It “seemed like a good idea at the time,” former Rep. Charles Rangel (D–N.Y.) The Netflix documentary explains. Crack: Cocaine, Corruption & Conspiracy. Rangel was Harlem’s representative from 1971 until 2017. He is speaking about the brutal political responses to crack cocaine epidemic of 1980s.
That response included a federal sentencing scheme, backed by then-Sen. Joe Biden (D–Del.It treated crack like cocaine powder 100 times more and set a minimum five-year sentence for possession of as few as 5 grams. Crack reminds us of the circumstances in which policies like those, which overwhelmingly targeted African Americans, seemed like a good idea to supposedly liberal black Democrats such as Rangel. He now says, “Clearly,” that it was too much.
It recalls pivotal moments in the complex cultural history of crack such as Nancy Reagan’s bizarre but highly echoed “Just Say No” campaign, Len Bias’ 1986 death, the science-based “crack baby panic” and George H.W.’s TV address of 1989. Bush posed with a crack bag and said that this substance, which was harmless-looking, would “turn our cities into battlefield zones.” Bush was almost ten years in prison for the prop he provided to a teenage drug dealer after being lured into “a park right across the street” from the White House.
Bush said, “I cannot feel sorry for him,” a comment you would expect to hear from someone who called on Americans “rise up together and show our intolerance.” Alarmed by violence and corruption that Bush had insisted on enforcing, a transracial, bipartisan majority made it happen, killing many people.