Andrew Maraniss on Race

The other day I was scanning Twitter and ran across a provocative thread of posts from an attorney, librarian and writer named April Hathcock.

“Ok, friends,” she wrote, “We’re going to stop talking about “diversity & inclusion” when what we’re really talking about is race, racism, and whiteness … We’re going to stop talking about “diversity & inclusion” when what we’re really talking about is queer hate, trans hate, heteronormativity…We’re going to be intentional about the oppression and violence about which we speak. We’re going to be intersectional but also specific … We’ve been using intersectionality as an excuse to use feel good euphemisms. We’re going to stop doing that.”

I was intrigued by April’s reframing of the subject because not only does it appeal to the activists among us, in its specificity it can be used to disarm the cynic who dismisses diversity and inclusion efforts as unnecessary, liberal, PC mumbo jumbo. Let’s get real, April is saying.

In 2014, I published a book called STRONG INSIDE, a biography of Perry Wallace, the first African-American basketball player in the Southeastern Conference. Wallace played at Vanderbilt University in the late 1960s, and as he made history on the basketball courts of the Deep South, Wallace feared for his life. He’d ask himself what’s the worst that could happen, and in his mind, he imagined being shot and killed somewhere like Starkville, Mississippi or Tuscaloosa, Alabama, where he was routinely harassed by fans with threats with lynching or castration. Back on his own campus in Nashville, Wallace was kicked out of a white church, his best friend was addressed by the N-word on his first day of English class.

A few months ago, I converted STRONG INSIDE into a young readers’ edition, aimed at kids 10 and older. With concern over the sensitivities of some readers (or more accurately, their parents), I debated how much of the derogatory language to keep in this condensed version of the book. In the end, I opted to keep all of it. The truly offensive thing, I decided, would be to whitewash history and let the racists off the hook by sanitizing their words, and in so doing minimizing the hostility and discrimination Wallace encountered and so courageously overcame.

So, I appreciate that this isn’t international diversity day. It’s the International Day for the Elimination of Racism and Discrimination. And this year’s theme isn’t “Celebrate (Insert Diverse Name Here) Culture Day.” Rather, the theme is “Racial profiling and incitement to hatred, including in the context of migration.”
This is the kind of real language April Hathcock was calling for. And a reminder that sometimes being careful about the language we use means telling it like it is, not cleaning it up.

About the Author

Andrew Maraniss Headshot Andrew Maraniss is the New York Times-bestselling author of STRONG INSIDE. The original, adult version of the book received the Lillian Smith Book Award for civil rights and the RFK Book Awards’ Special Recognition Prize for social justice. The Young Readers edition has been named one of the Top 10 Biographies for Youth by the American Library Association’s Booklist.

Follow Andrew on Twitter @trublu24, and visit his website at

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What You Need to Know After Treatment of Addiction


Addiction does not just disappear when treatment ends.

I have had the privilege to witness many newly released clients from substance abuse treatment facilities. Usually they will step down to an intensive outpatient treatment facility. At the time of their release, many clients are excited. They sound extremely positive, with a positive outlook on life. Most feel it is one of the greatest days of their life. It is a “high” (albeit non-substance induced). Nevertheless, it can be described as a “high”.

For many, they have just abstained from their drug or drugs of choice for a significant amount of time. The fog of their addiction at that time is lifting. They are no longer speaking, acting, or behaving under the influence of their drug of choice. In addition, while in treatment, they were given a variety of tools to aid them in their recovery. For some, this involved 12-steps programs of recovery, mindfulness meditation, individual, and group therapy. The deluge of information, as well as personal care,can be helpful to the client. Not to mention the escape from their previous setting; a setting that involves family and life stressors along with negative peers who encourage substance abuse. All in all, life is good.

However, when consistency does not occur, the aforementioned reasons for success within an inpatient facility can be the biggest precursor to a RELAPSE.

What am I saying? Most people don’t leave treatment and return to a different setting. Primarily, they enter the same situation that they left upon their treatment admittance. Yes, they are armed with different tools and resources. However, their time is cut short. They have more responsibilities. They have to work. For some, they have children, or other responsibilities that need attention. Time for meetings or self-care begins to become scarce. Triggers from previous substance abuse begins to becomes more evident. At that point, it may be only a matter of time before a relapse happens. This is not a blog meant to scare but to inform.

Relapse prevention is possible! It requires real attention, energy, and planning. The more a client can plan after treatment the better. The more a client’s social support system is involved with their recovery the better. There is strength in numbers and the more help a client has to fight the disease of addiction the better. Just because treatment has ended does not mean the steps end. We have to work the steps every single day. While relapse can happen, it is important to remember to keep working the steps.

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Importance of Providing Trauma Informed Care


Imagine a female whose runaround in the foster care system began when she was only two years old. Her mother, an addict, struggled and eventually lost custody of her nine year old daughter due to neglect. The daughter is now sixteen with a brain traumatized by the early loss of her mother. To survive, she has learned to be hyper-vigilant; she is always on her guard, watching for harm. She responds to a ringing phone much the same as to a car crash. The smallest incident can produce floods of stress hormones in her brain, prompting a “fight or flight” response. Her life is lived in anxiety and fear, whether she recognizes it or not.

Now imagine this girl discovering a “magical substance.” This potion replaces her fear and anxiety with an overwhelming sensation of well-being. She is cradled in the arms of a benevolent being that soothes her and says, “Nothing bad will ever happen again.” It is as though the sun has risen in her soul.

Does this sound dramatic? It should. Trauma is, by definition, dramatic. And traumatized teens often learn to abuse drugs to escape those feelings of anxiety and fear. That’s one reason it’s so hard to get them to stop.

It’s a fact! Though the moment may be brief and the cost great, traumatized teens abuse drugs because drugs make them feel better—until the impact of substance abuse on their developing brains manifests itself in a never-ending spiral of even more trauma, and all hope of escape fades.

STARS’S gender-specific intensive outpatient program for females 13-18—exists for this reason.

By providing trauma-informed substance abuse treatment in a safe, female-only setting, STARS gives young women a new option for living. They learn skills to self-regulate without drugs, grow healthy relationships, practice safe sex, and build self-esteem. STARS helps them build resilience and find the courage to change.

STARS’S YODA-Girls meets at the Youth Opportunity Center at 1704 Charlotte Avenue Suite 200, Nashville, TN 37203

For intake and more information call 615 983-6819 or 615 983-6809.

Are you interested in learning more about childhood trauma?

Head on over to read guest blogger, Jennifer Drake-Croft’s contribution on our blog about compassion and trauma. 

Compassion: The Antidote to Trauma

Do you ever feel overwhelmed by negativity?  Turning on the news you see a stream of violence, drug abuse, scandal and scary statistics.  The weight of our social ills, mental health issues and rates of physical disease can make many feel helpless…or even worse, cynical.

Compassion: The Antidote to Trauma

One research study has begun to transform the way people think about these issues; instead of feeling overwhelmed, they feel hope.  The Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) study was conducted by Kaiser Permanente and the Centers for Disease Control in the mid 90’s.  Surveying over 17,000 patients, they found a strong relationships between childhood adversity and later development of disease, disability and social problems.  From crime to cancer, from academic failure to alcoholism, high rates of childhood trauma was the common denominator.

Fifteen years later, scientists have found that toxic levels of stress hurt the developing brains and bodies of children.  Specifically, toxic stress from trauma changes the very architecture of your brain, kills your cells and even changes the way your genes are expressed. Getting deep beneath the skin and putting cracks in the foundation for lifelong health and wellness.

Why would this knowledge create hope?  Because now, we better understand how to meaningfully solve our most enduring problems with one approach.  Since ACEs are the root cause, we need to decrease and alleviate childhood trauma.

When a child is displaying negative behavior, it is often due to stress hormones surging through their bodies which put them in fight, flight or freeze mode.  This is a natural survival response.  When kids come from traumatic backgrounds, they frequently experience this survival reaction.

The CDC’s recommendations for driving down rates of ACEs are safe, stable, nurturing relationships and environments.  It may seem overly simple, but empowering coaches, teachers, pediatricians, parents and mentors to understand how childhood adversity impacts health and behavior creates a powerful response which is the antidote to trauma.  Suddenly these adults change their question from “what’s wrong with you?” to “what happened to you?”

Science shows we heal child trauma and promote resilience through trauma-informed, or compassionate care.  When hurt and reactive kids are met with calm and safe adults, they can begin to learn these skills themselves.  The brain continues to grow and develop through 25 years of age.  This means adults can help kids build neural connections to combat trauma and improve functioning simply by modeling the behavior they want to see.

Many adults are highly motivated to help and support youth but they become burned out because they deal with challenging behavior, they don’t understand on a daily basis.

For example, when a child curses you, it is difficult not to take it personally.  When these same adults recognize what is happening in the brains and bodies of these children and adolescents, they can respond in a compassionate way that doesn’t worsen trauma symptoms but begins to heal them.

Programs that treat families and youth break the cycle of physical disease, health risk behaviors, addiction, violence and mental health issues.  Realizing the deep impact of trauma, recognizing signs and symptoms, and responding in a way that reduces symptoms are the keys to trauma informed care and a healthier society.  By doing what is morally right for children, we are doing what is logically and fiscally right for all Tennesseans.   This science provides hope that we can move from marginal to massive results in addressing our most burdensome problems.




U.S teens are more likely to use an illicit drug than European Teens


“The U.S ranks first in the proportion of students using any illicit drug other than marijuana in their lifetime and using hallucinogens like LSD in their lifetime…”

Testimony of Illicit Drug Use


It was one of those early spring mornings when dew still glitters on the grass before the burn of the sun. As I rounded the last mile of my 6:00 a.m. run, my thoughts were sharp, my heart was beating, I felt so alive. As I crested the hill, there was the familiar shape of my house, but I saw something was out of place. A slumped form on my front porch; a scene I could not assimilate. In the safe suburban neighborhood, in front of my safe suburban house, was the body of my seventeen year old son, passed out, as I was to discover later – from heroin. Oh my God! Heroin!And so began a process of phone calls to treatment centers, insurance companies, and a convoluted labyrinth of agencies. I sat at the kitchen table, held my head in my hands and wept. I was overwhelmed, frightened and I felt totally alone.That was thirteen years ago, and I can now thankfully say that my son has been drug-free for many years and is a happy and productive member of society. He plans to climb the Sierra Nevada Mountains (again) this summer. He is living his dreams.
Getting there wasn’t easy. However, I learned a lot in the process that informs the beliefs I have about substance abuse treatment today. The instinct to protect and rescue a child who is struggling is consistent for parents rich, poor, black, brown, white or yellow, religious or not. Everybody has problems, everybody deserves help. Oh, and the other thing: the disease of addiction doesn’t care if your kid has insurance.

Today I (Lisa Bell, Director of Clinical Services) work for an organization with a program that offers help to young people impacted by substance abuse. We don’t care if they have insurance either. The Youth Overcoming Drug Abuse (YODA) program will serve any male or female under the age of 18 regardless of their ability to pay. We always remember that the youth we serve are someone’s children and treat them as if they were our own.

The Youth Overcoming Drug Abuse program performs over 300 assessments each year and it continues to grow. Help STARS continue saving young lives from addiction.

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