In this new Netflix documentary, a timeline of events unfold during the period of the “crack epidemic” which began in the early 1980s in US cities.
The documentary builds on archive footage and interviews with former drug dealers, users and journalists to paint a picture of what crack meant for black neighborhoods.
It also focuses on the politics of the “war on drugs” begun by president Ronald Reagan.
Anti-drug rhetoric—the infamous “Just Say No” campaign for instance—paid little genuine regard for the black people whose lives and neighbourhoods were torn apart by crack.
At the beginning cops largely ignored what was happening and in fact actively took part in drug dealing and other forms of corruption.
They later went on to target and arrest black people, ending in mass incarceration.
An important part of the film focuses on the experience of black women and the myth of “crack babies”.
This was a moral panic hyped up by the media claiming that pregnant women were causing addictions in their babies.
There was never scientific evidence to back up this claim.
The documentary also highlights the shady role of the CIA and the military in ignoring or actively facilitating drug smuggling
It formed part of their secret involvement in supporting right wing militias and using the proceeds from drug deals to fund a right wing coup in Nicaragua.
Ordinary people were secondary to the needs of the US’s interests in controlling South America.
Crack is an indictment of the hypocrisy and racism at the heart of the US establishment.