One reason why the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter caught on so quickly was because many within the black community already realized that black lives don’t matter nearly as much as white ones. Twelve year old Tamir Rice was shot dead within two minutes of police arriving on the scene, and John Crawford was shot almost immediately after police arrived at Walmart where he was holding a toy rifle. Both Rice and Crawford were black.
Given this news, a study from the University of Illinois, which found that shooters are quicker to open fire on black targets than white ones, won’t come as any surprise.
“Researchers Yara Mekawi and Konrad Bresin compiled findings from 42 studies on trigger bias to evaluate if race affects the likelihood of a target being shot,” CBS St. Louis reported.
The researchers used studies where participants were told of how police are required to make split second decisions when shooting suspects. Participants were then presented with targets from various races who were holding either a gun or an ordinary object, such as a soda can or phone.
In an interview with NPR, researchers Yara Mekawi and Konrad Bresin explained that race does impact how people shoot.
“What we found is that it does,” Mekawi tells NPR’s Arun Rath. “In our study we found two main things: First, people were quicker to shoot black targets with a gun, relative to white targets with a gun. And … people were more trigger-happy when shooting black targets compared to shooting white targets.”
Asked why the participants were quicker to shoot blacks, researchers speculate that it may correspond to how blacks are perceived.
“One theory states, essentially, that when people view images of black targets with a gun, it’s what’s called “stereotype-consistent,” which means that it’s something that you expect. And so people typically respond to things more quickly when they’re congruent, when they make sense to be together. So that’s one theory. Another theory is that it could be something to do with threat. It could be that individuals perceive black targets as being more threatening. And so they inhibit their shooting behavior less because they’re more threatened. So you can think of it as kind of a threatened response.”