According to a recent study, white people are more likely to identify a black child’s toy as a gun and are more likely to identify a white child’s gun as a toy.
The study was conducted by lead author Andrew Todd, an assistant professor of Psychological and Brain Sciences at the University of Iowa, and was published in Psychological Science, a monthly journal that features “research reports spanning the entire spectrum of the science of psychology.”
The study featured 64 white college students who were quickly flashed an image of either a black or white child, which they were subsequently told to ignore and relegate as a signal for the second image that would be flashed in front of them, which was either a toy or a gun.
After the second image popped up, they were told to identify whether it was a weapon or just a harmless plaything. The study featured pictures of six five-year-old black kids and six five-year-old white kids, and the results showed that the participants were far likelier to classify a toy as a gun after seeing the black kids face.
While many pundits and politicians gleefully claim that we’ve achieved “post-racial” status in our society, the truth is that, for many people, the most pernicious black stereotypes still largely loom in the minds and souls of the average white citizen.
This is one of multiple studies that reflects this.
Every year, when Black History Month rolls around and stories of past tragedies descend upon our collective conscience, we are exposed to savage tales of black boys and girls, seen in black and white films and photos, being beaten, raped, jailed and murdered.
These images and the past realities they represent instantaneously rock us out of our quiet comfort zones to remember there once was a time in America when a young black boy or girl could be wantonly lynched, treated by civilians and the state not as youngsters but as fully formed criminals with clear and overt murderous intent.
Yet those past realities aren’t far-removed from our modern truth.
When 12-year-old Tamir Rice was killed by police for holding a toy gun, Officer Timothy Loehmann, the cop who shot Rice within 1.2 seconds of arriving on the scene, yelled to dispatch “shots fired, male down, black male, maybe 20.”
Not only was Rice stripped of any real innocence he may have had, but what was placed on him in its absence was downright terrifying. In an instant, a boy became a man and a toy became a lethal weapon.
But, beyond boys with toy guns, black men and women face the noxious reality that our most innocuous possessions can be seen as deadly weapons. Whether it’s Amadou Diallo’s rectangular wallet, Lavar Jones’ drivers license, or Kendrec McDade’s cell phone, simply holding random objects can land many of our black brothers in precarious situations.
What’s truly sad about this study’s findings is that they prove our sons and daughters will continue to inherit the unfounded stereotypes of their mothers and fathers, until we decide that prejudice is a serious illness we can no longer tolerate.