Netflix Documentary Examines How CIA Brought Crack To Black Communities


Netflix’s latest documentary Crack: Cocaine, Corruption & Conspiracy gives an overview of the tumultuous crack epidemic of the 1980s. 

The film, made by Stanley Nelson, reviews the evolution of the drug as a rich person’s indulgence, to a widely-available, inexpensive, and highly-addictive substance that stirred violence and disorder in Black neighborhoods around the country. Nelson has a 30-year filmmaking career, producing documentaries including The Black Panthers: Vanguard of The Revolution, Freedom Summer, and Through the Fire: The Legacy of Barack Obama.

The film explores the US government’s involvement in bringing the drug to particular neighborhoods that had already been made vulnerable by oppressive poverty following the impact of redlining and systemic racism. 

The film alleges that crack was brought in by the CIA to fund a political and economic conflict between Nicaragua Contras and the Sandinista government. 

In a review by Yahoo!News, critics say the 89-minute documentary doesn’t go in-depth enough about the claims, first made popular by a 1996 San Jose Mercury News article series.

Critics also say the film provides a contradictory picture of the media's sensationalized depiction of crack and deliberate ignoring of the problem by politicians, except by penal measures. 

The overall argument of the film draws a thick line between mass incarceration of Black people to the criminalization of crack cocaine. The response of the US government to a substance abuse problem plaguing African Americans shifted the blame on people dealing with addiction and not the institutionalized forces that provided the structure for criminal punishment, effects of which are still seen today.  

Viewers can make their own reviews of the film on January 11 when it’s released on Netflix. 

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