Filmmaker John Singleton said on Wednesday America’s 1980s crack cocaine crisis was different from today’s opioid epidemic in one crucial way — its victims were harshly punished because they were mainly black.
Discussing Snowfall, his new drama on the emergence of crack in Los Angeles, the Boyz N The Hood director, who is black, said authorities had “criminalised a whole generation” as the drug flooded the streets.
Now far from being thrown in jail, meanwhile, the mostly white consumers of opioids across the United States are treated as unfortunate victims.
“It was unfair at the time and it would be today,” he said of the idea of extending the tough treatment to consumers of opioids — powerful and addictive painkilling drugs that cause more than 20,000 US deaths a year.
US cable channel FX announced on Wednesday that it had ordered a second series of Snowfall, which gets around a million US viewers a show, almost the average for an FX series.
Created by Singleton and Eric Amadio, Snowfall is set on the mean streets of LA’s South Central, and depicts the infancy of the crack cocaine epidemic and its radical impact on the culture.
The story follows characters on a violent collision course, including a Mexican wrestler caught up in a power struggle within a crime family, the self-possessed daughter of a Mexican crime lord and a CIA operative who begins an off-book operation to fund the Nicaraguan Contra rebels.
“There’s a whole lot of people that grew up in that environment and suffered from the effects you see, the slow decay of the environment and the effect on these characters,” Singleton said.
He believes that drug-related crime — from the heroin crisis of the 1970s, through crack and opioids — is partly down to “the politicians who think, ‘Now, just let them be on narcotics’” as a means to mollify the populace.