This piece is about the making of “The Corner,” a TV series about black drug addicts, told from their perspective. The script was based on a book by a white former (narrative) journalist, David Simon of The Sun. The director, Charles Dutton, is black. Their collaboration came with some tension. As in much of the Times’ the series, what might otherwise be rather banal, extraneous details tell the bigger story. Scott’s attention to the who-did-or-said-what-and-when in their relationship, told through reconstruction, is revealing of the ways race is played out, lived.
Like several of the other pieces in this series, this story is in part about the power of story: Which stories should be told? Who, as the title asks, gets to tell them? Whose money shapes them? Whose lens are they seen through? People gain and lose power through the way particular stories are told. Scott points to Simon’s use of intimate narrative to tell his subjects’ stories, to humanize them and to buck the general trend of demonizing them. The black director struggles to reconcile his admiration for Simon’s skill and passion with his anger at our race-shaped world. We readers see, once again, the ways that race is both structural and personal.
Read “Who Gets to Tell a Black Story?” by Janny Scott