How ‘Crack Of Doom’ Drug Paranoia Took Over Impoverished Los Angeles In The ’80s And Still Affects The US

What does one arrest of one crack user in 1981 have to do with you?

A lot more than you might think.

Although America has seemingly moved on from the so-called “crack epidemic” that gripped the nation in the mid-to-late ’80s and early ’90s, it has yet to fully recover. FX’s new series Snowfall brings light to the issue by taking audiences back to the infancy of the crack cocaine epidemic in South Central Los Angeles and showcasing the radical impact it still has on our culture today. Even if crack cocaine never touched some portions of the nation, those areas are still feeling the effects in economic ways that impact everything from government spending to drug sentencing laws — even thirty years after that initial recorded arrest.

There are still lessons to be learned on how to treat and prevent addiction, how to address communities that struggle with poverty, unemployment, and homelessness, and how to prevent the spread of dangerous drugs — then, crack, but now, opiates and illegally abused legal prescription drugs.

Along with those lessons are the legitimate problems caused by the American government’s reaction to the crack epidemic that have yet to be corrected. America is still the number one nation in the world for incarceration rates, and many of those currently locked up — even on small or rather trivial drug charges — are Black and Latino men, while white plaintiffs with similar charges walk free. The broken families left behind in the wake of this racialized policing has continued to feed a cycle of violence and un-diagnosed mental trauma that continue to contribute to crime rates and fill prisons.

The only way to reverse these destructive cycles is to know how and where they began, in order to learn how to get them to stop. The numbers in the video above provide useful context for the ongoing War on Drugs, its costs, and its effects. Educate yourself, and help change the world for the better.

Snowfall premieres Wednesday, July 5 at 10PM on FX.