Policing and Safety in America: One Country, Two Realities

It’s been a year since George Floyd was murdered and conversations about racism in policing became louder and more urgent. We fielded a number of national surveys on Americans’ attitudes, feelings and hopes, including this one (in collaboration with Zebra Strategies and Gazelle Global) last June about policing and safety. 
Below, Southpaw Research Director Quiana Cooper-Jarrett reacts to some of our findings—and challenges us with a few more questions of her own.

Two-thirds of Black people don’t think non-Black people understand what Black Americans are going through when it comes to racism and police brutality.

During my pregnancy this past year, I contemplated the “what ifs” for my unborn child, which dreadfully included “what if she has negative interactions with police?” — a thought I am sure had never crossed the mind of my white colleague, who was also pregnant at the time.  White parents have the privilege of teaching their children that cops are friends to turn to for help, while Black parents give “the talk”, because the very people who are charged with keeping us safe are killing us.

One in three Black Americans does not feel safe around the police in their neighborhood.

One of the first studies I worked on at Southpaw was about safety and policing on college campuses, and I learned that the majority of large colleges and universities in the US have armed police forces.   There are concerns, of course, of a mass shooter, but how can institutions balance these concerns with the constant fear elicited in Black and Brown people by the mere presence of armed officers? That mass shooter historically is a white, male domestic terrorist — yet, the historical and current bases for law enforcement are overwhelmingly focused on policing Black and Brown folk. Black and Brown college students, who have undoubtedly overcome obstacles to be there, have to carry the burden of the intimidation and aggressions of campus police while also carrying course loads — and are expected to achieve just like their white counterparts.

73% of Black Americans (and 65% of whites) agree that “real, fundamental institutional changes in policing are necessary.”

At what point do we consider that “bad apple” cops are growing from a sick tree rooted in racism? This country has a terrible habit of ignoring its ills, that in turn, create pandemics. Face the facts: slavery, Jim Crow, segregation, oppression, the fight for civil rights did not happen all that long ago and many systems still operate under oppressive tactics. The fight is not over, not even if we can point to victories like having a Black president, or the conviction of a murderous cop, or federal recognition of a Juneteenth holiday.

57% of Black Americans (vs. 44% of whites) are “optimistic that recent events will lead to positive changes in our society.”

Despite the systematic pitfalls, we still survive, strive, and thrive. We recognize our struggle and celebrate our victories. We move culture forward. Help us continue the fight by donating and/or taking action (this is just one organization that I am particularly fond of – feel free to choose one of your own).

black futures lab

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