American Dope: White Powder, Black Power

A silly revelation, but anyone can make a documentary. You don’t have to be a stuffed shirt progressive PBS academic. Just do your research, exercise a great deal of patience piecing clips together, and oopsie-daisy, you have a documentary.

Case in point, director Al Profit’s series American Dope lays out the history of drugs in America. This review will look specifically at the series episode, White Powder, Black Power. Here Al dives deep into the drug culture as it pertains to the African American community and focuses primarily on the 60’s and 70’s.

Prohibition saw the birth of the American mafia, supplying illegal alcohol to the rich and powerful. When prohibition ended, the mob’s influence grew stronger and stronger drawing more and more attention from the Feds. As the power and wealth of the Italian, Irish, and Jewish communities grew, the African-American community continued to languish in poverty.

“…a handful of Black gangsters and their families went from poverty to wealth overnight.”

As the use of illegal narcotics (heroin) grew, the mobs realized that it was too risky to be involved in its sale and distribution. The lucrative, but dangerous, Narcotics trade shifted to Black America. The mobs would supply the drugs and the “Superflys” and “Kingpins” would oversee its sales. Suddenly, a handful of Black gangsters and their families went from poverty to wealth overnight.

The sudden wealth and pervasive addiction problems of the youth led to violence, corruption in local police and judges, and ultimately to all-out war with Pro-Black and Muslim militant groups. The force was akin to Mafia strong-arming and gangster-style murder and execution. For you conspiracy theorists, let’s also not forget lurking in the shadows, controlling everything was the C.I.A.

“…his historical account is comprehensive, informative, and for the most part, void of a political agenda.”

American Dope: White Powder, Black Power is a competently researched documentary about the drug crisis in Black communities. Its presentation is good, falling just short of your traditional PBS docs in production value and quality. Al Profit, himself, serves as the talking head narrator reading his perfectly manicured script, while flooded with an ominous red light. His research includes expert interviews with surviving gang members, CIA and law enforcement experts, actual interviews from news archives, and some simple re-enactments.

Profit’s B-movie visual style may be rough, but it’s exciting and engaging. He’s done his research, and his historical account is comprehensive, informative, and for the most part, void of a political agenda. Just the facts. America’s War on Drugs so far can be considered a stalemate with no winner in sight and makes you wonder why we still fight it. American Dope: White Powder, Black Power shows the decades of casualties that came from the business and economics of drugs and its devastation specifically on the African-American community.

American Dope: White Powder, Black Power (2018) Directed by Al Profit.

8 out of 10 stars

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