Critics Say Chauvin Defense ‘Weaponized’ Stigma For Black Americans With Addiction


When George Floyd’s girlfriend Courteney Ross took the stand for the prosecution, she described the couple’s wrestle with medication as a part of the nation’s lethal opioid epidemic.

“It is a basic story of how many individuals get hooked on opioids,” Ross testified. “We each suffered from persistent ache. We each had prescriptions.”

In the course of the opioid disaster, thousands and thousands of People turned hooked on prescription painkillers, then turned to avenue opioids together with fentanyl. “We tried actually laborious to interrupt that dependancy many occasions,” Ross mentioned.

Her account broadly matches the best way scientists, dependancy care specialists and lots of regulation enforcement consultants now take into consideration dependancy: as a persistent sickness.

It is harmful and difficult for the particular person with substance use dysfunction, however is most frequently treatable with correct well being care.

But throughout Derek Chauvin’s trial, his protection has labored to border the dependancy of George Floyd, a Black man, as one thing felony, harmful and horrifying.

“That is what’s known as a speedball, a mix of an opiate and a stimulant,” mentioned Chauvin’s lawyer Eric Nelson, referring to a tablet discovered on the scene the place George Floyd was killed.

Nelson raised the difficulty of Floyd’s drug use repeatedly, suggesting narcotics in his system made him unpredictable. He pointed to police coaching that implies officers “should be cautious when somebody comes out of unconsciousness” as a result of “they are often extra unstable.”

This portrayal of Floyd infuriates Dr. Stephen Taylor, a nationwide professional on drug remedy with the American Society of Habit Medication.

Taylor believes the proof, together with video taken on the scene, reveals Floyd wanted well being care and compassion, however was dealt with as an alternative with extreme drive.

“Many people Black people, together with me personally, we take a look at that state of affairs and we see that that would simply have been me. That would have been my brother. That would simply have been my son,” he mentioned.

Taylor has written extensively about racial bias in the treatment of people with addiction.

He notes most individuals who use medication face stigma. However studies show people of color with addiction are often viewed far more negatively than whites — as harmful criminals slightly than sympathetic sufferers.

Taylor says this framing is racist, and he believes it has been used intentionally by Chauvin’s protection staff to sway the jury.

“The concept the presence of medicine in George Floyd’s system ought to someway be weaponized towards him to justify somebody killing him is extremely painful,” he mentioned.

Kassandra Frederique, government director of the Drug Policy Alliance, agrees. She mentioned the argument that Floyd’s drug use legitimized Chauvin’s violence is dismaying however not shocking.

“Medication have traditionally been used as pretext in addition to justification for regulation enforcement violence towards Black folks,” she advised NPR.

Frederique believes the trouble throughout the trial to shift the main focus to Floyd and his drug use is a part of a wider effort meant to distract from insurance policies that put Black folks with dependancy in peril.

“That is about policing on this nation. It’s about the best way we have now chosen to reply to a well being concern like dependancy by means of a felony justice lens.”

Regardless of the final result, it’s probably the decision on this trial and its which means will probably be fiercely debated. However Dr. Stephen Taylor mentioned if Chauvin is acquitted, the sign heard by folks of coloration who wrestle with drug dependancy will probably be clear.

“It is going to be a horrible message. It is going to be a message that … says you will be crushed, and you’ll be tortured, and you’ll be killed, and that sickness then turns into the justifying excuse to permit somebody to get away with doing that to you.”

Taylor mentioned stigma and worry of police are already protecting many Black People from in search of assist they want at a time when overdose deaths are surging particularly amongst folks of coloration.

“The state of affairs shouldn’t be hopeless,” he mentioned. “I am hopeful folks more and more are coming to know the character of dependancy as a persistent, relapsing illness. They’re coming to know the best way we have to deal with this drawback in BIPOC communities is to put money into a public well being method.”

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see extra, go to https://www.npr.org.



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