Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Race On Trial

For all the unbelievers who doubt the Zimmerman/Martin trial had anything to do with race, I suggest browsing the following statistics.

The stigma attached to "racial difference" is so deeply embedded in the American psyche I doubt we will ever be totally free of it. 

"The Death Penalty, Race, and the Victim" - Lisa Wade, PhD, Sociological Images
There is much to be worried about when one considers the role racial discrimination plays in delivering the death penalty.  Scholars are newly looking to the way that the race of homicide victims, instead of the defendants, shape outcomes.  It turns out a disproportionate number of people who are executed under the death penalty have been convicted of murdering a white person (Amnesty International):

See also, "Framing Children's Deviance" by Lisa Wade

"Whites and African-Americans in America by the numbers" - Prof. Juan Cole, Informed Comment 
Average household net worth of whites: $110,000. Average household net worth of African-Americans: $5000

"Selective Responses to Threat: The Roles of Race and Gender in Decisions to Shoot" - E. Ashby Plant, Joanna Goplen, Jonathan W. Kunstmam,  Florida State University, Tallahassee, FL, USA, Sage Journal
Extensive work over the past decade has shown that race can bias perceptions and responses to threat. However, the previous work focused almost exclusively on responses to men and overlooked how gender and the interaction of race and gender influence decisions regarding use of force. In the current article, two studies examine the implications of gender (Study 1) and both race and gender (Study 2) for decisions to shoot criminal suspects on a computerized simulation. In Study 1, participants were biased away from shooting White female suspects compared to White male suspects. In Study 2, White participants showed a pronounced bias toward shooting Black men but a bias away from shooting Black women and White ingroup members, providing evidence of a behavioral threat-related response specific to outgroup men stereotypically associated with aggression. The theoretical and practical implications of these findings are discussed.

"Racism Without Racists (LAPD version)" - Jay Livingston, Montclair SocioBlog 
Los Angeles police are much more likely to stop blacks and Latinos than they are to stop whites. And when they stop someone, they are more likely to frisk or search minorities than whites. Here’s a graph from the ACLU report that collected the data. The principle author is Ian Ayres. (The full report and data set are here.)

"Who Would You Shoot?" - Lauren McGuire, Sociological Images 
They found that people hesitated longer to shoot an armed white target (and they were more likely to accidentally not shoot). Participants were quicker and more accurate with black armed targets but there were more “false alarms” (shooting them when they were unarmed). These effects were present even though participants did not hold any explicit discriminatory views and wanted to treat all targets fairly.

The effect we see here is a subconscious but measurable preference to give white men the benefit of the doubt in these ambiguous situations. Decision times can vary by a fraction of a second, but that fraction can mean life or death for the person on the other end of the gun.

"Who’s Afraid of Young Black Men?" - Philip N. Cohen, PhD, Sociological Images
In conversation, I keep accidentally referring to Zimmerman’s defense lawyers as “the prosecution.” Not surprising, because the defense of George Zimmerman was only a defense in the technical sense of the law. Substantively, it was a prosecution of Trayvon Martin. And in making the case that Martin was guilty in his own murder, Zimmerman’s lawyers had the burden of proof on their side, as the state had to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Martin wasn’t a violent criminal.

This raises the question, who’s afraid of young black men? Zimmerman’s lawyers took the not-too-risky approach of assuming that white women are (the jury was six women, described by the New York Times as five white and one Latina).

"How America has Failed African-American Youth, by the Numbers" - Prof. Juan Cole, Informed Comment
By some measures, African-American youth unemployment is 42%. Graph: Youth unemployment by age and race:

"Racial profiling experiment done by ABC": Talk about jaw-dropping... check out this racial profiling experiment done with actors posing as thieves. Arguably, the people in this experiment are interpreting what they are seeing through a racialized (and gendered) lens, linking up blackness to delinquency and crime. It's an extraordinary and depressing demonstration of racial profiling.

[Spoiler alert: The white thief is mostly left to his own devices as he saws through the bike chain, while the black thief is nearly set upon by an angry, mostly white mob that appears to have the police on speed dial.]

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