If systemic racism isn't real, why are black people nearly four times more likely to be arrested for marijuana than their white counterparts despite using and selling drugs at similar rates, about twice as likely to be pulled over while driving, or half as likely to get a call back after they mail their resume to an employer?
The video above, by Brave New Films, breaks down these stats and more in a takedown of the idea that systemic racism isn't a real problem in America.
When looking at racial disparities in police shootings, the focus typically falls on cops and the criminal justice system as a whole. And while racial disparities in the criminal justice system and police use of force exist, this Brave New Films video demonstrates that the problem goes much deeper — affecting black Americans even when they're applying for jobs, purchasing a car, or trying to buy a house.
Behind these disparities isn't necessarily explicit racism. Instead, researchers are increasingly focused on what's known as "implicit bias": subconscious biases that shape how nearly everyone perceives people of different racial and ethnic backgrounds.
Most people are at least a little racist, even if they don't know it
As part of a study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology in 2014, researchers studied 176 mostly white, male police officers, and tested them to see if they held an unconscious "dehumanization bias" against black people by having them match photos of people with photos of big cats or apes. Researchers found that officers commonly dehumanized black people, and those who did were most likely to be the ones with a history of using force on black children in custody.
In the same study, researchers interviewed 264 mostly white, female college students and found that they tended to perceive black children ages 10 and older as "significantly less innocent" than their white counterparts.
"Children in most societies are considered to be in a distinct group with characteristics such as innocence and the need for protection," Phillip Goff, a UCLA researcher and author of the study, said in a statement. "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."
"I'VE NEVER BEEN SO DISGUSTED BY MY OWN DATA"
Other research suggests there can be superhumanization bias at work, as well, with white people more likely to associate paranormal or magical powers with black people than with other white people. And the more they associate magical powers with black people, the less likely they are to believe black people feel pain.
Another study found people tend to associate what the authors call "black-sounding names," like DeShawn and Jamal, with larger, more violent people than they do "white-sounding names," like Connor and Garrett.
"I've never been so disgusted by my own data," Colin Holbrook, the lead author of the study, said in a statement. "The amount that our study participants assumed based only on a name was remarkable. A character with a black-sounding name was assumed to be physically larger, more prone to aggression, and lower in status than a character with a white-sounding name."
These biases can seriously impact people's lives
As one can imagine, subconscious racial biases can have real effects on people's lives — such as their job prospects. In one study, researchers sent out almost entirely identical résumés — except some had stereotypically white names, while others had stereotypically black names. The white names were 50 percent more likely to be called back for interviews.
These biases also may contribute to greater use of force by police. Studies show, for example, that officers are quicker to shoot black suspects in video game simulations. Josh Correll, a University of Colorado Boulder psychology professor who conducted the research, said it's possible the bias could lead to even more skewed outcomes in the field. "In the very situation in which [officers] most need their training," he said, "we have some reason to believe that their training will be most likely to fail them."
Knowing about implicit bias and its consequences is important, researchers say, not just to prove how terrible the world is but because awareness is one of the ways to combat such biases. Police departments have, for example, taken steps to train their police officers to resist their biases.
But if people deny that these biases exist, then it's always going to be hard to solve them.