is no deadline. This is a marathon, not a sprint. Many folks feel an urgency to read! All! The! Things! And yes, this work is urgent but also must be sustainable. Take breaks. Breathe. Set SMART goals when it comes to reading, learning, and digesting so as not to burn yourself out. 

Books:

Readings:

Podcasts:

Collections:

Resources for white parents to raise anti-racist children:

UMBC Organizations:

More Organizations:

B-I-N-G-O spells SCOUT…with the Women’s Center

Last semester we launched everybody’s fave, the Women’s Center Scouts! And it was really, really popular.

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Like really popular and if you missed out you’re probably feeling a little sad right now. Well, don’t be because we’re rolling out the Women’s Center Scouts Spring Challenge!

BINGO!!!!

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We still have the Women’s Center Scouts, but this semester it’ll be a little different. If you haven’t already, start by joining the Women’s Center myUMBC page and following at least one of our social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram). If you’re already a member and following one of our pages, great! You’re one step closer.

Now, instead of completing three different Women’s Center events throughout the semester, you’ll be racing to get a Connect 5 on our brand new bingo board (aka Punch the Patriarchy Card)!

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  • Attend any one Women’s Center event
  • Bring a friend to the lounge and give them a tour
  • Donate paper towels, tissues, or food to the Women’s Center
  • Attend one program before Spring Break Attend one Women’s Center workshop
  • Color a coloring page in the Women’s Center
  • Bring a friend to a Women’s Center event or group
  • Fill out the question of the week on the whiteboard
  • Attend one Knowledge Exchange
  • Make a ~new~ friend in the Women’s Center!
  • Read a Women’s Center blog on womenscenteratumbc.wordpress.com and ask the author a question
  • Introduce yourself to a Women’s Center student staff member and learn about their astrological sign
  • Free Space (Because We Love You)
  • Share a Women’s Center post or event on your social media and tag or mention us!
  • Follow us on social media (Facebook | Twitter Instagram) and comment on one of our posts!
  • Attend a Women’s Center Pop Culture Pop-Up (look out for when they’re announced but they’ll always fall on Wednesdays at noon)
  • Attend one discussion group (i.e. Between Women, Women of Color Coalition, Returning Women Students, or We Believe You. Not sure if the discussion group is for you? Check out our website to learn more about each group’s purpose and community).
  • Attend one Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM) event (calendar coming later this semester. All SAAM events will take place in April)
  • Celebrate Galentine’s Day with the Women’s Center on 2/13/19
  • Donate coffee or tea!
  • Check out a book from the Women’s Center Library
  • Bring back a book from the Women’s Center library
  • Make a Take Back the Night rally sign
  • Go to the Clothesline Project Display on 4/8/19 on Main Street
  • Attend Trans Day of Visibility film screening on 3/27/19

A few rules! It is completely up to you to track your progress. The Punch the Patriarchy Cards are already printed and ready for you to claim in the Women’s Center. Each person’s card will stay with us at the Women’s Center front desk, but you’re welcome to take a picture to help map your moves and keep track of your progress. When you complete a square, it’s up to you to “punch” it with a pen or marker of your choice. Don’t forget to date the square when it is completed. And finally, we’ll trust you to keep a scouts honor and mark challenges you ~actually~ did complete.

Any UMBC community member who completes the challenge by May 1st gets a Women’s Center T-shirt! If you already have one, you’ll get a shout-out on our social media pages for being a stellar scout (or maybe, just maybe you might be able to get one of our awesome Take Back the Night t-shirts).

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All UMBC students, faculty, and staff are welcome to participate!

IT’S BINGO TIME WOMEN’S CENTER STYLE!

For questions, stop by the Women’s Center or email us at womenscenter@umbc.edu.

Announcing the Women’s Center Scouts!

Girl Scouts. Radical Monarchs. Lumberjanes. Pawnee Goddess.
And now… Women’s Center Scouts!

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Time and time again, Women’s Center staff get the question, “How do you join the Women’s Center?”

Our response is “Easy! Come and hang out in our lounge! Come to events. You don’t have to join.”

To which we get an “Oh. Okay.”

We get it. Being a part of something is special. Showing your loyalty and commitment to a cause is empowering. Finding home and belonging in a space that means something to you, means something to us.

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So, now, you can “join” the Women’s Center by being one of our fearless and loyal Scouts!

Here’s the deal. To become a Women’s Center Scout, first start by joining the Women’s Center myUMBC page and following at least one of our social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram). If you’re already a member and following one of our pages, great! You’re one step closer.

Next, it’s time to save the dates! Each Scout must meet the challenge of attending at least 3 different Women’s Center events throughout the fall semester. The 3 different events must meet the following criteria:

From the above challenges, your duty as a Women’s Center Scout is to ensure that you attend 1 event during first 8 weeks of the semester and attend 1 event during second 8 weeks of semester. This will require planning and strategy, Scouts!

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Okay…. you don’t need to keep swiping, but do keep reading! 

Over the course of the semester, we may also announce bonus Scout challenges to enhance the experience so do stay tuned to our social media pages!

Any UMBC community member who completes the challenge by December 1st gets a Women’s Center T-shirt and a shout-out on our social media pages (any maybe some badges – we’re still working on those details).

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This is the front of the cool Women’s Center shirt you’ll get after you complete your Scout Challenges!

 

All UMBC students, faculty, and staff are welcome to participate!

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For questions, stop by the Women’s Center or email us at womenscenter@umbc.edu.

Women’s Center Knowledge Exchanges

In the last few iterations of our roundtable series, we’ve noticed that the classroom is, in many ways, replicated in the Women’s Center. Yes, we have beanbags and we gather together in a big friendly circle to discuss topics one might not cover in class, but structurally, we were learning in the same exact way. Experts are invited to talk, and we listen. Don’t get me wrong. All of our roundtables brought forth amazing conversations and beautiful insights. As much as the Women’s Center likes to be a space where classroom discussions can continue to grow, we also want to offer a new structure for having those conversations. We want to try something that incorporates social justice and brave spaces into how we learn. So this year we’re trying out knowledge exchanges.

Inspired by the tenets of radical pedagogy that are outlined by scholars such as Paulo Freire and bell hooks, we at the Women’s Center want to create space for learning that blurs the power dynamics of a typical teacher-student relationship and posits, instead, a team of “co-investigators.” For example, we envision an opportunity for professors, students, staff, community members, etc. to all come together to learn from each other and work out problems using their unique knowledge bases. This as opposed to a teacher leading a class to the solution of a problem. We hope that knowledge exchanges can be a sort of respite from the classroom for both students and teachers, as well as staff and all the other folks on our campus.

Peda v Andra

Missy introduced me to the concepts of pedagogy and andragogy, which strongly inform our Knowledge Exchanges.

In our knowledge exchanges we aim to do several things:

  • Create a network of lifelong learners and curious co-investigators among all aspects of the UMBC community.
  • Collaborate on dynamic solutions to complex, multi-faceted problems
  • Have fun! No, really. A big goal with these knowledge exchanges is to build relationships across campus and make friends with the folks that are gathered together.

Led by Brave Space guidelines, we hope to have conversations that are led by the following values:

  • We will respect each other as both learners and knowers; experts of our own lives and experiences.
  • We will challenge ourselves as active listeners, community members, and co-investigators to collaborate with those gathered.
  • We will build community by nurturing our relationships, holding each other accountable, and collaborating together in an equitable structure.

Knowledge exchanges will be a little messy at first. We’re all still sorting out what it means to work towards a learning space that’s more equitable to all involved. That’s what’s fun, though. We’re able to get messy, learn from each other, and hopefully use our combined knowledge to find the right questions and perhaps move towards some really good solutions.

Over the spring semester, we have three Knowledge Exchange events planned. Topics are broad and (hopefully) worthy of deep discussion creative problem-solving, and imagination:

  • Thursday, February 22nd 3:30 pm to 5 pm: Super Representation
    • Black Panther is out, and we want to know what you think about all of this superhero kerfuffle. We’re thinking about diversity in superhero movies, comics, toys, video games, etc. and we’re thinking about it more broadly than the tokenized sexy lady assassin or the wheelchair bound sidekick. Let’s talk about the possibilities of superhero diversity!
    • Partners: Dr. Elizabeth Patton, faculty in Media and Communication Studies
  • Wednesday, March 14th, 4:00 pm to 5:30 pm: Consciousness Raising: Past, Present, and Future
    • Consciousness raising is an integral of feminist movements. Simply, consciousness raising is a gathering focused on learning more about experiences different from your own. In this Knowledge Exchange, we want to look back at the history of consciousness raising, how (and if) it happens now, and what it could look like in an ideal future.
    • Partners: Dr. Jodi Kelber-Kaye, Assistant Director of the Honors College
  • Tuesday, April 24th, 4:00 pm to 5:30 pm: Mediating Media Intake
    • Do you ever read or watch or listen to the news and just want to cry? Or flip a table? Or hide? Us too. Let’s discuss strategies for keeping up to date and also keeping our mental and emotional health. In this Knowledge Exchange, we’re going to talk media literacy and conscious consumption.
    • Partners: Dr. Rebecca Adelman, faculty in Media and Communication Studies

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What are Pop Culture Pop Ups?! The Golden Globes: Black Out and Oprah

Sydney Phillips

A blog post written by student staff member, Sydney.

 

It’s official! The Women’s Center has a new ongoing event starting this spring semester. What is it you ask?

Pop Culture Pop Ups!

You’re probably wondering, “What the heck is a Pop Culture Pop Up?” Well, that’s what I’m here to explain.

If you frequent the Women’s Center you know that it is often a space for spontaneous discussion with others regarding shared interests (about life, events,  and school to include the awesome, the good, the bad, and the frustrating – and more!). The energy and critical dialogue that comes from these conversations are what make the Women’s Center the Women’s Center and we wanted to nourish more of these moments by carving out time for more intentional dialogue surrounding both fun and serious topics that come up in our daily lives. Hence, the pop up of these Pop Culture Pop Ups.

We envision these pop ups will create a space for anyone who is on campus and wants to discuss an event, movement, hashtag (and more!) that has gotten huge attention or gone viral to come to the Women’s Center and have a brave space to discuss their feelings, reactions, and ideas linked to the topic. Of course, we’ll make sure to talk about how these pop culture moments intersect with gender and women’s issues, feminism, and social justice. Yet, unlike many of the other events that we hold in the Women’s Center, there won’t be a planned agenda, prepared questions, or a panel of experts and practitioners to guide the conversation.

Essentially, our plan is to take the conversations we notice people are often having on social media and make them into IRL conversations! We may do a bit of background research or read an article that shows up on our Facebook, but this is really a space for raw, immediate reactions to what it happening in a fun and thoughtful way with other people on want to engage in a conversation around the same topic.  That’s why our Pop Ups won’t come with a “save the date.” While they will be held on Wednesdays at free hour, they will be spur of the moment decisions (get it, Pop Ups?) in reaction to an event. This means we we could decide to have one the Sunday before or Tuesday night so check our social media for updates!

Pop CUlture Pop Up_ EVENT...

Some of you may still be confused about what it is we’d talk about or what is considered pop culture, and the ambiguity is kind of the beauty of it (it can really be anything), but it may help to have an example.

A Pop Up we would have loved to have, but unfortunately weren’t able to because of winter break was all things Golden Globes. From the second I heard about #TimesUp and the #whywewearblack Black Out/ Protest, I was hooked and invested. This is something I wanted to discuss and dissect with others. Who was involved in the decision? Did everyone wear black? What is the point? These would all be questions that would definitely come up in a Pop Up.

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Hollywood showed up in black this year at the Golden Globes.       Photo Credits: Getty/WireImage

If you watched the show, or saw any of the coverage after the fact, you’d know that almost everyone did indeed wear black, but you also would have seen the backlash about why this form of protest just wasn’t good enough. Wearing black isn’t that hard-especially for men, said some while others said that a better idea would be to protest the event all together. Not only did the dress-code come under fire, but so did the men (and some women) who showed up wearing black and the Times Up pin. What about the actors and actresses that are wearing black but work with Woody Allen or other stars that are being held accountable? What does wearing black do when you’re still silent about sexual violence and believing survivors in your daily life as well as career? I know these questions flew around my head and basically everyone’s on the internet. I wish we could have had a Pop-Up to really reflect on how we were feeling post black-out. I still don’t know how I feel about the whole thing. I love the men and women who came out to support, I love that a lot of them made donations and brought activists as their dates, and I love that we’re finally TALKING ABOUT IT…. but I also ask, is it enough? This is why Pop Ups are important. They’ll come together fast, bring us together about current issues, and let us digest these potentially confusing emotions and reactions.

BUT WAIT THERE’S MORE!

While the Blackout is something that could take up a whole Pop Up on its own there was another highlight of the night that we would have LOVED to talk about. You guessed it folks — OPRAH!

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Me listening to Oprah’s speech!

Oprah Winfrey accepted the Cecil B. DeMille Award for lifetime achievement (the first Black woman to do so) and delivered a speech that BROUGHT THE HOUSE DOWN. She discussed growing up and representation in the media, people who took a chance on her and how that led to success in her career, her value of the press and the pursuit of the truth, the sexual violence in the entertainment industry and beyond, and the women who are speaking up.

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It was moving, brought tears to my eyes, had me fist-pumping, and cheering her on (I encourage you to watch it here). I wish I would have had the chance to see how others felt in person rather than on Facebook and tumblr, especially with so many mixed feelings surrounding the activism at the Golden Globes. Not only could we have discussed this epic speech, but we could also unpack the public’s call for a presidential run and what that really means. Should Oprah run? Some say HELL YEAH, others think she’s just another billionaire and we should support other Black women who are already in politics, while others are saying no more to celebrity presidents. There’s a lot more to unpack here in terms of politics, who we support, and how the institution (both Hollywood and politics) may be changing.

Discussions about how we feel in the present as well as how we move forward in the future about this moments in time are important to have and that’s why the Women’s Center will be bringing you these Pop Culture Pop Up moments.

To stay informed about when Pop-Ups will happen make sure to follow us on myUMBC, Facebook and Twitter. Also follow us on Snapchat (@womencenterumbc) where we will be posting more about daily happenings in the Women’s Center.

If there’s something that comes up over the next semester you want to talk about, be sure to let the Women’s Center staff know (you can also use the hashtag #WCPopUp). It just may become the next Pop Culture Pop-Up! 

 

For more on the Blackout:

On why it’s about more than a dress

On what it means for designers

For more on Times Up:

On the Time’s Up Movement

On how #METOO and Time’s Up relate

For more on Oprah’s Speech:

On Black women being the “clean up” crew for America- and why that’s a problem

On the “missed point” of the speech

To my feminist mentor, Megan Tagle Adams

A reflection by Amelia Meman on her feminist mentoring relationship with Assistant Director Megan Tagle Adams.

Megan and I in the NWSA photobooth.

Megan (right) and I in the National Women’s Studies Association (NWSA) photobooth.

With Megan’s departure from UMBC (today!), I feel the Women’s Center is saying goodbye to a real social justice champion on our campus. Someone who was constantly striving for excellence in our institution. More than this, though, I feel I am saying goodbye to someone who has taught me what feminist mentorship—in its best iteration—can be.

Traditional models of mentorship are often paternalistic and hierarchical. Relationships are based on a transactional relationship between a mentor–older, more experienced in a particular professional setting, more “successful”—and their mentee—a younger novice looking for their niche, to expand their professional network, and to build on their skills. Continue reading

Why is the Women’s Center Hosting an Overdose Response Training?

Today, the Women’s Center and University Health Services will host an Overdose Response Training. The training is run by the Baltimore City Health Department and it teaches individuals how to respond to opioid overdose and gives them the tools needed to reverse the effects of opioid overdose. Each attendee will be certified to administer Naloxone (or Narcan) and receive a prescription card for a Naloxone kit.

Is opioid overdose really that big of a deal?

2015 Total Overdose Deaths.pngUnfortunately, yes. Opioid use, whether prescription or otherwise, has skyrocketed in the US over the last few years, especially in Baltimore City. In the year 2015, 748 people died of heroin overdose and 351 people died of prescription opioid overdose in Baltimore City. That’s 1,099 deaths, not including overdoses which did not result in death.

Okay so it’s a big deal but like…why is the Women’s Center concerned about it?

Addiction and substance abuse are social justice issues. According to the CDC, LGBTQ populations are significantly more likely to engage in substance use– 20 to 30 percent compared to about 9 percent of the general populations. Women are more likely than men to be addicted to prescription painkillers, and people living in poverty are significantly more likely to be addicted to opiates. Although the rate of opioid use has not dramatically increased for people of color (as opposed to whites), this is not due to lack of use, but due to underprescription of opioid pain medication for people of color. Often, doctors underestimate and undertreat the pain experienced by people of color. This is an issue that disproportionately affects the communities we serve.

Wait, what do you mean when you say addiction and substance abuse are social justice issues?

There are several social and structural factors which contribute to substance use. Populations who lack access to healthcare may turn to illicit substances as a way of managing pain, stress, or mental health issues. These are the same populations which are unable to afford recovery programs or end up in prison instead of treatment.

One of the major factors contributing to the disproportionate rate of substance abuse among LGBTQ populations is the concept of minority stress. Minority stress is the idea that “sexual minority health disparities can be explained in large part by stressors induced by a hostile, homophobic culture, which often results in a lifetime of harassment, maltreatment, discrimination and victimization and may ultimately impact access to care.” This concept can apply to racial issues as well as issues of poverty, gender identity, and sexual orientation. Basically, the stress of experiencing discrimination, harassment, violence, housing and job insecurity, poverty, and a general sense of social stigma and isolation drives people to self-medicate, which, can result in addiction. Addiction and substance use are a direct result of policy and social dynamics.

Whoa, okay, it sounds like this issue is way bigger than training a few people on overdose response.

You’re right, there’s a lot of factors at play here. Ultimately, overdose deaths will only go down when we fix the major issues that cause substance abuse in the first place.

But while we work on all of that, overdose response is part of an approach called harm reduction. Harm reduction is based on the idea that people who use drugs are people and the best way to reduce the harm that comes to those people is to meet them where they’re at and with compassion. According to Harm Reduction International, “Harm Reduction refers to policies, program
s and practices that aim primarily to reduce the adverse health, social and economic consequences of the use of legal and illegal psychoactive drugs without necessarily reducing drug consumption. Harm reduction benefits people who use drugs, their families and the community.” Harm reduction understands all the factors that contribute to substance abuse and rejects the idea that drug users are good or bad. It focuses instead on making sure that people have what they need and are supported as human beings.

Harm reduction focuses on the things people need right now. A person can’t get help if they’re dead, and overdose response can prevent that from happening.

Can’t we just make drugs illegal?

Short answer? Nope.

Most drugs are already illegal, but that obviously doesn’t stop people from using them. In fact, laws are huge barriers which prevent people from seeking or receiving treatment. Many people are afraid of being arrested or institutionalized for seeking help for drug addiction. Many people are arrested for substance use and go to prison instead of rehab, or only receive treatment while in jail. Besides, laws don’t change the social factors that cause people to use drugs in the first place.

Okay, so who should attend an Overdose Response Training?

Well, it’s sort of like CPR. Knowing how to do it and having the tools can save a life, so everyone should do it.

Anyone who is likely to work with opioid users (like people who work with the general public, in medicine, or with homeless and LGBTQ populations) should be trained. That means if you’re a social worker, someone who works in a hospital or medical facility, a campus RA, a health educator, or a volunteer, this training is for you.

If you know someone in your personal life who uses opioids, or if you are part of an at-risk community, this training is also for you.

If you don’t have any of these experiences, this training is still for you. Opioid use (and overdose) occurs frequently and everywhere. Frankly, everyone and anyone should receive this free training.

Where can I learn more?

Naloxone and Overdose FAQ

Baltimore City Overdose Response Program

Baltimore City Overdose Prevention and Response Information