Study: whites support harsher criminal laws if mostly blacks are getting arrested
According to a new study, white people support harsher criminal laws as long as blacks are the ones getting arrested.
The findings come after whites were presented with evidence that our criminal justice system disproportionately targets black people.
According to a study by Rebecca Hetey, a post-doctoral fellow in Stanford’s Psychology department and Jennifer Eberhardt, her faculty advisor, informing white people that African Americans are significantly over-represented in the prison population “may actually bolster support for the very policies that perpetuate the inequality.”
Forty percent of the nation’s prison population is black, as compared to only 12 percent of the population as a whole.
To reach their conclusions, Hetey and Eberhardt conducted two experiments involving white subjects. In the first, white people were asked to watch one of two videos containing mug shots. In one video, 25 percent of the mug shots were pictures of black men, while in the other video, 45 percent of the mug shots depicted African American males. After watching the video, the subjects were then asked whether they would sign a petition calling for one of California’s strict sentencing laws to be eased.
The result: “Over half of the participants who’d seen the mug shots with fewer black men signed the petition, whereas only 27 percent of people who viewed the mug shots containing a higher percentage of black inmates agreed to sign.”
In the second study, two groups of whites from New York were shown different statistical data. 33 percent of the subjects who were led to believe that fewer blacks are incarcerated were willing to sign a petition that calls for an end to the city’s controversial stop-and-frisk policy. Just 12 percent from a group who was shown data indicating that 40 percent of prisoners are black would sign for liberal reform.
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