Perhaps the most telling moment at Wednesday afternoon's speech by sociologist Terry Williams came during a 15-year-old Kensington girl's question. At the end of Williams' speech on crack cocaine, she asked him what she could do to avoid the pressure to sell crack in her neighborhood. After a short pause, Williams replied that he had no "hard and fast answers." And while Williams may not have had any answers for the Kensington resident, he tried in a hour-long speech at Meyerson Hall, to give a University audience a greater understanding of the problems that are emerging in urban America as a result of crack. Blaming the crack cocaine problem in urban America on the emergence of "illegal opportunity structures," Williams, author of the forthcoming book The Crackhouse, described the "pain, self-destruction and greed" which accompany crack addiction and the "ritualistic ingestion" of the drug at abandoned houses. But throughout the sixth annual Urban Studies Lecture, Williams emphasized to an audience of over 100 people that the the crisis of crack addiction extends beyond personal suffering and causes larger social, political and economic problems. The increased availability of better and cheaper cocaine during the early 1980s, together with the elimination of jobs by the Reagan administration, made drug dealing virtually the only form of opportunity for the urban poor, according to Williams. He said the lack of hope pervading the urban landscape has made the residents of poor neighborhoods ideal customers, because the use of crack allows them to escape their problems and "lose their personal identity." University Sociology Professor Elijah Anderson applauded the speech for bringing attention to a problem which he said not enough "people in the wider culture appreciate."Comments powered by Disqus
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