Moving Beyond Stereotypes

The opioid epidemic has received considerable attention in the news and in public policymaking. But this is only the most recent in a long history of drug epidemics in the U.S. In this activity, we explore the way that race has shaped empathy toward drug users.

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Introduction: Initial Questions (10 Minutes)

  1. Review objectives for the session. Ask the audience if they have any initial thoughts, questions, or concerns. Use this as a time to help provide clarity for the audience.


Engagement: What/How/Why Outlines (35 Minutes)

  1. Give participants a copy of The Making of a Public Health Emergency excerpt. Ask participants to answer each of the questions before moving on.
  2. Once participants have finished writing down their responses, have the participants turn to the person next to them and share their responses. Allow 5-7 minutes for discussion.
  3. Bring the group back together. Begin a general discussion for the participants to share their responses. If a natural conversation does not develop, the facilitator can ask the following to encourage discussion:
    1. Did any groups have drastically different answers? If so, would you mind sharing with the group?
    2. What were some commonalities that were identified through sharing your answers? Did anyone have almost identical answers?
    3. What influenced your answers? (for example, personal experience, information received from the media, etc.)


Conclusion: Wrap-Up and Next Steps (15 Minutes)

  1. Announce that 15-minutes remain for the session.
  2. Summarize the main points of the discussion. What were some of the key takeaways? Were there any differences in opinions? Any controversies? Based on the dialogue, what will you be thinking about after your leave?
  3. Wrap up the session by speaking about the manuscript, further efforts, additional resources, etc. Exchange contact information and continue further conversations if needed.

Participant Materials

Reading: Excerpt from: “The Making of a Public Health Emergency” by Yvonka Marie Hall

As the U.S. Congress works to create legislation to address the nation’s opioid crisis, I can’t help but think of the many lives that have been torn apart during the years of inaction, and sometimes downright complicity on the federal level. This inaction has certainly caused a lifetime of trauma and behavioral issues in the African American community.

All of this has culminated in a never-ending cycle of addiction that has become a generational crisis impacting grandmothers, grandfathers, mothers, fathers, and children. Is this action by politicians too little, too late, or will the approved legislation be a solution to a problem that has needed attention for decades?

  • Given years of public inaction in addressing addiction, how should governments respond? How might we ensure that the current crisis is addressed adequately and that future crises are addressed regardless of who is affected?


Early one morning while driving to work I looked at the cars to the left, right, front and back and I noticed that there were no men, all women heading to work. Drugs had taken a toll on my community. Who would be there to help the parents as they were aging, who would be there to raise the children, who would help protect the vulnerable? James Brown urged us to “get [our] mind[s] together and get away from drugs.” We want to end the opioid crisis, not replace it with a more pervasive one.

  • What does this passage reveal about the effect of addiction, not just on individuals, but families and communities?


Our communities demand greater action on this issue. As I look at the legislation coming down the pipeline I sometimes close my eyes and remember my neighborhood before the unanswered crisis came knocking. I remember the people sitting on their porches, I remember the gardens. I remember the lives that were lost and the impact of drug use. I open my eyes and those homes are gone, torn down. Those families are gone and to where, I don’t know. The homeless man once lived at the house across the street, but drugs sent him to jail. Then, his arrival back home was met with deceased parents and siblings that had long been separated and placed into systems.

I am glad that we finally figured out that we needed to do something to address the opioid crisis. It is just too bad that we couldn’t figure out what needed to be done when black families were on the other end of the needle.

  • Why do you believe the interest in the opioid crisis is greater now than in the past?


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