Invisible (Black) Epidemiologies: The Function of White Hegemony in Drug Epidemics

Udodiri Okwandu


This paper will explore the ways that race (and class) function in drug epidemics in the United States. It has two main goals: (1) to reconcile the contradictory responses to the largely “white” contemporary opioid epidemic and the “black” drug epidemics of the past (i.e. 1920s Prohibition Era and War on Drugs/crack epidemic) and (2) to examine the ways that contemporary examinations and reactions to the opioid epidemic render the experiences of communities of color invisible, focusing specifically on the lack of coverage and humanizing narratives of the Black community’s struggle with opioid addiction.I will argue that both divergent responses to “black” versus “white” drug epidemics and the absence of coverage of Black opioid users in the contemporary epidemic are both rooted in attempts to maintain hegemonic whiteness.