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September 2004
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Crack Babies talk back

From the Columbia Journalism Review, a piece by Mariah Blake: The Damage Done.

It started in fourth grade when his teacher asked him to read aloud. Antwaun stammered, then went silent. “He can’t read because he’s a crack baby,” jeered a classmate. In the cafeteria that day no one would sit near him. The kids pointed and chanted, “crack baby, crack baby.” Antwaun sat sipping his milk and staring down at his tray. After that, the taunting never stopped. Unable to take it, Antwaun quit school and started hanging out at a local drug dealer’s apartment, where at age nine he learned to cut cocaine and scoop it into little glass vials. “Crack baby,” he says. “Those two words almost cost me my education.”

Antwaun finally returned to school and began learning to read a year later, after he was plucked from his parents’ home and placed in foster care. Now twenty, he’s studying journalism at LaGuardia Community College in New York City and writing for Represent, a magazine for and by foster children. In a recent special issue he and other young writers, many of them born to crack addicts, took aim at a media myth built on wobbly, outdated science: crack babies. Their words are helping expose the myth and the damage it has done.

It’s a good piece.
For more on the myth of crack babies, see my earlier piece on the subject. From the comments on that piece, it’s clear that it’s hard for many to accept that the former hype about crack babies was overblown. It’s likely that behavioral issues (that were probably more related to their environment than their exposure to crack) cemented the myth in many peoples’ minds.

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