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April 12, 2023 at 2.00pm – 3.30pm


Whiteout: How Racial Capitalism Changed the Color of Opioids in America

Join authors of Whiteout and Robin D.G. Kelley for a discussion of the roots of the surprisingly white opioid crisis in racial capitalism.



In the past two decades, media images of the surprisingly white “new face” of the US opioid crisis abounded. But why was the crisis so white? Some argued that skyrocketing overdoses were “deaths of despair” signaling deeper socioeconomic anguish in white communities. Whiteout makes the counterintuitive case that the opioid crisis was the product of white racial privilege as well as despair.

Anchored by interviews, data, and riveting firsthand narratives from three leading experts—an addiction psychiatrist, a policy advocate, and a drug historian—Whiteout reveals how a century of structural racism in drug policy, and in profit-oriented medical industries led to mass white overdose deaths. The authors implicate racially segregated health care systems, the racial assumptions of addiction scientists, and relaxed regulation of pharmaceutical marketing to white consumers. Whiteout is an unflinching account of how racial capitalism is toxic for all Americans.

In this special event hosted by Haymarket, Robin D.G. Kelley will discuss with the authors Helena Hansen, Jules Netherland, and David Herzberg how Whiteness drove the opioid crisis.

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***Register through Eventbrite to receive a link to the video conference on the day of the event. This event will also be recorded and live captioning will be provided.***


Helena Hansen, an MD, Ph.D. psychiatrist-anthropologist, is the interim chair of the Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences and interim director of the UCLA Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior at UCLA. She has published widely in clinical and social science journals ranging from JAMA and NEJM to Social Science and Medicine and Medical Anthropology and is the author of Addicted to Christ: Remaking Men in Puerto Rican Pentecostal Drug Ministries (UC Press 2018) and is editor of Structural Competency in Mental Health and Medicine: a Case Based Approach to Treating the Social Determinants of Health (Springer 2019).

Julie “Jules” Netherland, PhD, is the managing director of the Department of Research and Academic Engagement at the Drug Policy Alliance. Netherland previously worked in DPA’s New York Policy Office where she was instrumental in passing New York’s first medical marijuana laws. She is the editor of Critical Perspectives on Addiction (Emerald Press, 2012). She holds a BA in religion from Bryn Mawr College, a Masters in Social Work from Boston University, and a PhD in medical sociology from the City University of New York.

David Herzberg is Professor of History at the University at Buffalo (SUNY). He researches the history of drugs and drug policy in America with a focus on pharmaceuticals. His work has appeared in numerous scholarly and medical journals, in popular media, and in two books: White Market Drugs: Big Pharma and the Hidden History of Addiction in America and Happy Pills in America: From Miltown to Prozac. He is also co-editor of Social History of Alcohol and Drugs: An Interdisciplinary Journal, the journal of the Alcohol and Drug History Society.

Robin D.G. Kelley is Professor and Gary B. Nash Endowed Chair in U.S. History at UCLA. He is the author of Hammer and HoeRace RebelsFreedom Dreams: The Black Radical Imagination, and Thelonious Monk: The Life and Times of an American Original, among other titles. His writing has been featured in the Journal of American History, American Historical Review, Black Music Research Journal, African Studies Review, New York Times, The Crisis, The Nation, and Voice Literary Supplement.


This event is sponsored by the Drug Policy AllianceBoston ReviewUniversity of California PressUniversity at Buffalo (SUNY) and Haymarket Books. While all of our events are freely available, we ask that those who are able make a solidarity donation in support of our important publishing and programming work.