A crack baby (1989- ) is a being of White American mythology. They are babies born to women who take crack cocaine. They are born hooked on cocaine and can suffer lifelong brain damage.
In 1989 in the Washington Post, Charles Krauthammer warned us:
“The inner-city crack epidemic is now giving birth to the newest horror: a bio-underclass, a generation of physically damaged cocaine babies whose biological inferiority is stamped at birth. … [a] race of (sub) human drones, [whose] future is closed to them from day one. Theirs will be a life of certain suffering, of probable deviance, of permanent inferiority … The dead babies may be the lucky ones.”
Note: “inner-city” is Whitespeak for Black.
That was followed by a flood of frightening headlines, like this in USA Today:
“Crack’s Toll Among Babies: A Joyless View, Even of Toys”
The New York Times reported how:
“maternity wards around the country ring with the high-pitched ‘cat cries’ of neurologically impaired crack babies.”
Judy Howard, MD of UCLA said that the brain function that makes us human is “wiped out”.
But the crack baby apocalypse never came.
In 1985 the New England Journal of Medicine reported that crack babies were smaller, sicker, moodier and less social. But it warned that the sample size was small – only 23 women – so no firm conclusions could be drawn. Larger, better studies were needed.
Unfortunately, many of the studies that followed were poorly designed: no control groups, no account made for the effects of other drugs, like alcohol, or the effects of poverty, like poor prenatal care. Studies that supported the crack baby stereotype were more likely to be accepted by medical journals than better designed studies that showed it was not true.
In 1992 the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) warned of a “rush to judgement” on cocaine’s long-term effects on children, that the evidence was “far too slim.”
But in 2015, it was still news that the crack baby thing is a myth.
Effects of crack on the unborn: It does not get babies hooked. It seems to have no effect on IQ when you control for environment. The only clear-cut effect of heavy cocaine use is low birthweight. Being a crack baby has no effect on life and health outcomes – quite unlike the poverty and violence that many crack babies grow up in.
- Powdered cocaine and crack cocaine have the same effect.
- Alcohol is far more damaging than cocaine or any other commonly used drug. There is even a medical name for it, not just a newspaper one: Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, also known as Fetal Alcohol Syndrome.
But the White press went nuts over crack babies, not powdered cocaine babies or alcohol babies. Because crack users are stereotyped as Black. Crack babies fit nicely into one of the four frames of colour-blind racism: Black pathologies.
Even the stereotype within the stereotype is untrue: Most crack users are White. Blacks are twice as likely to use crack – but there are five times more Whites!
– Abagond, 2016.
Source: “Medical Apartheid” (2006) by Harriet A. Washington; Al Jazeera (2015).
- colour-blind racism: the four frames
- Black People: The Republican User’s Guide
- stereotype – easier to “prove” than disprove
- racial profiling