Black Lives: Doom. Choosing Between Good and Bad in Black US Neighborhoods
The ninth and final episode of RT’s Black Lives series focuses on positive changes Black community leaders are making in Baltimore – against great odds.
It starts by profiling a Black barber who learned his trade in prison, after being locked up at 16 for dealing drugs. Coming out with a skill he could use to support himself provided a clear pathway out of illegal activities destined to send him back to jail.
They also interview a black postal worker who asserts he claims he never had the “nerve” to dabble in illegal drugs.
We also meet a former gang leader who founded Men Against Murder after getting out of prison. The group enlists the help of other ex-cons to monitor illegal street activities and partner with families to get kids out of gangs and off drugs. He talks about running a group that assists young people transition out of foster care (in most states, the foster system simply suspends services at 18, leaving many of their wards homeless and jobless).
There are also heartbreaking scenes following a young African American with a good resume and no criminal record in his unbelievably disheartening struggle to find a job.
Black Lives: Addiction – Insiders Speak Out About the Murky Drug Trading World in the US
This episode consists of interviews with an ex-cop, a former gang leader and various drug dealers and ex-drug dealers. It also features a debate between a Black pastor and a drug dealer whether whether the latter can earn as much money doing a “legal” hustle. The dealer, who deals drugs mainly to pay child support, highlights his genuine lack of legal options. As Michelle Alexander documents so vividly in The New Jim Crow, his criminal record disqualifies him for student aid, public housing and most employment.
In my view, the main weakness of this episode is its failure to examine the CIA role in international drug trafficking or their role (first exposed by late investigative journalist Gary Webb and subsequently admitted by the CIA Inspector General) in supplying crack cocaine to California gangs. See
CIA’s Drug Trade Essential to Geopolitics
The CIA and the Drug Trade
CIA Drug Trafficking on Prime Time TV
Black Lives: Truth, Racial Segregation Legacy Keeps America Divided
The fourth episode of Black Lives visits segregated Black slums in Baltimore and Pittsburgh that were thriving African American communities before the US government allowed Wall Street to destroy the country’s manufacturing base (in the 70s and 80s) and move thousands of factories overseas. The Black area of Homewood (Pittsburgh), which initially survived de-industrialization, was a thriving African American business district until the city fathers decided to tear it down to build a freeway.
Many US cities adopted this strategy. In the early eighties, Seattle City Council gave their blessing to a plan by Washington Department of Transportation to crush Seattle’s African American community by running an I-5 extension through it. This destroyed any remaining good paying jobs in the central city.
The filmmakers record it all: the dilapidated unheated housing, the drug dealers that moved in as businesses were boarded up, the ubiquitous police presence and the intrusion of homicide into Black family life.
East Baltimore has been compared to a war zone – at present it’s the murder and heroin capitol of the US.