By Emily Rauch and Sarah DuttonThe protests that took place last week across the country following the acquittal of former Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson are often seen as a microcosm of the broader race tensions that have shaken America in the last decade.
But while some of the protesters’ grievances seem rooted in race, there’s one that’s a lot more universal: racism.
In the days after Wilson’s acquittal, protesters gathered on the steps of the Supreme Court to demand justice for Darren Wilson, the black man who fatally shot unarmed black teen Michael Brown in 2014.
The protests also drew attention to the issue of policing.
The demonstrations in Ferguson and elsewhere have become a kind of microcosmic version of the protests and looting that erupted after the acquittals of officers involved in the death of Eric Garner in New York in 2014 and Freddie Gray in Baltimore in 2015.
Both of these cases sparked a national conversation about the police use of excessive force, and the deaths of Garner and Gray have sparked calls for reform in police departments across the nation.
A new study by the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) found that while many of the people who participated in the protests were white, their attitudes toward race were largely the same.
And the vast majority of the white participants felt racial profiling by police was an issue that impacted their daily lives.
A survey conducted by the RAND Corporation in March 2017 found that Americans overwhelmingly agree that racial profiling is an issue of police brutality and discrimination, and that people of color experience higher rates of being stopped and frisked than whites.
That sentiment has only increased in the years since Wilson’s death.
In a 2015 study, PRRI asked people in the United States to rate their perceptions of police treatment of black people on a scale from 1 (not at all) to 5 (extremely).
Only 28 percent of respondents said they thought racial profiling was a major problem, with a further 19 percent saying they didn’t know.
The survey also found that only 35 percent of white Americans agreed that black people are more likely to be arrested and charged with a crime than whites are.
That gap is even wider among African-American respondents, with 58 percent of blacks saying they believe police are more racist than whites when it comes to law enforcement.PRRI’s research also found the vast disparity in opinions between whites and blacks when it came to police brutality.
In fact, only 34 percent of whites said they were “very concerned” or “somewhat concerned” about racial profiling in the police department, compared to 52 percent of black respondents.
And while whites said their “very” and “slightly” worries about racial discrimination are greater than those of blacks, a majority of whites (56 percent) said their worries were more about a lack of resources to deal with racial discrimination.PRIRI also found whites and African Americans were more likely than blacks to have seen some police brutality during the last year, as well as a higher number of officers who used excessive force.
White respondents were more than twice as likely as black respondents to have witnessed at least one incident of police violence, and black respondents were nearly twice as much likely to say that they witnessed at at least two police incidents.PRRIs survey also suggested that whites and whites were more willing to accept that police are racist when confronted with racist conduct.PRI’s survey found that whites were far more likely as opposed to blacks to agree that police brutality is a serious problem, while black respondents had significantly less trust in police to protect them.
Black respondents were also more likely (39 percent) to say police use excessive force is not justified.PRRRI also asked white respondents to rate the number of times police officers had used force against them since the beginning of 2016, with whites more than double (53 percent) than blacks (27 percent).
White respondents also were much more likely among whites to agree with the statement that “the police have a responsibility to protect the citizens they are sworn to serve,” with white respondents more than four times (58 percent) as likely to agree as black (19 percent).PRRI also asked about whether people of all races should be more willing and able to report crimes committed by police officers.PRIS found that white respondents were about twice as willing as blacks to report police abuse against them.PRIRDI also tracked the views of respondents on a variety of issues: police brutality, racial bias, and racism in the media.PRIDI found that a majority (57 percent) of white respondents believed that police departments were less likely to investigate cases of police misconduct when officers are African American, and 54 percent of those same white respondents said police were less biased in their treatment of minorities when officers were black.PRIDs findings suggest that while people of different races have different perceptions of how police are treated in the workplace, the way people of the same race see the police is more likely the result of racial bias.PRINCE also found racial bias in the American media to be a