Study Confirms People More Likely To Shoot Black Folks, Quicker, In Split-Second Decision Making (AUDIO)

Here’s one more scientific study confirming what black people not only already know, but have also been adamantly pointing out for the last, say… 400 years – which is that not only does racism exist, but the social conditioning of personable to systemic racism nationwide does, as well, even for those who believe they, themselves, are not racist.

Mother Jones writes on the Aug. 31 NPR story “Shooters Quicker To Pull Trigger When Target Is Black, Study Finds”:

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According to a new report from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, racial bias can affect the likelihood of people pulling the trigger of a gun—even if shooters don’t realize they were biased to begin with. Researchers found that, in studies conducted over the past decade, participants were more likely to shoot targets depicting black people than those depicting white people.

Headed by Yara Mekawi, a team of researchers studied and compiled data from 42 different studies that used first-person-shooter drills as a means for establishing data on shooter bias. Participants, for example, are shown both black and white people, and given less than a second to respond– or not to respond– with lethal force. Some of the subjects of both races shown are armed, while others hold items as innocent and banal as smartphones and cans of soda.

Mekawi and team’s meta-analysis from researching the 42 studies show distinctly that participants (of unknown race) are – surprise, surprise – not only more likely to shoot at the image of a black person, but are also likely to do so more quickly. Participants were also slower in deciding whether or not they should shoot at the depiction of a black person not holding a gun.

Interestingly, however, Mekawi’s study also found that states with slack gun restriction laws actually saw an increase in participants shooting at the depictions of unarmed black people. In addition, the more diverse the area the experiment was conducted in, the higher that rate rose.

Mekawi told NPR:

What this highlights is that even though a person might say, ‘I’m not racist’ or ‘I’m not prejudiced,’ it doesn’t necessarily mean that race doesn’t influence their split-second decisions.

To which a collective Black America says:

No shit.

You can read even more about this sad tendency in Mother Jones’ January/February 2015 issue in a piece title, “The Science of Why Cops Shoot Young Black Men,” by Chris Mooney.

So yeah, turns out, folks, racism is contagious, especially when it’s drilled into your brains every day of your life since birth. Seems like someone was saying something along those lines. Now who was it… That’s right! Black people, and pretty much every other person of color on the planet who has ever had the misfortune of spending any time in the United States.

Neuroscientist David Amodio dished out the goods in terms folks can understand last year during an Inquiring Minds podcast:

When we look at faces of individuals of a different race, a part of our brain called the amygdala often gets active. The amygdala is involved in learning and, specifically, in a type of learning called fear conditioning…The problem is that because our culture is filled with racial stereotypes, many of us ‘learn’ inaccurate and prejudicial information about those who look different. And the amygdala operates extremely rapidly, long before our conscious thoughts have time to react. Thus, the operations of this and related brain regions, ‘if left unchecked, they might lead to the expression of some bias in a way that you don’t intend.’

Mekawi is hoping the revelation her study has raised will ultimately be of use to U.S. law enforcement in combatting their own subconscious bias, because guess what – there’s hope! As “The Science of Why Cops Shoot Young Black Men” discusses, such research allows a means from which efforts can be made to counter such bias tendencies in our peace officers.

Mekawi and team write:

Understanding the factors that contribute to shooter biases in the laboratory may provide critical insight into targets of change for interventions designed for gun-owners and law enforcement officers.


Research identifying effective interventions is needed to maintain the basic human rights of racial and ethnic minorities, keep communities safe, and increase the effectiveness of policing.

Studies such as Mekawi’s are helping identify the problem, now we have to get to work figuring out how to fix them. Perhaps a good start is trying not to shoot someone within a few milliseconds.

Featured image via WikiMedia

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