How long has crack been around

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Try out PMC Labs and tell us what you think. Learn More. This article provides an overview of the social history leading up to the crack era, especially to the present. The central theme holds that several major macro social forces e. These forces have created micro consequences that have impacted directly on many inner-city residents and have increased levels of distress experienced by households, families, and individuals.

Economic marginality has generated high levels of alcohol and other drug abuse as well as criminality, which are exemplified in this article by one inner-city household having an extensive family history exhibiting the chronic impacts of these macro forces and their micro consequences. This article examines the social history of the inner city from to in an effort to understand the social forces that provided support for the rapid and widespread adoption of crack cocaine after — The central argument is that several major macro social forces have disproportionately impacted on the inner-city economy and have increased levels of social distress.

These forces have impacted directly on many inner-city residents and have increased levels of social distress experienced by households, families, and individuals, which in turn has generated alcohol and other drug abuse as well as criminality. The micro consequences are exemplified by one inner-city household headed by Island and Ross having an extensive family history paralleling these macro forces. In addition, this article focuses on the continued socioeconomic decline in the inner city during the period —, particularly in New York City.

New York City is a primary focus because its inner-city residents for a disproportionate share of the nation's problem Karsada , and historically the city has had the nation's largest drug abuse problem. Additionally, most of the authors' prior research among inner-city drug abusers has been conducted in New York. An important subtheme in this article is that the use, abuse, and sale or distribution of illegal drugs — especially heroin, cocaine, and crack — are both a consequence of the rising social distress in the inner city and an important contributor to the continuity and intensity of inner-city conditions, and the difficulty in alleviating them.

Furthermore, all indicators currently suggest that social distress in the inner city is increasing, intensifying, and perhaps accelerating. Johnson and colleagues provided a more extended overview of the social history of crack abuse and macro level forces. The case history of Island and her household is more extensively documented in Dunlap In press-a.

The American economy has historically been characterized by unequal resource allocation, particularly for minorities. While great racial and ethnic disparities existed in the early s, Blacks who migrated from the South to northern cities, migrants from Puerto Rico to New York, and Hispanics to southwestern cities and Chicago made substantial gains economically. During the past three decades, however, American culture and the international economy shifted in emphasis from manufacturing to service sectors.

This trend decreased the need for unskilled labor and increased the requirements for advanced education and technical skills. This transformation has generated several major crises, reallocated resources away from programs and services provided in the s, and created numerous difficult conditions for those living in inner-city America. Numerous laws and efforts at controlling drug abusers have been politically popular but have had very repressive impacts on inner-city persons and households.

Alcohol, heroin, cocaine, and, recently, crack abuse and distribution, combined with declining socioeconomic conditions, have severely disrupted many inner-city households and families across three and four generations. Such household-families with drug-abusing members serve as the primary vector in transmission across generations of drug abuse, drug sales and distribution, criminal behavior, and support for deviant behaviors. Figure 1 summarizes key themes to be developed below. Macro social forces e. In turn, such crises in the inner city have generated conditions of social distress that tend to be chronic and cumulative over years across generations.

In sociological terms, crisis is a turning point, often brought about by a convergence of events that create new circumstances requiring new responses. Conditions are relatively objective circumstances that are measurable and can be used to document social distress across many persons. These socioeconomic forces and conditions are intertwined in complex ways. They have their immediate and concrete impacts on households, families, and individuals.

A key focus of this article is on what may be called the severely distressed inner-city household-family — those living in the inner cities of major urban centers in America, especially New York City. Many inner-city households and families manage to maintain continuity and relative stability for several years, and may not be classified as severely distressed. However, the focus here is on households that would meet or exceed all five distress criteria used by Kasarda : low education high-school dropout , single parenthood household head with children under age 18 , poor work history worked less than half time in prior year , receipt of public assistance, and householder's family income from legal sources below the poverty line.

The present analysis focuses on the household-family because the usual census assumptions about family composition and household structure and processes are infrequently met among distressed inner-city households. Rather, the household-family has emerged as an adaptation that meets the survival needs of several persons in the kin network. The availability of a household is the determining factor. Many inner-city adults have great difficulty in acquiring and maintaining a place of residence.

While a household head is usually present, the family composition of the household varies dramatically day by day Dunlap In press-a, in response to conditions set in force by social and economic macro forces. Several blood relatives and fictive kin who are essentially homeless and drug abusers may claim a given household as their home.

They may not usually live there, but may keep some clothes there and return periodically to wash and change their attire. They may also reside in the household for short periods of time. One may speculate — noting that inadequate documentation currently exists — that a majority of these severely distressed inner-city household-families in probably have one or more adults 16 and older who is a drug abuser, or drug seller, or who is criminally active. Such drug abusers and sellers may be present or absent from the household-family at any given time, but their appearances provide economic benefits as well as economic and social harms to household-family units.

Moreover, drug abusers and sellers in such households act as role models, mentors, and employers both positive and negative for youths growing up — thus transmitting values, beliefs, and practices reflecting subcultures of drug abuse, drug sales, criminality, and violence Dunlap In press-a, Indeed, such drug abusers and sellers routinely engage in behaviors that disrupt household harmony and stability. The dynamic shifts and the intensity of problems in such severely depressed inner-city household-families confront researchers with formidable analytic problems and policymakers with complex issues to resolve.

If policy could substantially alter the family interaction patterns among such severely depressed inner-city household-family units, policymakers could substantially reduce the magnitude of social distress, dramatically reduce drug abuse and sales, and greatly reduce other fundamental social problems in America. The continuing failure to address these problems — now well documented since the s — is likely to lead to continuing expansion in generational transmission of drug abuse, continuing crises and social conditions, and continuing problems for society in the future.

This section provides an overview of the broad socioeconomic forces and crises during the past 32 years, with special attention to contributions of drug abuse. Before, during, and after World War II, thousands of Blacks left the South because few jobs were available, and higher paying jobs could be found in northern cities even if pay was low relative to Whites employment. Such immigrants and their families were severely impoverished in both the South and North. Like many postwar American families, these immigrants had children and contributed disproportionately to the baby-boom generation born between and These minorities gained housing as thousands of White city dwellers moved to the mushrooming suburbs Frey The civil rights movement in the s focused national attention on legal and civil inequalities and on the poverty and despair of Blacks and other minorities.

Although relative to Whites housing discrimination, low incomes, and other problems beset minorities before , most migrants were considerably better off economically in the cities than their relatives who had remained in the South or than their parents had been two decades earlier. A case study see Dunlap In press-a, of one such household is interwoven with the following analysis to illustrate the interplay between the macro social forces and the micro consequences.

In , Island and her household-family lived in a three-bedroom apartment in Central Harlem. Island is 60 years old and lives with her son, Ross a year-old active crack seller and daughter, Sonya a year-old crack prostitute , as well as several other household members who circulate in and out.

Island's story attests to the harsh reality confronting many inner-city families, and reflects the impact of larger social forces and conditions, especially the impact of alcohol and other drug abuse, and the drug economy on a severely distressed household across several years and generations. In , Island was born on a Caribbean Island and abandoned at birth by her natural mother; her father died when she was four. In , Island was brought to New York, and raised by a stepmother as the youngest of six children.

Island's childhood memories were of her stepmother working long hours as a domestic. From to Island lived in Harlem with her family and kin network. She therefore grew up in Harlem although her family were migrants. In twelfth grade, she dropped out of school to care for her stepmother who was very ill. In , Island met Joe who was about 25 years old and recently released from jail. He had come from South Carolina and found low-wage work as a coal deliverer. After they married in , Island worked as a home attendant on and off until her first child, Sonya, was born in ; Ross was born in Island found her husband was a heavy alcohol abuser.

In Island left her husband to protect herself and her children after Joe raped their six-year-old daughter. Two years later, her husband was hit by a car and killed. The s saw major changes in northern urban centers and the lives of minorities in those cities.

The civil rights movement had its peak influence as the voting rights act and other legislation and federal enforcement efforts guaranteed the legal rights and equality of opportunity for Blacks and other minorities. The War on Poverty, launched in , 1 promised better incomes and living standards for all the poor, but especially for Blacks.

Several major books document the situation during this era. In several volumes titled Children of Crisis , Robert Coles , provided careful psychological case studies of the response to various crisis situations among persons living in poverty in a period of civil rights demonstrations, including sharecroppers and migrants from south to north. Oscar Lewis advanced the thesis of a culture of poverty which he claimed is a subculture.

The strengths and other characteristics of Black families were described by several authors Hill ; Billingsley Wolfgang and Ferricutti described a subculture of violence and Cohen described a subculture of delinquency. Relative to what was to transpire in the s, these sources and many others document important elements of stability in the social and economic life of inner-city dwellers in the first half of the s. If they doubled up with relatives, it was generally for less than a year. Almost no family or kin member was homeless or without a place to sleep. Minority couples either were married or maintained a common-law relationship for several years.

Children in single-parent households were usually raised by their mothers, sometimes with a father or father substitute present. Occasionally children would be sent to a grandmother or female relative, but be returned to their mother. Grandmothers were seldom responsible for raising their grandchildren. While alcohol use and abuse were common, the use of illicit drugs especially marijuana, heroin, cocaine was rare. While there were common-law crimes robbery, burglary, theft among men and theft or prostitution among women among some low-income persons, the sale and distribution of illegal drugs was virtually unknown.

Even among prostitutes, much income was expended to support their children and household. In the last half of the s, however, three major events sharply shifted national attention and resources away from poverty and civil rights. First, the Vietnam War — diverted public attention and many fiscal resources from antipoverty programs. Student and antiwar protests spread across American campuses and society; police riots against students generated further protests.

These riots badly damaged the fragile infrastructure of Black inner-city communities, particularly in Newark, Detroit, and Los Angeles. Third, this decade marked the introduction of illicit drugs as a major recreational activity for millions of individuals of the baby-boom generation who were entering adolescence. Whites, Blacks, and Hispanics, from all class levels participated in this phenomenon. The psychedelic era — saw substantial but smaller increases in the use of LSD — such use occurred primarily among Whites from middle-class backgrounds; inner-city youths generally avoided psychedelics Johnson Despite these increases in social distress, the postwar economic boom continued relatively unabated and Blacks across the nation gained somewhat economically.

Island, her household, and kin network were impacted by alcoholism; they were one of many inner-city households bypassed by economic improvements and afflicted with the pressing problems of a severely distressed family. Island left her husband and began to raise her children alone while supported by welfare. She soon became the caregiver for her kin network. All of Island's older siblings were alcoholics. Their offspring were taken to Island's house until the siblings could parental duties. For example, when Island's sister was imprisoned for killing a young woman while performing an abortion, Island took in her children until their mother returned from prison.

While raising Ross and Sonya, Island also raised several nieces and nephews when parental acts resulted in jail or prison, or when alcohol consumption limited their ability to care for their children. Shifting social forces created a crisis, which impinged directly on inner-city household-families. Each of these larger structural forces has been magnified by the rise of the drug economy and drug abuse among household members.

Following the end of the Vietnam War in the early s, the American and international economic base shifted substantially. The primary shift has been the decline of manufacturing jobs in the United States that rely on unskilled or semiskilled labor, offering a steady low-to-modest wage and creating goods for the consumer mass market. Foreign countries with lower wage rates and modern equipment now produce many consumer goods e. Many manufacturing plants located in central cities and employing thousands of inner-city minorities were closed in the s and s Sullivan In New York City, over half a million manufacturing jobs plus , jobs in wholesale and retail trades were lost between and Kasarda Most such jobs had been filled by blue-collar workers, many of whom faced unemployment or had to accept lower wage jobs.

While many fast-food-type jobs were added during these two decades, these usually pay minimum wage or only slightly more; neither individuals nor families can afford housing with such low incomes. A major shift rarely noted in the American economy was the explosive growth in the underground economy, especially the drug economy in the inner city. Many employed and unemployed persons Ross and Sonya among them were attracted by and had much better earnings from this illegal activity than were offered by minimum wage jobs or legal positions, a theme developed below.

By all measures of economic change, inner-city minority residents were literally left behind. For inner-city minority youths and for many adults, virtually no legal jobs were available in their communities or among their networks of associates Sullivan Louis Kasarda While unemployment has increased, nonparticipation in the labor force not seeking work and not working has also grown substantially. During a year work career from ages 20 to 65 , Black men in could anticipate 36 years of work, two years unemployment, and eight years out of the labor force.

In the following 15 years, both unemployment and nonparticipation grew substantially for Black men but not Whites. Between and the of unemployed Black persons increased by 1. The unemployment rates for both Blacks and Whites in were the highest since World War II, but the Black unemployment rate was still double that of Whites.

Island had no legal job outside her house since the early s, although she earned occasional money babysitting for neighbors.

How long has crack been around

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The History of Crack