Trayvon Martin: The Problem with the ‘Some of My Best Friends Are Black’ Defense

April 12, 2012 By: seeta Category: Anti-Racism, Civil Rights, Intersectionality, Prison Industrial Complex, White Privilege

From Time:

The fact that race-based prejudice exists is undeniable. In a 2004 study, co-authored by psychology professors at Stanford and Yale, white people associated stereotypically black faces with higher levels of criminality than they did with those of whites. In addition, whites were less apprehensive about shooting black people, as demonstrated through a video-game simulation.

This bias is expressed and reinforced through the media. Author and antiracism activist Tim Wise has documented that local newscasts over-represent African Americans as criminals, relative to their actual share of total crime, and over-represent whites as victims, relative to their share of victimization. According to Wise, a large percentage of white hostility toward black people can be traced to the overwhelming amount of negative media imagery about them, even after all other factors are considered. And public-opinion polls consistently show that whites express greater fear of crime when in the presence of African Americans and assume greater guilt of African-American criminal suspects accused of crimes than of white criminal suspects accused of the same offenses.

Perhaps even more surprisingly, a 2011 study specifically looking at the impact of interracial friendship on white concern about local crime found that when white people have close relationships with black people, their concerns about crime actually increase. More broadly, when scholars have studied the racial beliefs, feelings and policy views of whites who have contact with blacks as friends, acquaintances or neighbors, they consistently find that the negative racial perceptions of those whites are substantially similar to the perceptions of whites who have no black friends. Friendship with black people — and even being a black person — does nothing to change racial bias. Indeed, almost one-third of black people hold similarly negative views.