Let’s start off with how crack-cocaine made its way into the Black community. The U.S. government is responsible for bringing crack-cocaine into Black communities (see the CIA Contra). They preyed on Black communities feeling the effects of the recession and high unemployment rates. Crack was affordable and it was to profit from it. Criminalization crack-cocaine was profitable, especially under the Reagan administration. The “War on Drugs,” increased policing and incarceration of the Black population. Incarceration of non-violent drug offenders soared. They established mandatory minimums for drug offenses. Possession of five grams of crack was a mandatory five-year sentence. While possession of 500 grams of cocaine was also five years. The anti-Blackness was clear as majority of crack users were Black. And majority of cocaine users were white.
There was also the vilifying of Black mothers who fell victim to crack-cocaine. The dehumanizing term, “crack baby,” refers to children who were born to mothers addicted to crack. This became an ongoing story of the selfish and irresponsible, Black mothers giving birth to babies addicted to crack. Many Black kids were taken from their families and put into the foster care system with proper care.
The response to the crack epidemic was anti-Black. Just compare it to the response to the opioid crisis, which affects majorly white people. The solution has not been to criminalize opioid addicts, the solution is to create treatment programs. They receive the sympathy that the victims of the crack epidemic didn’t. The response to the crack epidemic was condemnation because it was majorly poor Black people affected by it. It has been said that the high unemployment rates of the white working class is responsible for the opioid epidemic. Why didn’t they consider the effects of a high unemployment rate and recession as a reason for the crack boom?
The term, “crackhead,” needs to be retired. It continues to make light and comedy out of an issue that devastated the Black community. People lost their lives. Children were taken away from their parents. The epidemic fueled the mass incarceration of Black people. A huge problem we’re still dealing with to this very day. Think about the collective trauma Black people experienced during the Crack epidemic. There is nothing cute about the term, “crackhead.” “Crackhead,” isn’t an aesthetic or a personality trait. To see, white people turning it into something “harmless” is offensive. Who is making jokes about the opioid epidemic? There is sympathy for an epidemic that destroys the lives of white people. Anti-Blackness is the reason the crack epidemic has never received the same sympathy.
For more resources