Book review: High Price

High Price is a really good book in ways that do not lend themselves to me writing a particularly good blog entry about it.  It is about a boy who grew up in the Miami ghetto, observing the effects of poverty and drug use first hand, and grew up to be a tenured neuropsych professor at Columbia studying the neurology of drug use.

I think there’s a few reasons I’m having trouble saying anything interesting about it.  One, it didn’t challenge any of my existing beliefs.  I already believed that drug wars were racist, that drugs weren’t as dangerous as the government told us, that a lot of the problems blamed on drugs were actually poverty or toxic social structures or institutional racism.  I also believed that academia is miserable to everyone and poor black men in particular.  I knew that gentrifying yourself led to alienation from family.  I’ve read about all of these in more detail elsewhere.  Which brings us to point two: this is a survey book.  It’s a very good survey book on a very important topic and I hope many people unfamiliar with the topic read it, but I’m not going to recommend it to any of my friends who already believe the things I listed above, or people with well researched opposition.  It’s not going to change their mind.

Three, despite my previous statement that the book didn’t change my beliefs, the author clearly has much more data on everything he talked about than I do, and I don’t think I have anything of value to add to the discussion.  More bluntly, I’m white, middle class, and have only an undergraduate degree: if I get air time on the topic of racism in academia, the correct thing for me to do is signal boost someone with a more informed opinion. *

Science wise, it’s pretty valid but not deep.  He mostly gives his conclusions, not an in depth explanation of the experiments.  On the other hand, he does a pretty good job explaining what makes the opposing research faulty, and I do love to see that.

So if you’re either looking for an introduction to this issue or share my very strange definition of light reading, I highly recommend this book.  Otherwise, it is probably not for you.

*High Price spends less than a chapter on institutional racism.  If you’re looking for information on that specifically, I’d recommend TressieMC