David Simon on Snoop’s Arrest

Last Thursday, Felicia “Snoop” Pearson of The Wire was one of 63 people arrested in a huge drug raid in Baltimore and its surrounding counties. While her involvement was apparently miniscule, she’s facing heroin-related charges as well as aiding and abetting the operation. David Simon, creator and executive producer of The Wire, provided his thoughts on the situation to Slate via an HBO representative.

First of all, Felicia’s entitled to the presumption of innocence. And I would note that a previous, but recent drug arrest that targeted her was later found to be unwarranted and the charges were dropped. Nonetheless, I’m certainly sad at the news today. This young lady has, from her earliest moments, had one of the hardest lives imaginable. And whatever good fortune came from her role in The Wire seems, in retrospect, limited to that project. She worked hard as an actor and was entirely professional, but the entertainment industry as a whole does not offer a great many roles for those who can portray people from the other America. There are, in fact, relatively few stories told about the other America.

Beyond that, I am waiting to see whether the charges against Felicia relate to heroin or marijuana. Obviously, the former would be, to my mind, a far more serious matter. And further, I am waiting to see if the charges or statement of facts offered by the government reflect any involvement with acts of violence, which would of course be of much greater concern.

In an essay published two years ago in Time magazine, 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.

First and foremost, I have to commend Simon for recognizing the lack of roles for black actors today. Apparently, there just aren’t any (quality) roles for black actors in Hollywood, so they either end up in the theater or in some Tyler Perry bullshit. Or both. Anyway, The Wire’s third season (my favorite) compared the war on terrorism to the war on drugs, and I agree that the war on drugs has become a war on the underclass. I’m not co-signing the lifestyle at all, but consider the downward spirtal the economy has taken in the past five years, and keep in mind that there’s a career path that’s always open to the urgent who don’t have anyone to show them a better way. All things considered, Snoop is still innocent until proven guilty in my eyes. She’s had a rough life and seemed to be turning it around, and I hope things work out for her.

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