From Think Progress
A recent study suggests that, if you are white, and you are presented with evidence that our criminal justice system disproportionately targets black people, then you are more likely to support harsh criminal justice policies than if you were unaware of this evidence. According to a study by Rebecca Hetey, a post-doctoral fellow in Stanford’s Psychology department and Jennifer Eberhardt, her faculty advisor, informing white people that African Americans are significantly over-represented in the prison population “may actually bolster support for the very policies that perpetuate the inequality.”
Forty percent of the nation’s prison population is black, as compared to only 12 percent of the population as a whole.
To reach their conclusions, Hetey and Eberhardt conducted two experiments involving white subjects. In the first, white people were asked to watch one of two videos containing mug shots. In one video, 25 percent of the mug shots were pictures of black men, while in the other video, 45 percent of the mug shots depicted African American males. After watching the video, the subjects were then asked whether they would sign a petition calling for one of California’s strict sentencing laws to be eased.
The result: “Over half of the participants who’d seen the mug shots with fewer black men signed the petition, whereas only 27 percent of people who viewed the mug shots containing a higher percentage of black inmates agreed to sign.” (more…)