Dehumanizing Discourse, Anti-Drug Law, and Policy in America: A "Crack Mother’s" Nightmare

Assata Zerai, Rae Banks

Research output: Book/Report/Conference proceedingBook


Dehumanizing Discourse, Law and Policy in America: A "Crack Mother’s" Nightmare offers a black feminist perspective to analyze the institutions confronting women struggling with cocaine addiction during pregnancy and motherhood. In it, Zerai and Banks discuss women’s challenges and successes with decreasing or abstaining from illicit drug use during pregnancy, and offers policy implications informed by empirical evidence. Using the analytic lens offered by Black feminist thought authors charge that the public discourse that constructs the social meaning of the problem of maternal illicit substance use and the policy agenda Americans have been asked to support reinforce the subjugated social location of pregnant and parenting African American women who abuse illicit drugs precisely where the “multiple, synergistic and contradictory” (Collins 1998) spheres of race, class and gender subordination converge. It is here at the intersection of these triple axes of oppression that the health and well-being of Black women and their children have been compromised well beyond the bounds of individual women’s culpability or the collective burden of racism. It is this perspective that distinguishes whose nightmare is created by anti-drug laws and policies, and government disinvestments in U.S. health care. This nightmare is assembled by the convergence and cooperation of racism, sexism, elitism, heterosexism and drug phobia in hospital corridors, social services offices, the legislative floor, and other places in which institutional actors’ decisions influence the lives of women fighting the disease of cocaine addiction. Black feminist thought is an appropriate theory to analyze the operation of these various social forces in the lives of mothers addicted to cocaine. Zerai and Banks interrogate the structural constraints that criminalize poor women of color and impede their ability to make and carry out healthy decisions about their lives. The issue of pregnancy and substance abuse is clearly broader than the individualized notion of personal responsibility. Further authors take a radical departure from liberal and conservative policy agendas by promoting the necessity for extensive structural transformation.
Original languageEnglish (US)
PublisherAshgate Publishing Ltd.
Number of pages185
StatePublished - 2002


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