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Unlearning The Stigma Around Addiction In Black Communities

Last summer, one of my work colleagues convinced me to watch Euphoria, the award-winning TV series from HBO that embodies adolescent addiction, domestic abuse, grief and sexuality like no other.

After one week of sleepless nights and an indecent amount of hours binge-watching, meeting Rue Bennett, portrayed by Zendaya, felt like a 180-degree change. Rue is a 17-year-old, suffering from bipolar and OCD disorder, and has struggled with substance abuse since she was 13 after she lost her father. This has impaired her life as well as those around her.

Still, online, people have viewed her differently, claiming that Rue’s experience is inauthentic and isn’t “Black enough”. Following episode five in season two, spectators were incredulous to see that Rue’s mother Leslie (played by Nika King) didn’t resort to a “traditional whooping” as her daughter desperately and angrily vandalised the whole house and abused everyone around, including her. The fact that violence was nowhere to be seen as a response to Rue’s behaviour, triggered many who claimed that “Rue doesn’t act like she has a black mom but a white one”. Instead, Leslie wants Rue to get immediate help and a ticket to rehab.