Regarding Labels

By Haner Hernandez, Ph.D., CPS, CADCII, LADC

I may be a lot of things, but let me tell you what I’m NOT. More importantly, I will proudly tell you what and who I AM, and how your labels only serve to define YOU, not me. As a matter of fact, your labels strengthen me, they strengthen us.

I’m NOT a Spick! Yes, I speak with an accent, and so do you! Yet, you can only hear mine. I speak more than one language and I can hear your racist ass in all of my languages and accents. I am a proud Latino, I am an unapologetic Puertorriqueño, PUÑETA. Yes, I’m from that land and of the people, which you have colonized. I am proud of my cultural and linguistic heritage and skills, while yours are forever linked to slavery, colonialism, and genocide. Your hatred for me is a reflection of you and how your kind has treated humanity.

I am NOT an addict! Yes, I used substances as a way to cope and be in this world, but I learned that I am a human being who deserves to be alive, loved, and productive. I am, among other things, a productive person in recovery of 32 years! Your insistence in labeling me as an addict denotes your level of ignorance and your desire to blame and shame people who deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. Your focus on me draws attention away from the profiteers – big pharma, for profit health care, criminal injustice systems – but we see you and we DENOUNCE you and your practices and policies. Your lack of compassion and coldness drives me to approach others with empathy and intelligence, grounded in science. It also drives US to organize against YOU.

I am NOT an ex-convict, ex-felon, criminal, super predator, or an animal! At one point in my life, I committed a number of criminal acts, but that was then and I have paid my debt to society. Moreover, I have dedicated 32 years of my life to helping other people overcome hardships and a criminal injustice system designed to disproportionately impact my kind. The same system that has benefited the privileged, the rich and powerful – YOU. Yes, the very prisons traded on the New York stock exchange and the pharmaceutical companies responsible for death and destruction. While you spend your time and efforts vilifying me and profiting from that inhumane system, I double down – WE double down – on efforts to bring you to account.

I am NOT a doctor! I am Haner Hernandez Bonilla and I earned a Ph.D. against all odds. You are NOT to take credit for my success, only my people have that right. For the education system that you created wasn’t designed for me and my kind. You demand to be called DOCTOR and your level of arrogance let’s me know about your insecurity and privilege. You see, I also earned a GED and that is the degree that I proudly have up on my wall. The knowledge and skills that I gained from earning a Ph.D. are dwarfed in comparison to the lifelong lessons that I learned from earning a GED inside one of your jails. My priorities and outcomes are different because my world view, priorities, cultural lens, and sense of justice are different. I am proudly from the margins and of the marginalized.

Finally, my humanity, our COLLECTIVE humanity is only strengthened by your inhumanity! My self worth, OUR self worth is grounded in the power of the collective and not in any individualist ideology. You have permission to continue to call me as you wish and I will continue to call you out without hesitation or fear. Know that while you have simplistic and destructive labels, we employ analysis, actions, and RESISTANCE.

Dr. Hernández is originally from Puerto Rico and has worked for 31 years in the field.  Haner is a person in long-term recovery and is committed to eliminating health disparities by contributing to developing equity.  Dr. Hernandez utilizes a social justice lens to develop and provide prevention,intervention, treatment and recovery support services.

6 thoughts on “Regarding Labels”

  1. I’m concerned that CCAR’S blogs seem to be getting angrier and angrier. Anger, resentment and bitterness are not attributes I associate with healthy recovery. I don’t expect a Pollyanna approach but vitriol is never spiritual or attractive.

  2. Richard Malvey

    Awesome and well done and said. I am so happy this way to get well through CCAR and peer work is spreading. I love what I do, reading Phil’s blogs and guests like yourself Dr. Always remind me of why I don’t leave my position. I know I what we do and our approach works. It’s so saddening when I hear individuals still thought of as just a number. With that I say keep fighting the the good fight. Be well, thank you and many blessings.

  3. Distressing. I thought the recovery movement was about compassion and tolerance, not indignation and contempt. I would ask CCAR: Is this the right forum for this kind of expression?

  4. Robert Rousseau

    Dr. Hernandez rightly excoriates the institutional violence and systems of injustice that have violated and oppressed people of color at the hands of the privileged white, dominant society. I agree with his content and I identify with his indignation. On the other hand, his binary vision of “us” versus “them” troubles me spiritually. His anger and rage, though justifiable, reveal a tone of hostility and hatred that defy the wisdom of Jesus, the Buddha and Ghandi.

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