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The current prison system is one that is mired in inequality, partially a product of a broken justice system. As Stanford University summates:

Although African-Americans constitute only 12 percent of America's population, they represent 40 percent of the nation's prison inmates.
However, just as disturbing of a trend is our response to it. As a Stanford University study finds in 2 different field experiments:
...when white people were told about these racial disparities, they reported being more afraid of crime and more likely to support the kinds of punitive policies that exacerbate the racial disparities.
In the first part of the study, 62 white voters were asked to look at a video mugshots of inmates. While one group saw a video where African Americans were 25% of mugshots, others saw one where the group made up more than half of the mugshots. Afterwards, voters were surveyed on whether or not they would support a bill easing up on one of California's notoriously strict prison laws.
The results were clear. 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. This was the case regardless of how harsh participants thought the law was.
The second part of this experiment attempted to trace these results back to a causative factor, in this case being fear of crime. Participants were shown national statistics about the prison population, either the national African American incarceration rate (40%) or the NYC African American incarceration rate (60%). Again,  participants were surveyed on their willingness to end a strict prison policy. The results were similar:
About 33 percent of the participants who saw the lower national statistic were willing to sign a petition to end the policy. But only 12 percent of those who saw the higher city rate of black incarceration were willing to sign the petition.
But what exactly are the implications for the real world? One of the researchers, Rebecca Hetey explains:
Many legal advocates and social activists seem to assume that bombarding the public with images, statistics and other evidence of racial disparities will motivate people to join the cause and fight inequality. But we found that, ironically, exposure to extreme racial disparities may make the public less, and not more, responsive to attempts to lessen the severity of policies that help maintain those disparities.
Could our attempts to foster a national discussion on the disparity between racial representation actually act as a self-fulfilling prophecy, only deepening stereotypes and perpetuating fears of certain racial groups? I'd like to see your thoughts.

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Comment Preferences

  •  We've been brainwashed by the film and (7+ / 0-)

    tv industries, as well as our "news" media, to see black men as scary. Racist propaganda appeals to the emotional and irrational part of the brain. You can't counter it by attempting to make reasoned appeals to the rational part of the brain. That's what this study says to me.

    •  It has happened since we first we brought here; (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      blueoasis, chrisculpepper, TarheelDem

      It's called white supremacy. Need to demonize "the negro" to keep poor whites in line. That has been ~400 year propaganda campaign.

      Poor whites & brown people have the same enemy, evil rich white people. Too bad poor white people vote "white".

      Fuck 'em.

      I voted Tuesday, May 6, 2014 because it is my right, my responsibility and because my parents moved from Alabama to Ohio to vote. Unfortunately, the republicons want to turn Ohio into Alabama.

      by a2nite on Sat Aug 09, 2014 at 11:44:12 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  sad, BUT i take hope in small sample size (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    leonard145b, ban nock, gramofsam1

    62 people is an extremely small study group so have some hope that we are not as bad as the study suggests

    •  That is pretty small for (3+ / 0-)

      an experiment. For a 2-group study, that's pretty much the bare minimum that would have any chance of being published in peer-reviewed journals.

      However, the findings are consistent with hundreds of studies -- with combined participant numbers easily totaling in the tens of thousands -- on implicit racial bias.

      "I've always admired your tart honesty and ability to be personally offended by broad social trends." -Principal Skinner.

      by cardinal on Sat Aug 09, 2014 at 10:13:35 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  It was 62 in San Francisco and 164 in NYC. (4+ / 0-)

      It's not a question of who is bad and how bad they are. It's a question of what will work to increase support for policies we favor (reducing disparate incarceration rates by, e.g., eliminating 3-strikes laws) and opposition for policies we disfavor (stop and frisk). It's only two pieces of info, but they're suggestive that what some advocates are doing is less likely to be effective than they realize.

    •  DEMonrat -Exactly. This is not survey research (0+ / 0-)

      and the results can't be extrapolated to the public at large.
         

  •  Fascinating study. . . (0+ / 0-)

    However, the researcher's musings on it seem like a bit of a straw man:

    Many legal advocates and social activists seem to assume that bombarding the public with images, statistics and other evidence of racial disparities will motivate people to join the cause and fight inequality. But we found that, ironically, exposure to extreme racial disparities may make the public less, and not more, responsive to attempts to lessen the severity of policies that help maintain those disparities.
    Indeed, these "legal advocates and social activists" want the public to be made aware of racial disparities in arrests, sentencing, access to good counsel, etc. But that's not at all what the study does. Instead, it shows participants (the experimental group) decontextualized photos of disproportionately black criminals.

    So no, I don't think it in any way suggests that our efforts to make citizens aware of racial disparities in CJ may backfire.

    "I've always admired your tart honesty and ability to be personally offended by broad social trends." -Principal Skinner.

    by cardinal on Sat Aug 09, 2014 at 09:57:03 AM PDT

    •  One study used photos, (3+ / 0-)

      but they were contextualized (or de-) the same way for all participants, so I'm not sure why you'd ignore the difference between the two groups in the resulting behavior.  

      The other study (164 White voters in NYC) apparently used statistics much like what you'll regularly find in front page and other diaries here about racial disparities in incarceration rates. (I haven't paid $35 to see the whole journal article.) If diaries and articles are written to persuade people to sign petitions -- e.g., to eliminate three-strikes laws -- I think it's useful to have information about whether the statistical demonstration of racial disparity works to achieve that goal. I think it's plausible that folks who decided to attack the death penalty in CA on the basis of $$ rather than racial disparity had the right instincts.

      •  I think it's plausible too, (3+ / 0-)

        as a (very) general rule I think appeals to self-interest are more likely to be successful than appeals to fairness.

        I wish that were not the case but I've seen it at play with the Republicans and Libertarians in my extended family. Some of them never seemed to care about the fairness of a living wage, but they pay attention if you show them that Walmart is costing them money when Walmart employees can't survive without social services paid for with "their" tax dollars. Suddenly a living wage seems like a good idea to them.

  •  Thank you Captain Obvious. (4+ / 0-)

    I assume that the preponderance of participants were white.
    White people assume that as long as most victims of draconian laws and policies are black then not only are they immune, but they benefit from the inequality. "He can't apply for the job I want if he's in prison." This even applies in school funding - "He won't get my kid's job if he can't read."

  •  Perhaps To The Majority Of Study Respondents: (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    BvueDem

    mugshots of more Black inmates confirms stereotypes that Black men are dangerous and deserve harsher punishment?

    BTW, maybe its just my computer but, the link returns the following message:

    The connection was reset

    The connection to the server was reset while the page was loading.

    Thanks for the intriguing post...
  •  So who exactly are "white people"? (0+ / 0-)

    Where do Hispanics stand in this poll?  Asians?

    Oversimplified race baiting.

  •  Would be interesting to run more experiments, (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    leonard145b

    e.g. where the voters were African-American (and another where they are Latino).

    And then (with different sets of voters) where the profiled ethnic group is Chinese, or Latino, etc.

  •  An Entire Study Fully Equated By 3 Characters: (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Kristina40, Wee Mama


    SYG

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Sat Aug 09, 2014 at 10:07:10 AM PDT

  •  The slaves were of a lesser race to the whites (4+ / 0-)

    That mindset never went away.  Slavery was morally justified to the white Sotherners and deep inside it still is.  This mindset is still part of the DNA of America. Facts mean nothing to these people.

    Daily Kos an oasis of truth. Truth that leads to action. UID: 9742

    by Shockwave on Sat Aug 09, 2014 at 10:47:26 AM PDT

    •  It was justified to more Americans than (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Shockwave, historys mysteries

      "Southerners". Lots of people made money from the slave trade & labor in the North.

      I voted Tuesday, May 6, 2014 because it is my right, my responsibility and because my parents moved from Alabama to Ohio to vote. Unfortunately, the republicons want to turn Ohio into Alabama.

      by a2nite on Sat Aug 09, 2014 at 11:39:57 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Like Malcolm X said, (4+ / 0-)

    or to paraphrase, "We don't have a 'Negro Problem' in this country, we have a white problem".

    I buy and sell well trained riding mules and American Mammoth Jack Stock.

    by old mule on Sat Aug 09, 2014 at 11:33:18 AM PDT

  •  There were a few interesting tidbits in the full.. (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    AJayne, Wee Mama, codairem, quill, Catte Nappe

    ...version of the study.

    From the study's supplemental materials:

    In a series of logistic regressions, we explored whether participant gender, age, and political orientation affected self-reported willingness to sign a petition to end stop and frisk.

    We found no effect of gender or age (ps > .159). Political orientation significantly predicted reported petition signing, β = .490, SE = .193, p = .011, and crime concern, β = .585, SE = .098, p < .0005.

    The more conservative participants were, the less likely they were to say they would sign a petition to end the stop-and-frisk program and the more concerned they were about crime.

  •  these results are predictable (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    historys mysteries

    When told that many more blacks are in prison than whites, there are two logical reasons for why that is true: a) blacks are more criminally inclined than whites, or b) our entire justice system and society at large are racist and corrupt, causing vast multi-generational suffering, unfairness and inequality.

    Which of these options do you think the average cluelessly privileged authority respecting white person is likely to choose?

    "Tell the truth and run." -- Yugoslav proverb

    by quill on Sat Aug 09, 2014 at 01:09:52 PM PDT

  •  Figures (0+ / 0-)

    Same shit, different decade.

  •  It took a study to tell us this? (0+ / 0-)

    "Because I am a river to my people."

    by lordcopper on Sat Aug 09, 2014 at 01:37:55 PM PDT

  •  When you talk about crime in terms of (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    historys mysteries

    racial statistics, it tends to reinforce and even justify bias.

    A better approach would be to look at what types of charged offenses result in imprisonment vs. non-incarceration punishment, or death penalty vs. life imprisonment and see if there are racial disparities among the universe of individuals who are arrested for crimes.  I think we've seen such disparities with respect to drug possession and death penalty offenses.

    Global Shakedown - Alternative rock with something to say. Check out their latest release, "A Time to Recognize": Available on iTunes, Amazon, Google Play, Spotify and other major online music sites. Visit http://www.globalshakedown.com.

    by khyber900 on Sat Aug 09, 2014 at 01:58:44 PM PDT

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