White People’s Friendships are Racially Limited

While the average Black American has eight White friends, White Americans only have one Black friend. Research by the Public Religion Research Institute finds that 75% of White people have “entirely white social networks without any minority presence.” Researcher Robert Jones argues the lack of diversity amongst White social networks has a negative impact on civil society. White people lack a personal connection to Black history and culture because they don’t receive adequate formal education on these issues, and because they do not know many Black people. As a result, they are not forced to see and recognise the marginalisation that Black people go through. As such, Jones argues, White people are not “socially positioned” to understand the significance of events at Ferguson and other civil disputes.

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Social Justice in Ferguson

Over 1,400 sociologists have signed an open letter protesting police brutality in Ferguson, USA. The letter includes practical measures to address the killing of Michael Brown and mistreatment of protesters in Ferguson. Coordinated by Sociologists for Justice, the letter shows that systemic racism needs to be addressed as well as wider socio-economic and political issues to ensure effective change is enacted.

The book The New Jim Crow outlines how the criminal justice system in America is affected by systemic racism. Additionally, decades of sociological research shows that police officers’ decision-making is affected by racial stereotypes and that better training can address this bias (more links below). Effective change in community policing begins by understanding the effects of the victimisation of people of colour and by addressing the institutional practices that lead to excessive policing of people of colour. Below are the suggestions outlined in the open letter, but I urge you to read the letter in full as it summarises sociological research on race bias in policing. You can also add your name to the open letter, as I have done.

Social Justice for Michael Brown and Ferguson
We are troubled by the killing of Michael Brown. We are troubled by the excessive show of force and militarised response to protesters who rightfully seek justice and demand a change in the treatment of people of colour by law enforcement. – Sociologists for Justice.

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