4 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Crack, America’s Most Vilified Drug
1. Crack in the ghetto. Despite racialized images of crack users, data from National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) reveals that people reporting cocaine use in 1991 were 75% white; 15% black, and 10% Hispanic. People who admitted to using crack were 52% white, 38% black, and 10% Hispanic. From a rational perspective, these numbers should not be surprising: whites are, after all, the majority, and have a long-standing tendency to use drugs at rates higher than blacks. Nonetheless, in 2009, the U.S. Sentencing Commission released data showing no drug matches crack in terms of racially biased convictions. According to the data, 79% of 5,669 sentenced crack offenders were black, 10% were Hispanic, and only 10% were white.
As far back as the early 20th century, cocaine use by African Americans was considered a threat to the safety of white America. A 1914 article in the New York Times warned, “Murder and Insanity Increasing Among Lower Class Blacks Because They Have Taken to ‘Sniffing’ Since Deprived by Whiskey Prohibition.” The article, by Dr. Edward H. Williams, proclaimed:
“We went looking for the effects of cocaine,” Hurt told the Philadelphia Inquirer, but the two groups performed the same on development and intelligence tests. They were both, however, underperforming compared to the norm. “We began to ask, was there something else going on?”
As the Inquirer reported, “they found that 81 percent of the children had seen someone arrested; 74 percent had heard gunshots; 35 percent had seen someone get shot; and 19 percent had seen a dead body outside—and the kids were only 7 years old at the time. Those children who reported a high exposure to violence were likelier to show signs of depression and anxiety and to have lower self-esteem.”
“Poverty is a more powerful influence on the outcome of inner-city children than gestational exposure to cocaine,” Hurt told the Inquirer .