In a social science study conducted years ago, researchers had subjects watch a videotape showing an “ambiguous shove” between two people. When the person doing the pushing was white, subjects made “situational attributions” for the shover’s behavior. In other words, they made excuses for the shover’s behavior. But when the person doing the pushing was black, the subjects blamed the shover’s personality. Most notably, the subjects rated the exact same shove more violent when it was done by a black person.
In the wake of the grand jury’s failure to indict Officer Darren Wilson in the shooting of Michael Brown, and the ongoing protests in Ferguson, it’s worth evaluating how much our perceptions are affected by race.
The shove study suggests that even if you personally witnessed, for instance, a white cop in Ferguson yelling at a black teenage boy to get out of the street — you would see the situation very differently depending on whether you’re white or black.