Former Crack Baby: ‘It’s Another Stigma, Another Box to Put Me In’

Todd Reed and Sarah Hoye, Al Jazeera, March 10, 2015

From the moment she was born, much of the country assumed Jaimee Drakewood was doomed. Her mother had her in the throes of a crack cocaine addiction. She was, as the politicians dubbed it, a crack baby.

“I immediately get defensive,” Drakewood, now 25, says about hearing the term. “It’s another stigma, another box to put me in. It bothers me, because it feels like I already had my life written off before I was able to live it.”

Drakewood was born when the war on drugs was in full swing, and the crack baby was the poster child.

“Go to a neonatal unit, if you can get in, there are between 100 and 200 percent capacity up and down the East Coast, and the reason is crack babies being born,” Independent candidate Ross Perot declared during a presidential debate in 1992. “Baby’s in the hospital 42 days; typical cost to you and me is $125,000. Again and again and again, the mother disappears in three days, and the child becomes a ward of the state because he’s permanently and genetically damaged.”

“Like Mr. Perot,” then Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton intoned, “I have held crack babies in my arms.”

Drakewood’s mother, Karen Drakewood, was also worried about how her drug use may have harmed her child. She jumped at the chance to enroll her newborn in a study, which followed more than 200 crack babies for more than two decades. Completed just over a year ago, that study would turn the conventional wisdom about crack babies on its head.

Like an infectious disease, crack’s spread in the late 1980s and early 1990s was rapid and vicious in America’s inner cities where many people were broke, hungry and out of work. Amid that desperation, crack seemed to be the perfect remedy for the inner-city blues.

Potent and cheap, crack shook Philadelphia to its knees. In North Philadelphia and the Mantua district on the city’s west side, drug dealers ruled, crack addicts trolled the block and residents lived in fear.

Crack didn’t discriminate. It wasn’t just men smoking rock. It was mothers, sisters and daughters too. A 1989 study found that one in six newborns delivered at Philadelphia hospitals had mothers who used cocaine during pregnancy.


Dr. Hallam Hurt, then the chair of neonatology at Albert Einstein Medical Center, had seen many women like Karen Drakewood. {snip}


Hurt spearheaded the groundbreaking study, following the babies of mothers who smoked crack during their pregnancy between 1989 and 1992–the height of the crack epidemic.

“We were really preparing for the worst,” Hurt said. “We had reports of psychologists saying this was going to be a biologically inferior underclass, might not even be able to dress themselves.”

But after 25 years of research, she found there were no differences in the health and life outcomes between babies exposed to crack and those who weren’t.

The crack baby was a myth.

What did make a difference for those babies, however, was poverty and violence.

“We have a lot of information about the children and in particular the home,” she said. “And it turns out that the children that were scoring at or above average had more nurturing and cognitively stimulating home environments regardless of cocaine exposure. It didn’t make a difference.”

Dr. Hurt, who is now a professor of pediatrics at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, says it was much easier at the time to blame the drugs for inner-city woes.



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  • ZB01

    Article summation: You’re a black baby born to a non-addicted mother, you turn out bad; you’re a black baby born to a crack addicted-mother, you turn out bad.

    Is it just I, or do I notice a pattern here?

    • TruthBeTold

      But after 25 years of research, she found there were no differences in the health and life outcomes between babies exposed to crack and those who weren’t.

      The crack baby was a myth.

      If we can’t blame the on-going failure of blacks to crack, what can we attribute it to?

      • ZB01

        Oh, that’s easy: isn’t everything the fault of Whites, especially the Founding Fathers? (satire/sarcasm, in case someone takes me seriously)

        • how about this

          Even gang crime is the Founding Fathers’ fault, because they had a gun culture. Check out this pro-gun extremism from Thomas Jefferson:

          “As to the species of exercises, I advise the gun. While this gives moderate exercise to the body, it gives boldness, enterprise and independence to the mind. Games played with the ball, and others of that nature, are too violent for the body and stamp no character on the mind. Let your gun therefore be your constant companion of your walks.” – Thomas Jefferson, letter to Peter Carr, August 19, 1785

          • John Smith

            You need a gun culture when dealing with negro culture.

      • Slavery.

        • TruthBeTold

          My vote is for genetics.

        • propagandaoftruth

          One stale excuse leads to another.

      • De Doc

        Completely stumped on this one…

      • how about this

        Let’s blame it on another drug that only a small minority of Blacks even use. How about PCP? Don’t think my kid is a thug just because he ripped that other boy’s head off. It was the PCP! The drugs did it! You gots to believe me, officer! He might rip a kid’s head off but he would never shoot no gun!

      • Ograf

        White racism.

      • carriewhite64


      • jimh19

        Umm, let’s see. Lead paint, IQ, ‘accidental” incest, DNA, no fathers around, laziness, did I mention IQ?…

    • Light from the East

      It somewhat makes sense to me. Look at this example:
      1. Assume there is an index measuring how bad a person is, from 0 to 1000.
      2. Assume that person A with index 700, person B with index 200.
      3. For illegal drug using, it adds the number of 200.

      So if both become crack babies, index A becomes 900, B becomes 400.
      The percentage change is (900-700)/700*100% = 28.5% for A, (400-200)/200*100%=100% for B.

      Conclusion: for person A, there is only a small change for getting bad but for person B there is a significant change. Therefore, for some people with really bad nature, there is no clear deteriorating effect between a normal one or a crack baby.

  • MekongDelta69

    Like an infectious disease, crack’s spread in the late 1980s and early 1990s was rapid and vicious in America’s inner cities where many people were broke, hungry and out of work. Amid that desperation, crack seemed to be the perfect remedy for the inner-city blues.

    Yep – I have no doubt that crack would be the first thing I would immediately turn to if I were “broke, hungry, out of work, and desperate.”
    /sarc [Not that it’s really needed…]

    • Reynardine

      One would hope that if you’re broke and hungry, the first thing you’d turn to is a soup kitchen. If you really did have to steal to survive, stealing food seems more rational and less costly to society at large.

      But no, blacks would apparently rather have a high that lasts a few seconds than food to satisfy their hunger.

    • TruthBeTold

      I thought that line was hilarious.

    • TL2014

      Skip everything but the last one

  • dd121

    I’m sure the libs believe it’s nothing more money can’t fix.

  • “We were really preparing for the worst,” Hurt said. “We had reports of psychologists saying this was going to be a biologically inferior underclass, might not even be able to dress themselves.”

    They are that, but for other reasons.

    I don’t think we should throw rocks across four-dimensional space at the versions of ourselves 25 years ago who feared the crack babies. But the more time that passes and we find out that crack babies now crack adults are no better or worse than your typical blacks, I wonder why we let ourselves think that just because the child’s mother snorted a severe stimulant during her pregnancy, that this would necessarily and severely affect the child she was expecting.

  • superlloyd

    Whether blacks have crack babies or not they will always be a biologically inferior underclass thanks to their genetically heritable, pitifully low average IQs. This despite their woeful ‘culcha’.

    • TomIron361

      They’re captives of their natural instincts.

  • Luca D.

    So, crack babies do just as well as their non-crack peers. You know, black kids born without a father to welfare queens. They have an equal level of social dysfunction.

    • carriewhite64

      Unintentionally revealing. Did we need a 25-YEAR STUDY to know this?

  • Atheist Realist

    crack babies – the case for partial birth abortion (and sterilization of the mother)

  • Reynardine

    I thought it was interesting that during the Crack Baby Basketball League episode of South Park a few years ago, the creators portrayed the crack mother and baby as both white. It would have been a great time to throw in a politically incorrect jab with the race of the user, but they opted for the Safe White Lowlife.

    et tu, South Park?

    • Deacon Blue

      Welcome down to South Park, gonna have ourselves a time…

    • John Smith

      Too bad the kosher half of the South Park duo is married to a negress.

      • Reynardine

        Even worse, the Goy half married an Asian socialite, divorced her, and is now playing cuckold with some swarthy stripper-type, 11-year-old bastard in tow. They’re going to pop out another bastard here pretty soon, rumor is.

        Wow, for being rich and successful as heck, the South Park guys really married like utter betas.

        • Mangosteen, $1000 chair

          You can’t expect realism from them, when I found out one was kosher (of COURSE, you can’t have anything in Hollywood without at least one) and the other had yellow fever, I stopped watching it. And nothing of value was lost. I think it’s a requirement for whites in Hollywood and media to marry/date or have a kid with a non-white. Gotta push that propaganda, you know!

          • Reynardine

            The kosher one didn’t marry a negress ugly enough to strip paint with just her face, like another famous comic (Bill Burr) did:

          • Mangosteen, $1000 chair

            That looks like a man! HIDEOUS!

          • TL2014

            Idiocracy was pretty funny actually.

          • Mangosteen, $1000 chair

            I’m cursed with, if I know too much about someone and it’s repulsive, I can’t be bothered with them any longer. But I’ve heard that before.

        • John Smith

          They probably need to lord it over someone.

    • TL2014

      Yes, et tu South Park. Up to a point.

      Have you seen “Idiocracy”? The creators of South Park created that movie. In the beginning of the movie, they present a lowIQ WHITE athlete named “Clevon” as an example of degenerating public intelligence due to dysgenic general behavior.

      Maybe the just wanted to soften the blow of a President Mountain Dew Camacho?

      • Reynardine

        I believe that “Idiocracy” was created instead by Mike Judge, who also did King of the Hill, Beevis and Butthead, and Office Space.

  • Simonetta

    The money saved by simply legalizing all drugs (except antibiotics) would go a long way to re-industrializing the United States after 40 years of the Wall-Street Republican’s treasonous acts of moving the USA’s industrial base to the third world, i.e. China.

    It would also go a long way in convincing 30-50 million Americans to start thinking like Americans again, with common goals and purposes. Instead of being alienated from their countrymen over minor intoxicant preferences.

    Republicans are two basic groups at this time: the stupid, with their permanent endless culture war, and the treasonous, with their permanent endless military war and their destruction of America’s industrial base by substituting union middle-class workers with third-world semi-slaves. The Republican party will be gone in 20 years, and the Democrats will be split between the ‘social-justice warriors’ and the ‘realists’ like us.

    • LHathaway

      Good luck on ‘re-industrialization’. Even government ownership of one of the three American car builders cannot get White liberals to buy an American car.

      • John Smith

        Too many of the workers building them are negroes, enough said.

        • LHathaway

          You could be onto something. Their unconscious racism is deterring White liberals from buying American cars. And somewhere in their minds they do know those companies are headquartered in Detroit . . . a double-whammy to their racist psyche. The only solution, of course, would be further anti-racism education. No doubt they will get it. Don’t expect them to be buying any American cars afterward, though.

          • John Smith

            I was thinking more along the lines of the build quality deterring buyers when negroes are involved.

    • John Smith

      Someone has developed a way to use genetically-engineered bacteria to produce opiates with no more technology than is required for home-brewing. That could be our economic revolution right there.

  • AmericanCitizen

    So if I understand this, the average American black has the intellectual capacity of a grown-up crack baby.

    Makes perfect sense to me.

    • De Doc

      Maybe there is a silver lining to this story. You can’t seem to make American Blacks any less intellectually deficient than they already are. They ought to revisit the lead paint chip ingestion blame game and see if that made any difference for these inner city critters.

    • I was going to say something like that. Even allowing for crack, they’re still just black. That’s got to be depressing.

      • Dr Duke

        How come Appalachia isn’t full of paint chip eating morons? In any photo spread about it you see lots of skinny white kids in shotgun shacks with cracked and peeling paint that probably dates from the 40’s. Freddie Grey was born a decade after lead paint was banned.

  • Tyrone Shoelaces

    Crack cocaine is probably the one invention that blacks don’t attribute to George Washington Carver. Well, that and malt liquor perhaps makes two inventions.

    • John Smith

      It was a CIA plan to oppress blacks by making them violent and unemployable – as if they needed the help.

  • LHathaway

    What’s still elusive in Philadelphia is the White baby. They are said to exist but they are not to be found in any of Philadelphia’s hospitals. Yes, White mother’s give birth to children in Philadelphia’s hospitals, helping prop up the White birth rate to 1.8 in the US. None of the babies are White.

  • how about this

    Can we stop calling social/personal problems “epidemics?” Crack use doesn’t spread like the bubonic plague. If a crack user coughs on you, you don’t become addicted to crack.

    • carriewhite64

      That’s liberal newspeak. Like calling black neighborhoods “victims” of violence and crime.

  • listenupbub

    “stigma” and “boxes.”

    You might not see it, but the idea that rational standards are “stigmatizing” and “restricting” is an extremely common theme in pop culture.

    Almost every hero is some kind of stigmatized outcast, especially in Disney movies. We are being taught to think this way. We are being taught that rational people with sound judgement are the “bad guys” in any situation- whether it is the belief that transsexuals are crazy, the belief that mental retardation is not “equal and different,” the idea that one should not be a slut, and many other rational ideas that stigmatize something that does not seem morally evil according to the liberal moral sentiments of “harm and fairness.”

    Heck, I do not even believe in morality. Stop pushing your stupid moral ideas on me. You are putting me in a box, and stigmatizing my belief system.

  • John Smith

    Negroes are naturally stupid, no artificial added ingredients needed.

  • Lexonaut

    She was probably a fried chicken and watermelon baby, too. It’s the genes that count, not the diet or the addictions. As is usual with liberals the author is confusing cause and effect.

  • The Crack causality are one of a few causalities specifically created to excuse away black academic performance. Another alleged causality for the lack of academic parity is Lead Paint. Let’s use the Way-Back machine to examine what has been done to achieve black academic parity. School integration, specific curriculum to highlight black achievement, and oodles of tax dollars – over One-TRILLION dollars spent in pursuit of parity. It all failed.

    People whose political and agency careers demand the pursuit of parity dollars, concocted the “lead paint makes black students stupid” causality. It (supposedly) wipes away all the previous failures and provides a new black hole to throw away tax dollars. Lets keep the Way Back machine running and examine what was done when lead paint was the ONLY paint available – 1800-1978. Man accomplished much, including splitting the atom, landing on the moon, and every other accomplishment during that span. Somehow, black children are uniquely made stupid by lead paint. I also have first hand experience – renovating an 1831 house. All my children were raised in that toxic lead painted dwelling. I left piles of debris around until each project room was completed. 14 years or perpetual debris stood to make my children stupid. Me too!! I used all the tools now currently banned. I never wore a dust mask either. My wife freaked when she heard lead paint makes babies stupid. She had the whole family tested. The results = NO CHILD was contaminated. I was clear too. Not a speck of lead was found in their bodies.

    We were very poor then and our meals were low budget – fish chips and tater tots, mac and cheese, but we never permitted our children to bolster their caloric intake with lead paint! We bathed them regularly. We were poor but attentive parents. All my children graduated college. One is a computer engineer. The other is a successful beauty queen/MBA, the oldest works in cancer research. Lead paint did squat to make them stupid. A child must ingest lead paint to become poisoned. Lastly, the EPA approached the FDA in 2008 to remove DMSA – a chelating compound that removes lead and other heavy metals from a body cheaply, efficaciously. WHY??? Is it possible retaining a political issue is more important than saving black children’s brains?

    • Lead is a nutrient-mimic. It takes a +2 oxidation state, which means the body tries to use it as if it were zinc. If paint was a problem, however, I imagine sailors and shipyard workers would have major symptoms, as they would naturally be working long-term in confined, painted areas.

      • There’s a large and overlooked problem with the current assessment. Lead based paints were once the ONLY paints. Consider what was accomplished between say 1850 and 1978. Those are kinda significant. All that was accomplished living and working in structures coated with lead paint. In my experience, ingested paint is sole introduction mechanism I’ll accepted – as I sanded, scraped and used all the now illegal tools nightly, and on weekends, for a decade = zero contamination in my body when tested. I’m speaking from personal experiences.

  • ElComadreja

    The jokes just write themselves.

  • Good point. How can it be a stigma if nobody knows?