Talking to kids about racismA recent study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, shows just how often black children are dehumanized not only by cops, but by people in general. Black boys as young as 10 may not be viewed in the same light  as their white peers, but are instead more likely to be mistaken as older, be perceived as guilty and face police violence if accused of a crime.

“Children in most societies are considered to be in a distinct group with characteristics such as innocence and the need for protection,” author Phillip Atiba Goff of UCLA told the American Psychological Association. “Our research found that black boys can be seen as responsible for their actions at an age when white boys still benefit from the assumption that children are essentially innocent.”

Researchers tested 176 police officers, mostly white males, average age 37, in large urban areas, to determine their levels of two distinct types of bias — prejudice and unconscious dehumanization of black people by comparing them to apes. To test for prejudice, researchers had officers complete a widely used psychological questionnaire with statements such as “It is likely that blacks will bring violence to neighborhoods when they move in.”

From The Wire:

The researchers ran four different experiments aimed at gauging how people perceived criminal acts (both misdemeanors and felonies) depending on if the boy that committed it was black or white. Participants took a series of tests gauging racial attitudes and subtle associations. One test “primed” participants by flashing the names of either great cats, like lions, or apes. Two groups of people were interviewed, college-aged students and police officers. The group of police officers were evaluated on another metric: their on-the-job record of use of force against criminal suspects.

We’ll start with that last bit of data. The graph at right shows the number of use of force incidents by officers in the study (though a small majority of officers had never used force). “[T]he implicit dehumanization of Blacks,” the study’s authors write, “was a significant predictor of racial disparities in the use of force against children” — though they’re clear to note that it is “plausible that negative interactions with Black children disproportionately produce implicit anti-Black dehumanization.”

The correlation between dehumanization and use of force becomes more significant when you consider that black boys are routinely estimated to be older than they are. The two graphs show the age estimates for the college students, left, and police participants in the study.


This study proves exactly what we’ve already known for a long time.  You have to value your black children, because it’s obvious others won’t.

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  • Me

    i just don’t get why people can’t accept the fact that sometimes somebody else’s problems MIGHT be bigger than their own. yea bw go through racism & such but people are lying if they say we go through the same criminalization as black dudes. or that we dying at the same rate. i see & hear way more black dudes being pinned to the ground off basic traffic stops then bw. i went to court for a traffic ticket & counting me there was only 3 bw waiting to see the judge and at least a dozen black dudes. its just like that white construction women’s article where they complaining b/c the numbers show they not facing any hardship trying to get bids cuz they get them at the same rate as white dudes but they suing to be put back on the minority list. if the goal is to get better treatment we can’t be complaining when we doing better than we used to & some extra attention is going to people that getting the worst of it all. that’s like white folks complaining about my brother’s keeper just to be complaining meanwhile forgetting the whole time that they don’t have a drop out problem or gang wars problem or baby daddy problem or arrest problem so why are you even complaining about somebody working to make black folks less of a threat to you like you claim they are… it all just start to sound like whining for special treatment when you can’t see past your own nose to a) be grateful that you not in the same situation to need that kinda help/attention & b) let somebody else get a chance to work on themselves w/o always needing to be in the spotlight too. maybe they did run the numbers on bw & found they weren’t getting as bad a rap as bm & that’s why the article is mostly about the boys. geeze. just give it a rest sometimes. lord knows bw got plenty of stats & studies floating around already. we ain’t really hurting for attention as bad as some people make it out to seem.

  • The Other Jess

    As always, these studies somehow manage to omit black girls. While they harp on black boys, we are routinely dehumanizing black girls – to the point our own communities try to dehumanize and destroy them.

  • The Alchemist

    This study only focusing on black boys & ignoring black girls is an example of black male privilege. Black girls should not be thrown in the back of the bus for a group of boys that will grow up claiming that white women are the black man’s kryptonite.

  • Dennis

    The use of force on children, especially targeting a child based on looks (ie. dark skinned male) is wrong. We should protect them and all children. They are all innocent and deserve a chance. To assume one is a criminal based on looks is the thing that needs to change. PS. Splitting hairs as to whether black girls are left out of this metric is ignoring the point of this study.