Dr. Carl Hart wrote a powerful op-ed in the NY Times June 28: “We Know How George Floyd Died. It Wasn’t From Drugs.” Hart, a neuroscientist at Columbia University, has done extensive research on the effects of psychoactive drugs. When he analyzes a toxicology report, the subject at hand is his specialty.
“The trope of the drug-crazed Negro is old and durable. A hundred years ago, people believed that cocaine made black men homicidal, exceptional marksmen, and impervious to some bullets. Southern police departments in the early 20th century even reportedly switched to larger guns to fight the mythical cocaine-using violent black predator.
“With each successive generation, the racist myth morphs to accommodate current events: Maybe Mr. Floyd was aggressive and paranoid from using marijuana or methamphetamine; maybe if he hadn’t taken drugs, he’d be alive today.
“These same arguments were put forth when the police killed Michael Brown, Laquan McDonald, Philando Castile and Terence Crutcher. In each of these cases, however, the toxicology findings, and the behavior of these men during the incidents, indicate to me that the drug levels could not have contributed to the deaths.”
At Fort Polk in the winter of ’63 we sat in the bleachers as a white sergeant lectured us about the big pistols we were about to fire. He said the .45 had been developed to stop Filipino guerrillas “who were so hopped up that they would keep chargin'” when blasted with rounds from whatever sidearm US troops had previously been issued. Funny what sticks in memory.
My friend Wade Laughter, saddened by the death of Lester Grinspoon, wondered who could begin to fill his shoes. I should have told him about Carl Hart. —FG