Report: Black Youth Are Viewed as Less Innocent

A UCLA researcher has found that African-American youth are seen as being more troublesome than their white counterparts, including by police.

Posted: 03/13/2014 03:43 PM EDT
Report: Black Youth Are Viewed as Less Innocent

A recently released study suggests that African-American youngsters are viewed as less innocent – and older – than their counterparts who are white.

The study, which was published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, found that these preconceived ideas of Black youth have consequences in interaction with law enforcement officials.

"Children in most societies are considered to be in a distinct group with characteristics such as innocence and the need for protection," said Phillip Atiba Goff, a professor at UCLA who was the author of the story, in the association’s report.

"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,” Goff said.

The research report surveyed 176 police officers, most of them white men in their late 30s. It found that police officers are more likely to use force against young African-Americans, with the law enforcement officials using anything from police dogs to wrist locks.

As part of the research project, a group of more than 250 mostly white, female undergraduate students at various universities was asked to rate the innocence of youth who were African-American, white and racially unidentifiable.

There was little difference in how youth were viewed up to age 9. However, beyond that age, the African-American youth were viewed as being less innocent than their non-Black peers.

The findings have implications in the opposition to police initiatives such as the stop-and-frisk program in New York City, in which hundreds of thousands of young people — mostly Black and Latino — were detained by police officers. In nearly 90 percent of such stops, the young people were innocent.

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(Photo: Tina Fineberg/AP Photo)

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