When one thinks of science, it is common to think of lab coats, test tubes, and molecules. Our perception of the sciences is shaped largely by the fields of medicine, biology, chemistry, math, etc. - the “hard” sciences. But there are other scientific fields that have just as much to teach us and can help us shape effective, equitable policies. One such field is drug policy. That’s why on April 22, 2017, I will be participating in the March for Science in DC with the Drug Policy Alliance contingent.
Science is not without its flaws. Too often it obscures or even exacerbates issues of race, gender and inequity. When it comes to drug policy, we cannot afford to ignore these critical issues. For example, America has one of the highest incarceration rates in the world impacting predominately Black and Brown communities. Communities of color are hit the hardest, despite the fact that these groups use and sell drugs at similar rates as whites. The time is now for researchers to prioritize issues involving mass incarceration and the war on drugs. The field of science needs to infuse their work with intersectional identities relating to race, gender, class, sexuality, documented status, and ability. There is no more time stay neutral and remain silent, we need to take a stand, and prioritize equity and justice in our work.
More now than ever, we need the support of the media, the public, and policy makers to acknowledge the current facts and evidence instead of “alternative facts.” The culture of fear being perpetuated by this administration is that same culture we saw during Reagan’s war on drugs. The election of Jeff Sessions, as the Attorney General, poses a great threat to the advancements that drug policy and research has made. Given the remarks and comments of Trumpand Sessions, there is no doubt that academic institutions, academic research, and sciences are at risk -- especially evidence and science that catalyzes the discussion and policies around the injustices that many communities of color face. We must stand in opposition to the revival of the failed war on drugs.
In order to do that, we need to ensure justice and equity in science. We must be aware of our own personal biases and perception that can overshadow the truth and harm people of color. While I march along researchers from across the country, I must ask for us to think of all those who will not be present, those who have been subjected and exploited for the advances of science; especially those who are most impacted by scientists, researchers, and policy makers. We must be mindful and aware in our fight to combat alternative facts in order to stop the continuation of oppression.
It is a time for everyone to stand and fight against these “alternative facts” that further fuel the oppressive ideologies that remain within our society. Lets stand for drug policy that is rooted in research! Come out, come loud, and join the resistance against these alternative facts! And while marching, please march with accountability, mindfulness, and acknowledgement of the injustices that existed prior to Trump so we can move forward to push for evidence based policy and scientific research that is grounded in equity and inclusion.
For information on the drug policy contingent of the March for Science, visit https://www.facebook.com/events/252855975141861
Mike Nguy is an intern with the Drug Policy Alliance.