American Crack Epidemic—A New Documentary on Netflix

Links between the police and the crack epidemic of the 1980s have been well documented in U.S. culture and by reporters exposing how much it had devastated the black community. These connections are also outlined in the new Netflix documentary “Crack: Cocaine, Corruption, & Conspiracy.”

Crack emerged as a result of the cocaine boom, which was the more expensive party drug of choice. Crack was in a different form and could be smoked. Supply and demand created the perfect conditions for crack, a highly addictive drug, to become relatively cheap and marketed towards inner cities that were becoming more and more deindustrialized, leaving many without the good-paying jobs they once depended on. While more affluent – and usually white – users snorted “coke,” the cops mostly went after low-income people of color using crack.

The highest levels of the government were pulling the strings of the crack epidemic, allowing this drug to flow freely in black communities in much of the country. Crime bills of the 1990s encouraged police to make massive numbers of arrests in these communities, turning the victims of this highly addictive drug into the scapegoats. This caused prisons to overflow with addicts needing medical treatment and low-level dealers subject to the cutthroat nature of capitalism, leaving the real perpetrators of the violence still in positions of power.

This documentary aims to demystify the real causes of the crack epidemic, and the long-lasting effects we’re still seeing today in how black communities are policed and how those addicted are treated.