I remember visiting New York City in 1983 with my mom, my sister and my cousin Sue. We took a taxi to the Bronx to visit my mom's alma mater, Mount Saint Vincent College. On the ride up there, I stared out the window, feeling a little frightened but mostly energized by the city. As the neighborhood grew grimmer, I spied this massive instance of graffiti sprayed on the side of a red brick building: a large orange background with the slogan "Crack is Whack; Life is Fresh" painted in black. I wondered silently what it meant.
That evening while my mom and her college roommate drank wine and gabbed in the dining nook of her Upper East Side efficiency apartment, I watched the news. A newscaster was reporting about the "war on drugs." Suddenly, a picture of the same graffiti flashed on the screen. "I saw that today!" I said to Alicia and Sue.
"What does it mean?" Sue asked.
"I don't know," I said. It was the first time I'd ever heard of crack.
I thought of this today while listening to Dean Becker's "Century of Lies" on KPFT, Houston's Pacifica Radio station. He had Matthew Robinson on the show, Robinson is the author of "Lies, Damned Lies, and Drug War Statistics: A Critical Analysis of Claims Made by the Office of National Drug Control Policy," by Matthew Robinson and Renee Scherlen (2007, State University of New York Press). I probably won't read that book, but I'm glad they took the time and energy to write it.