If you lived in the United States in the 1980s, you probably heard a lot about crack cocaine. It seemed like you couldn’t read a newspaper or magazine or watch a news broadcast without hearing about the drug and the alleged toll it took on some communities. You saw frequent reports about “crack babies,” children born addicted to crack because of the drug habits of their parents.
Was crack cocaine really the scourge the media made it out to be? News reports seemed to imply that dealers lurked on every street corners in some areas of the country, waiting to sell their deadly wares to huge numbers of people.
Implicit in these reports about crack cocaine was racism, class discrimination, and misogyny. The news reports stated that crack cocaine was a problem of inner cities. Many inner city areas of the United States, then and now, contain large numbers of minority and poor residents. While news reporters are a more diverse group of people, the owners of media companies, especially in the 1980s, were not. They were wealthy people who were largely Caucasian.
And male. In the 2010s, women do not hold a large number of CEO roles and other highly prominent positions at large organizations. In the 1980s, they held even fewer. Could the dearth of women in leadership positions have contributed to the misogynistic tone of many of the news stories of the time? 1980S stories about crack cocaine often decried the existence of crack babies, painting their mothers as irresponsible, even immoral. But what about the fathers of these babies? What about the fact that addiction is a disease, not a moral failure?
It’s easier to condemn people than to take the time to learn the complicated facts and think about these facts to make informed opinions. While crack cocaine and other drugs are certainly a problem, how we think about them and discuss them can also be problematic.