Drug Survey Reinforces Stereotypes, Misses Opportunity for Broader Empathy
check out another opinion piece I wrote in Politic365:
“Minority teens using drugs at higher rates.”
That is the headline of a press release from the United States Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) about its findings from a survey of 67,500 youngsters between ages 12 to 25. The study showed an increase in drug use among African American girls and Hispanic boys between 2008 and 2009, a rise of 3% in those two populations.
Upon further inquiry, one quickly discovers that this particular study does not capture the entire picture of drug use among America’s minority teen populations. There is more to the story than what is presented in this headline.
Notably, it seems that this study, in its very design, suffers a cultural bias. For example, the survey did not include crystal methamphetamine, which recently has been the drug of choice among wealthier white kids, taking over the now passé ecstasy drug. The drug used among black girls, Hispanic boys and all children is marijuana, a less harmful drug than “meth,” yet still a very dangerous one, due in part to the fact it is a “gateway” drug to others.
The marijuana/meth distinction underscores a 2006 Monitoring the Future study, which concluded that minority teens have substantially lower usage rates for most illicit drugs when compared to white students. Also, the underlining data for this survey also demonstrates that African American youth’s 20.4% alcohol use rate is the second lowest abuse rate in the country, as opposed to White youth who register the highest alcohol abuse rate at 30.4%.
Unfortunately, what grim headlines like this one do, besides share information, is reinforce negative stereotypes about minority populations. Thereby created the unintended effect of causing many to dismiss issues such as these as “a black or Hispanic” problem. Culturally biased research creates a missed opportunity to more broadly capture the attention of the American population and instruct them on ways to fix or prevent the problems being addressed for the betterment of all society.
We are already facing a dilemma with rampant “scapegoatism” these days. More and more, people are shifting the blame for some of the problems the nation is facing onto Muslims, immigrants, minority homebuyers and other vulnerable populations. These groups are already thought of by some as the breeders of a host of pathologies and societal ills.
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