Police brutality and gun violence: These two stark issues seem to be the bookends in the daily narratives of many African-Americans. On the side of police abuse, a notorious example occurred just last May when Phoenix police officers with drawn weapons traumatized a Black family in a parking lot because their 4-year-old girl had allegedly shoplifted a “Barbie-like” doll. As far as gun violence, an illustration is the stark fact that for Black children and teens in America, firearms are the leading cause of death.
Are there any solutions for Blacks living in this state of tension? Solutions, as well as attitudes regarding gun violence and police brutality, were addressed in a recent EBONY/QuestionPro study in which more than 700 African-Americans, with an equal percentage of male and female respondents, across all demographics, were surveyed.
Police Brutality and African-Americans
According to the study, 60 percent of respondents feel police brutality has increased in the past decade. The vast majority (78 percent) agree/strongly agree that police treat White people better than Blacks. In the same vein, 80 percent agree/strongly agree that police brutality affects African-American communities more than White communities (and even the ones of all other minorities). And 77 percent of respondents agree/strongly agree that police generally treat rich or middle-class people better than lower-income individuals.
With these attitudes, it’s no surprise that 78 percent of study participants say they do not trust police officers. You can add to this distrust the reality that 78 percent feel police who shoot unarmed African-Americans are rarely prosecuted for their crimes. However, 42 percent claim police brutality is an exception and not the rule when it comes to Black communities, 33 percent blame “a few bad apples” and 17 percent say brutality occurs because suspects don’t comply.
Still, the perception of the police is mixed, at best. According to the study, police officers:
- See themselves as above the law (29 percent)
- Are generally good people (18 percent)
- Don’t respect individual civil rights (17 percent)
- Are typically racist (14 percent)
- Have a tough duty and don’t get enough credit (9 percent)
- What are some of the solutions to police brutality, according to the study? Here is the breakdown:
- Provide better training to officers (29 percent)
- Prosecute officers to the full extent of the law (22 percent)
- Provide sensitivity training to both officers and Black communities (16 percent)
- Make body cams a requirement in all situations (13 percent)
- Educate the community on complying with police officers (12 percent)
- Although only 4 percent of study participants believe White police officers should be removed from Black communities, 45 percent say police, regardless of race, should be required to live in the communities they serve. Thirty-five percent believe it wouldn’t make a difference, and 20 percent are against it.
What about the views on Black Lives Matter, arguably the most impactful current movement against police brutality? According to the study, 57 percent of respondents feel Black Lives Matter has brought visibility to the issue, although only 13 percent say the movement helps reduce police brutality.
Gun Violence and African-Americans
Sixty-three percent of our survey participants say they don’t own a gun, though 61 percent state they know someone who does. Of those who own guns, 88 percent claim they possess a firearm license or permit, 43 percent say their primary reason for owning a gun is to protect their homes and families and 35 percent own a gun to protect themselves.
On a more general level, 58 percent of respondents believe the Second Amendment, which guarantees the right to keep and bear arms, is the law of the land and should be respected; 21 percent feel it is outdated; and 21 percent remain unsure about the fate of the amendment. Even with a majority, 75 percent, supporting the right to bear arms, most respondents say they are either very or extremely concerned on the issue of gun violence in African-American communities.
Study participants also shared their views on the causes of gun violence. Forty-three percent feel easy access to weapons is a chief cause of gun violence in Black communities, whereas 31 percent claim it is a socioeconomic issue. Only 10 percent say increased police presence is a solution, just under half, 48 percent, say more gun control laws need to be passed.
Here is what survey respondents say are solutions for reducing gun violence:
- Expanding background checks (21 percent)
- Ban on assault weapons sales (17 percent)
- Regulation on ammunition sales (16 percent)
- Ban on gun sales to convicts (14 percent)
- Ban on high-capacity magazines (13 percent)
How do study participants feel about the National Rifle Association (NRA) and its work concerning gun violence in Black communities? As with their views on police officers, it’s a mixed bag. Twenty-six percent of respondents don’t care for the NRA, 23 percent feel it’s an organization that supports White supremacy and 20 percent say it does more harm than good. Seventeen percent believe it’s a reputable organization, and 15 percent say it protects the Second Amendment.
Without question, the issues of African-Americans with regard to police brutality and gun violence are complicated–and certainly not mutually exclusive. Then-President Barack Obama said at a NATO Summit in 2016, “When people say ‘Black Lives Matter,’ that doesn’t mean blue lives don’t matter.” These two colors need to continue listening to their communities and working together to stop red from flowing in African-American neighborhoods.
As Trevor Noah, host of Comedy Central’s Daily Show, said in a Rolling Stone interview, “It seems like it’s pro-cop and anti-black, or pro-black and anti-cop, when in reality, you can be pro-cop and pro-black, which is what we should all be. It should be what we’re aiming for.”