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Study: White Christians Don’t See Cops Killing Blacks as a Big Problem

murdered-by-policeBy Robert Stitt

It doesn’t take a study to show that, on average, whites and blacks have different relationships with the police. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that they have different views of the police officers, either. And, yet, just to be sure, people are doing the research.

Recently, Public Religion Research Institute surveyed Americans and found that many white Christians do not view the police killings or beatings of black Americans as systematic but as isolated incidents. The report showed:

  • Eighty percent of black Christians believe police killings of blacks are part of a larger pattern
  • Seventy percent of white Christians believe police killings of blacks are isolated incidents
  • 71 percent of white Catholics
  • 72 percent of white evangelical Protestants
  • 73 percent of white mainline Protestants
  • Sixty-five percent of non-Christian whites believe the killings are part of a larger pattern

It turns out that greater numbers of whites also approve of police officers hitting people than do blacks and Hispanics.

  • Seventy percent of whites can think of reasons why officers would need to strike an adult male
  • Forty-two percent of blacks surveyed said they could think of such a time
  • Thirty-eight percent of Hispanics said an officer might need to reasonably strike an adult male.

These surveys show the distinct differences in the way whites, blacks, and Hispanics view the police and police aggression. The Grio notes that “The poll results don’t surprise experts on American attitudes toward police, who say experiences and history with law enforcement shape opinions about the use of violence by officers.” In short, most whites view the police as allies in the fight against crime and will give the officers the benefit of the doubt.

University of Kansas professor Charles R. Epp wrote a book about race and police stops. He said that the majority of whites believe they are going to get “reasonable and fair” treatment from officers, and that encounters ending in violence are caused by the suspect.

“My strong sense is that African Americans and Hispanics have too often experienced or have heard of experiences of police officers acting unfairly, so they’re less willing to support the use of force by police officers,” Epp said. “They’re not sure it will be used fairly.”

While this information should not be surprising, it is important to remember the old proverb, “Don’t criticize a person before you walk a mile in their shoes.” After all, it appears that most perceptions are formed through life experience, and some of those miles weren’t very fun to walk.


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