Ivy League professor and Influence contributor Dr. Carl Hart has written an op-ed for the Washington Post stating that he feels more fear that his children will have encounters with police than with drugs. Invoking the 2014 fatal police shooting of Michael Brown and the 2012 shooting of Ramarley Graham, who was killed by police during a narcotics investigation, Hart says his research on a variety of drugs shows consistently that they are not as dangerous—or unpredictable—as an encounter with police can be for black men.
In the piece, Hart explains why he fears police more than drugs for his children:
“My research has taught me many important lessons, but perhaps none more important than this—drug effects, like semesters, are predictable; police interactions with black people are not. In encounters with police, too often the black person ends up dead. That is why I would much rather my own children interact with drugs than with the police.”
He also challenges the common police narrative that victims of shootings were acting violently because they were on drugs:
“For more than 25 years, I have studied the interactions between the brain, drugs and behavior, trying to understand how drugs influence the function of brain cells, how this and other social factors influence human behavior, and how the reverberations of morality regarding drug use are expressed in social policy. And, as a part of my research, I have given thousands of doses of drugs, including crack cocaine, marijuana and methamphetamine, to people. By the way, I have never seen a research participant become violent or aggressive while under the influence of any drug (at doses typically used recreationally), as police narratives frequently claim.”
And he describes the dilemma that people of color face when confronted with emergencies:
“I am certain that my white colleagues, when faced with an emergency situation, wouldn’t think twice about calling the police. This, however, may not be the case for their black and Latino students. These students may be faced with the dilemma of not calling for police assistance even when they are in need of help for fear that the police will make the situation worse, and may even kill them or their loved one.”
He wrote the piece in response to an essay published in the Washington Post by one of his students about the impact of having a non-white professor.