Before Ferguson, Staten Island or Baltimore, there was Yonkers, New York.
In the 1980s and early ‘90s, Yonkers, just north of the Bronx, was the scene of mean and gritty racial politics and hatred. And it is that real-life drama that is the subject of David Simon's new six-hour, HBO mini-series, Show Me a Hero, which premieres Sunday.
Simon has a long history of creating dramatic TV series that don’t seem like they belong on TV. His shows “The Corner,” “Treme,” “The Wire” and others are about the failure of institutions, the corruption of public officials and the darkest, druggiest areas of cities.
Show Me a Hero, based on the 1999 non-fiction book with the same title written by former New York Times reporter Lisa Belkin, revolves around a public housing controversy 35 years ago that uncapped ugly racism that got uglier and exploded in city council meetings and spilled out onto the streets. That’s where the new series begins, but, as Simon points out, it’s a narrative that is just as relevant today.
“The amazing thing about that story is that race doesn't go away. It’s the enduring pathology for the country,” he says. “So, every time we even thought about whether the narrative was going to be a little bit dated, sure enough, in some other city somewhere the same issue would crop up.”
On this week’s DecodeDC podcast, guest host Pamela Kirkland talks with Simon about the series, political dysfunction, racial isolation and fear. And, yes, about how yesterday’s story of racism is unfortunately today’s story.