White Boy Rick is a film about Richard Wershe, Jr., born on the east side of Detroit and famed for being the youngest FBI informant of all time, and for receiving a sentence of life without parole for possession of cocaine.
Rick is something of a legend in Detroit, in part because, as his nickname implies, he was a rarity – a well-connected drug dealer during the 1980’s crack epidemic in Detroit who was white. Suburban folks just didn’t know how to process how a kid who looked like him could be involved in such a scene.
Richard Wershe and I have a lot in common. We come from the same place, were born around the same time, and we both spent our youth engaging in the sort of behavior that can land you in a whole mess of trouble. The biggest difference between him and me is that my family got the hell out of east Detroit, and as a result I was involved in an entirely more boring and suburban form of criminality, the kind that offers second chances instead of life without parole for a first conviction. It also helps that my dad, for all of his faults, wasn’t the sort of fuckup who would contract his son out to be an FBI informant at age 14.
The film has received mixed reviews, but this isn’t really about the film. This is about how fragile and capricious life is. Today is my birthday, and it occurs to me that the line between being a middle-aged guy with a cushy job, material assets, and respect and being a middle-aged guy who spent 2/3 of his life in prison is pretty thin, and might largely involve decisions made by other people for their own reasons.
There is part of me that would like to reminisce about my misspent youth, and entertain people with stories of close calls and comic mishaps that can occur during a job. But there is another part of me that thinks about people who were no worse than I but lacked my particular combination of luck and circumstance, and that part finds reminiscing to be distasteful.
Have fun, be safe, and try not to do anything in here that could get you imprisoned for 30 years.