MSW and CASAC (Credentialed Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Counselor) with the Practitioners Research and Scholarship Institute (PRASI)
Interviewed by Julian Portilla, 2003
This rough transcript provides a text alternative to audio. We apologize for occasional errors and unintelligible sections (which are marked with ???).
A: Maybe it was the idea I proposed to an international group that meets in New York. The UN has countries that are the member states, and they have NGOs, and the NGOs have different formations, and there was a narcotics NGO. That looks at the whole question of narcotics in the world and the laws and intervention. I was working with that group in the early 1990s and I proposed a group on drug trafficking and national minorities. I had some of the human service agencies in New York who work for drug treatment to come and talk about their experiences and they all concluded that it was genocide. That drugs were used as a political tool to dominate these communities as a way of control. If you have a community that is drugged-up or a community that is embroiled in violence because this is the only way they can make money, if we have a community that is de-stable then you have a community that is unable to defend itself and seek out social justice because it's trying to just run in the house and not get shot. The mere fact of having that convening that workshop for that international NGO. You know the UN has their conference with the NGOs on the side and I had proposed that, and that was a key moment of bringing the two sides together, the human services side and the human rights side. I need to find that video and send it back to people, so they can reflect on it an use it in their respective agencies. So that was a high moment for me.
Q: Were you able to get any insight on ways of overcoming that cycle? There is obviously not one answer, but did you find some insight?
A: Well people have to be reintroduced to themselves because as capitalism creates alienation, in general but more for oppressed nations inside of capitalist states so American is not a nation. When it uses that language it really deceives the listener or the inquirer because it's a state that has many nations that are dominated under the nation-state structure. The Anglos nation sought and achieved dominance and was able to capture state power and use state power to dominate other nations. In 1776 you have a social contract amongst the white landowners, but you also have anti-social contracts against indigenous nations and also the African nation, so the history of America is one of formal drawn-out written social contracts and simultaneously these two other anti-social contracts, and in that structure the state continues to do things in such a way that people don't understand their nationhood and they don't understand their group as being a social group that is best defined as a nation. So people are lost in someone else's identity, so how do you counteract drug use and drug-selling is getting people to realize who they are.
Amical Cabral from Guinea-Bissau wrote a book called, "Return to the Source" and he talked about the role of culture in national liberation -- one cannot happen without the other. A matter of drug use and drug sales in oppressed nation communities is getting them to realize who they are, reintroducing them to themselves and their identity and with that identity therefore discover purpose and therefore discover direction. So substance abuse [treatment], if it's going to be applicable and affective in oppressed communities, it has to be more than a medical model, it has to be more than a bio-psycho-social model, it has to be a social justice model where people can begin to understand their reality in the total context of things, the historical context of things. Because oppression attempts to do three things: make people believe in the ideology of individualism, to isolate people, and at the end you can either implode or explode. The oppressor doesn't care because you have been negated as far as struggling for your right of determination.
So how do you introduce the concept of oppression in drug treatment programs, and also since we're talking about conflict resolution, also let them know they have been primed to maximize contradiction in conflict, so how do you get them to use conflict resolution philosophy and skills to reduce contradiction in conflict so they can create harmonious and cooperative relationships? So I'm tying in historical trauma, how that has damaged ??? people and how that has also destroyed their culture, changed their culture, morphed their culture -- instead of it being like a mother and caretaker, their culture in fact creates high rates of homicide, high rates of suicide, that creates a ??? type of mentality, so it's transforming the culture so that people can transform themselves. But it starts with people transforming themselves, so that they can transform the culture, so it's a dynamic between the two. So if there is an answer it's in cultural restoration.