When Crack Kills: Media, Misinformation and the Truth About the War on Drugs

There are very few points in modern American history that have been as devastating to the African-American community as the crack era.


It was the 1980s, and a new and mysterious drug somehow infiltrated low income Black and brown neighborhoods, causing crime and chaos. It was called crack cocaine.

“An entire generation would be lost,” they said. “What about the babies?”, they asked. But the reality is, there was more to the crack era than the mainstream white media let on. In fact, the U.S. government and agents of the state were corrupt and had a hand in creating this dark time in America’s history.


Lest we forget the impact that the Iran- Contra Affair had on this war on drugs. In sum, the CIA was funding an illegal war in Nicaragua and drug smugglers were sending cocaine to the United States, on U.S. planes no less. This led to cocaine flooding the United States. Drug dealers got their hands on the cocaine, cooked it up and created what we know as crack.

“The United States knew that at the very least that cocaine was being flown in and and just ignored it.” Stanley Nelson, MacArthur “Genius,” and director of Crack: Cocaine, Corruption & Conspiracy, which is available on Netflix. The award-winning documentary filmmaker said that rampant poverty and international scandal was the backdrop in which the crack era took off.

And the federal government’s to offenders was clear: Lock ‘em up and throw away the key. This is still reflected the nation’s incarceration rates.

According to the Prison Policy initiative, 1 in 5 incarcerated people is locked up for a drug offense. And as recent as 2018 80.0% of crack cocaine trafficking offenders were Black. Nearly half of the federal prison population are held on drug convictions.


The war on drugs changed Black America forever. Full stop. Check out this entire episode of Unpack That with Stanley Nelson to see the ways in which the impact of the crack era lives on.

Afro-Cuban woman that was born and branded in New York. When León isn't actually creating cool videos, she's thinking of cool videos that she can create.



I grew up in this era, in one of the epicenters Detroit, where my grandfather’s major cross-streets were ground central for Young Boys, Inc. who used preteens as foot soldiers. My grandmother’s adjacent neighborhood, where Motown was born, suffered tremendously during that terrible time when there simply was no legal employment to be had. Many people I knew (and kids I went to elementary and middle school with) are gone from selling it, using it or being victims of crime because of it.

But people should remember how they talked about the kids who were born with crack in their systems. Oh, they told the world that indestructible, invincible, amoral and feral Terminator-style Black crack babies were going to roam the Earth exterminating humanity.

I’ve lived long enough to see that, as with anything else, some kids died and some had terrible outcomes. But there are so many others who, with dedicated parenting and financial support and stability, are absolutely doing fine. They are truly roses emerging from the concrete jungle’s cracks.

The only thing the crack ‘epidemic’ wrought in me is a deep, vehement hatred for all the empathy and consideration ’opioid addicts’ receive at large.

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