I remember my first time ever seeing crack cocaine. Surprisingly enough it wasn't in the neighborhood I grew up in which could easily be identified as Any Ghetto, USA. It was once I had left that place for college in Atlanta, Georgia. I'll never forget it. I was leaving a long day of work at my job in a bookstore and waiting for my train home. I was still new to train riding and liked to watch the people move around and carry on in the stations. A few feet from me was a kid who couldn't have been more than 14 years old. Maybe he was younger. The boy, who I remember looking like a smaller T.I. with reddish hair and features, had on a dingy and stretched wife-beater on top of baggy Girbaud jeans. I started to feel bad for the kid until a few moments later, when a thin and rough looking man walked up to him and gave him money in exchange for what looked to be broken-off pieces of soap. He was selling crack right there in the train station.
|Master P's single cover for "Mr. Ice Cream Man."|
I had gone my entire life without ever seeing crack cocaine when this 14 year old kid was selling it at night. I had certainly heard about drugs in the music that I listened to everyday. I could rattle off the lyrics to songs like Ten Crack Commandments and Mr. Ice Cream Man. Hell, if I added up all of the media that I'd seen since my childhood, I could probably put together a pretty solid plan on how to secure, cook, and sell crack cocaine. But the truth is that there was never really a time where crack didn’t seem completely and utterly wack to me. And I'd venture to say there are plenty of people in my generation who feel the same way.
Despite growing up inundated with what leading thinkers thought were glamorous depictions of drug culture that would be too alluring for our little minds, we the generation of "crack babies" seem to be doing just fine. My run in with the 14 year old dope boy on the MARTA does prove that "trappin' ain't dead" but fails to reflect the decrease in drug use and explain the declining popularity of media depicting drug culture.
Economist Steven Levitt published in the Journal of Economic Perspectives, his theory explaining the decrease in crime during the 1990's. According to his compiled research, "homicide rates nationally plunged 43 percent from the peak in 1991 to 2001." According to the FBI, "violent and property crime indexes fell 34 and 29 percent, respectively, over that same period." Levitt attributes the decline in crime to a four things, one of which is "the ebbing of the crack epidemic" in the United States. By comparing rates of incarceration and drug-related homicides and hospital visits, Levitt is able to make apparent the dramatic decrease of crack use and distribution, primarily in Black communities and the real effect it has had in people's lives.
Politician and activist C. Delores
Tucker protesting "gangsta rap."
GQ Magazine's "Gangsta Killers," Wale, Kid Cudi, and Drake.
Chris Rock as the crack-addicted
"Pookie" in New Jack City.
The decline of this epidemic in the Black community means a few things to me. First it means that we should recognize and call out inauthentic expressions of Black culture. While Jeezy may still be relevant within certain segments, let us not pretend that it's still 1990 and that every Black man in America must "trap or die" or "get rich or die trying" like 50 Cent would have us believe. Acceptance of the this possible post-crack era of Black America is an opportunity for forms of expression that weren't before possible. It also means that now we can focus on the other ills that still threaten a flourishing Black community. It's great news that the crack epidemic may be in its last throws. Let's celebrate it.
This post was inspired by Jamel Shabazz's collection of photography entitled: A Time Before Crack