David Simon: Drug War is “War on The Underclass”

Flickr: Fernando Galeano

The cover of Felicia "Snoop" Pearson's Memoir

Life imitated art yesterday as the actress who played “Snoop” on HBO’s critically-acclaimed, Baltimore-based drama “The Wire” was arrested. Her charge? Conspiracy to distribute heroin and other drugs.

The creator of “The Wire”, David Simon, released a statement through HBO decrying the war on drugs as a war on the poor. Simon emphasized how different his life and opportunities were and are from Pearson’s; the actress was born addicted to crack, she was a product of the foster-care system and she killed another girl while still a teen. Pearson served time for that murder before being discovered at a club by Michael K. Williams, who also starred on “The Wire” as “Omar”. Here is part of Simon’s statement:

In an essay published in Time two years ago, the writers of ‘The Wire’ made the argument that we believe the war on drugs has devolved into a war on the underclass, that in places like West and East Baltimore, where the drug economy is now the only factory still hiring and where the educational system is so crippled that the vast majority of children are trained only for the corners, a legal campaign to imprison our most vulnerable and damaged citizens is little more than amoral. And we said then that if asked to serve on any jury considering a non-violent drug offense, we would move to nullify that jury’s verdict and vote to acquit. Regardless of the defendant, I still believe such a course of action would be just in any case in which drug offenses — absent proof of violent acts — are alleged.

Both our Constitution and our common law guarantee that we will be judged by our peers. But in truth, there are now two Americas, politically and economically distinct. I, for one, do not qualify as a peer to Felicia Pearson. The opportunities and experiences of her life do not correspond in any way with my own, and her America is different from my own. I am therefore ill-equipped to be her judge in this matter.