How Race And Class Changed The Perception Of America's Drug Addiction

Irish Filmmaker, Anthony Monaghan says its all about Race and Class


| September 05 2017,

8:49 pm

The media has finally been paying attention to the ongoing opioid and heroin abuse epidemic that seemed to be a silent matter until demographics changed everything. It seems that those who were initially affected by drug addiction had no social or racial resemblance to the politicians and health experts who could have helped the situation. "It went undetected by regulators and law enforcement officials until evidence of the carnage it was causing began piling up at their feet," stated the Working Class Perspectives blog. There are now widespread reports and lots of coverage on the opioid and heroine crisis. The president has even put a task force to combat the epidemic and many addicts are being treated under the scope that opioid addiction is a disease. Hospitalization seems to be the choice of treatment even though incarceration was the only option that minorities had when they were/are impacted by drug addiction.

One of the most widely-discussed reports came from economists Anne Case and Angus Deaton, On Working Class who identified that rising death rates among middle-aged whites, especially those from the working class, were tied in part to overdoses.” These type of reports changed everything. What does all of this mean?  Well, these demographics and deaths of people who were not minorities seemed to create a sense of urgency in America. 

St. Louis-based and acclaimed director, Anthony Monaghan was ahead of the media trend reporting on opioid and drug addiction. He documented the plight of working class Americans suffering from addiction for the past three years. Monaghan captured what he believed was America's apathy towards the working class and those who feel as if they have been left behind in his film, Rednecks and Culchies.

"Lets be honest the opioid and heroine epidemic is no different then the crack epidemic. What's different is that white people are affected. The new face of drug addiction is not a black and Hispanic issue. This approach is different, and I can say this as a white man from Ireland. My perspective as an immigrant is different then the average American who may be blinded by privilege and the way they have been conditioned to think. When I first did my documentary, no media even wanted to accept this depiction of working class chaos and drug addiction. Somehow I think there is narrative that is pushed in which non-minorities must always be perceived in the best light leading to very untrue stereotypes and making working class and poor non-minorities invisible in the American landscape. How can opioid addiction be treated with so much sympathy and seen as a seroius medical addiction when the same consideration was absent for African-Americans during the crack epidemic that lead to a lot of deaths and incarcerations. As an Irish immigrant this taught me about America's racial and class divide. It's almost shocking," said Monaghan.

Rednecks and Culchies film that takes an intimate look into the stories of construction workers in St. Louis, MO who work for Monaghan. Monaghan highlights the ups and downs of the workers struggling to make it day by day while dealing with issues such as opioid addiction, alcohol and a political and social system that they feel is apathetic towards their conditions. 

Due to his own poor upbringing in Belmullet, County Mayo, Ireland, Monaghan is able to relate to the plight of the workers. He is a self-proclaimed “Culchie”, (a Culchie is the slang definition of an uneducated lower-class person in Ireland and the Irish equivalent of a Redneck without the stereotypes of racism associated with the term). Monaghan and his family experienced such extreme financial hardships that he had to quit school in order to work after only five years of formal education. After growing up in Europe he migrated to the United States and lived in New York and later Saint Louis. It was in America that he saw similar struggles but much more profound than in Europe. Monaghan rose out of his own circumstances and started a successful construction business in St. Louis, Missouri. It is through his company that he got to know the stories of construction workers and the struggling working class. “When I started hiring employees I didn’t understand how so many people could have such drastic drug issues but the more I explored the segregation in class, the more I understood. Rednecks + Culchies is their story. I hope that through this film people will recognize that there is a reason that people get hooked on drugs and there is also a solution. Classism is one of America's greatest struggles as is racism but despite our economic differences, ethnicity and culture we must realize we are much more alike than we are different. I hope that this documentary also helps people get the care that they need," said Monaghan.

For more information please visit