By Melina Paris/Opinion editor/@parismelina
Doctor Carl Hart is a Professor of psychology and psychiatry at Columbia University and the first tenured African American professor of sciences at Columbia University. He is known for his research in drug abuse, drug use and addiction. Hart came to LBCC and spoke to an audience of 300 plus in the gymnasium, Thursday May 12. He had much to say on the role drug science has played in marginalizing specific minority groups
Hart is the author of the memoir, High Price: A Neuroscientist’s Journey of Self Discovery that Challenges Everything You know about Drugs and Society. He won the 2014 PEN/E. O. Wilson Literary Science Writing Award for his book.
Assistant Professor of Human Services, Annahita Mahdavi, introduced Hart saying that his impact on her and on this field has been tremendous, calling him a hero who is using his education and expertise for social justice.
Growing up in the hood, in Miami, Hart came from a community in which drug use was prevalent. He kept a gun in his car, engaged in petty crime and used and sold drugs. After high school he joined the Air Force which put him on the course he is on today. Eventually, Hart said, he wanted to fix addiction and crime and poverty in his community.
Hart said it is important for him to be at LBCC because he see’s diverse faces which mirror how America looks.
Hart said his main message on the topic of drugs is to help students to understand that many of them are part of a select group. They are minorities. What they are told is inaccurate. Policies have subjugated communities that they are from. Hart wants them to see the connection and to apply critical thinking to this and to do that going forward in life with other situations.
Environmental science major, Ken McClintic said, “The drug war is not working and drug policies are not working. We need to find new ways of talking about and dealing with drugs. We need to listen to people like Dr. Hart and change our discussion about drugs.”
Hart prefaced his lecture with a dose of raw truth. “I hope my message resonates because you are studying drugs and many are getting a B.S. education in drugs and being misled,” Hart said. “We have exaggerated the harmful effects of drugs in the United States and the field of science has done this.”
Hart gave many in depth examples of how we are misled, such as the use of cocaine and crack. He said the only difference between the two is the route of administration. But we were told the results were different, which allowed us to make draconian laws around their use, punishing the use of crack harder.
“As we think about drugs and drug policy, this is not new, Hart said. “It’s always been used as a way to further marginalize those on the margins.”
Hart wants to come up with solutions to the skewed, negative perspective and disproportionate views the public has about drugs and the impacts to specific groups our policies have.
First, Dr. Carl Hart’s position is now legalization of all drugs.
He said we have to call out discrimination as we see it.
We also have to change the narrative of who is a drug user. (Sometimes he noted, they are even the president of the U.S., Clinton Bush and Obama have all admitted to using marijuana, as a youthful indiscretion).
He closed by stating he knows what he says is not popular. He is more concerned about the truth and leaving a better world for the next generation and beyond.
Afterwards, Hart spent over an hour at the book signing session, in which all students who attended received a free copy of his book.