FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

The Height of Racial Resentment: White Cops

Photo by Nathaniel St. Clair

Researchers will surely continue to plow the 2016 U.S. presidential election looking for answers to Donald Trump’s victory for decades to come. What we know now, though, is that racial resentment played a prominent role in the equation. Michael Tesler has shown, for instance, that white racial resentment “was more tightly linked to [support for Trump] than support for John McCain and Mitt Romney in 2008 and 2012, respectively — even after controlling for party and ideology.” And Sean McElwee and Jason McDaniel have found that “racial attitudes towards blacks and immigration are the key factors associated with support for Trump.” If white voters are racially resentful and if their resentments remain consequential for their selections at the ballot box, we might wish to understand who among the white population in the U.S. evinces the most racially resentful and racially conservative attitudes and why. Some recent sociological work has examined this question and found at least one primary suspect: white police officers.

White individuals throughout the country continue to compose a large share of law enforcement positions. They also continue to murder unarmed black citizens at a disproportionate rate as well. Yet, despite these instances, 70% of whites believe that police departments do an excellent/good job holding police officers accountable when they engage in misconduct, compared with 31% of blacks; 75% of whites believe that police officers do an excellent/good of treating racial and ethnic minorities equally, compared with 35% of blacks; and, finally, 44% of whites believe that blacks’ fatal encounters with police are isolated incidents, compared with 18% of blacks.

While decades of sociological research betray the general sentiments of many white citizens, white law enforcement officers continue to maintain even more racially resentful and racially conservative sets of beliefs than white citizens writ large. Racial resentment is indeed a bit different than outright racist views, but only a permutation of them. In new research published by sociology professor Ryan LeCount, racial resentment is simply understood as the belief that black citizens are “unfairly advantaged relative to whites.” In his research, LeCount examined the extent of racial resentment among white police officers in comparison with white citizens, in addition to the extent to which white police officers minimize racism, oppose race-targeted programs, and possess racist views.

All together, LeCount finds that white police officers indeed possess more racially conservative views than white citizens. For instance, white police are nine times more likely than their white citizen counterparts to believe that black citizens are more violent than white citizens, and they are over three times more likely to agree with the phrase: “I resent any special considerations that Africans Americans receive because it’s unfair to other Americans.” White officers are also 1.4 times more likely to agree that the government is spending too much money on black citizens, and nearly twice as likely to say that racial discrimination is not an obstacle to black citizens’ success. And, finally, white cops are 1.4 times more likely to believe that affirmative action programs hurt white citizens, and they are three times more likely to say that they white citizens experience racial discrimination in the workplace.

Of course, some might argue that the institutional culture of the law enforcement profession might uniquely produce racist beliefs among its occupants. LeCount, however, also examined black police officers’ views compared with black citizens’ general views, and he found nearly no significant differences between black officers and black citizens. In only one instance, LeCount found a difference, and, in that instance, he found that black officers were actually less likely than black citizens to agree with the statement: “Blacks should work their way up without special favors.”

What this might indicate is that many white police officers are entering police academies with existing racial resentments and racist sentiments. And this is frightening. The view that black citizens are more violent, a feeling of resentment towards black citizens in general, and a feeling that whites are discriminated against throughout society might understandably have serious repercussions for how white officers surveil and discipline black citizens compared with their white counterparts, whose alleged plight they sympathize with over and against black citizens. And these repercussions are clear. We know that officers are much more likely to search and arrest black citizens for drugs, despite similar rates of drug use by black and white citizens, and we know that officers are much more likely to murder black citizens.

Police officers indeed undergo a battery of psychological examinations. However, one thing is for certain – they’re not working to weed out racist cops that target, harass, and extra-judicially execute black citizens.

More articles by:

Timothy M. Gill (@timgill924) is an Assistant Professor in the Department Sociology and Criminology at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington.

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550
December 11, 2019
Vijay Prashad
Why the Afghanistan Papers Are an Eerie Reminder of Vietnam
Kenneth Surin
Australia’s Big Smoke
Sameer Dossani
Ideology or Popularity: How Will Britain Vote?
John W. Whitehead
Who Will Protect Us From an Unpatriotic Patriot Act?
Binoy Kampmark
Interference Paranoia: Russia, Reddit and the British Election
Scott Tucker
Sure, Impeach Trump, But Let’s be Honest
Nyla Ali Khan
Homogenizing India: the Citizenship Debate
Thomas Knapp
Congress: The Snail’s Pace Race
Shawn Fremstad
Modern Family Progressivism
Joseph Essertier
Julian Assange, Thanks for Warning Japanese About Washington
William Minter
How Africa Could Power a Green Revolution
December 10, 2019
Tony McKenna
The Demonization of Jeremy Corbyn
John Grant
American Culture Loves a Good Killer
Jacob Hornberger
Afghanistan: a Pentagon Paradise Built on Lies
Nick Licata
Was Trump Looking for Corruption or a Personal Favor?
Thomas M. Magstadt
What’s the Matter With America?
Brian Tokar
Climate Talks in Madrid: What Will It Take to Prevent Climate Collapse?
Ron Jacobs
Where Justice is a Game: Impeachment Hearings Redux
Jack Rasmus
Trump vs. Democracy
Walden Bello
Capitalism with Chinese Characteristics
Binoy Kampmark
A Troubled Family: NATO Turns 70
Brian Horejsi
Citizens Are Never Trusted
Michael Barker
Self-Defense in the Civil Rights Movement: the Lessons of Birmingham, 1963
John Feffer
Soldiers Who Fight War
Howie Wolke
Willingness to Compromise Puts Wilderness at Risk
December 09, 2019
Jefferson Morley
Trump’s Hand-Picked Prosecutor John Durham Cleared the CIA Once, Will He Again?
Kirkpatrick Sale
Political Collapse: The Center Cannot Hold
Ishmael Reed
Bloomberg Condoned Sexual Assault by NYPD 
W. T. Whitney
Hitting at Cuban Doctors and at Human Solidarity
Louisa Willcox
The Grizzly Cost of Coexistence
Thomas Knapp
Meet Virgil Griffith: America’s Newest Political Prisoner
John Feffer
How the New Right Went Global — and How to Stop It
Ralph Nader
Why Not Also Go With “The Kitchen Table” Impeachable Offenses for Removal?
Robert Fisk
Meet the Controversial Actor and Businessman Standing Up Against Egypt’s el-Sisi
M. K. Bhadrakumar
Sri Lanka Continues Its Delicate Dance With India
Dahr Jamail
Savoring What Remains: Dealing With Climate PTSD
George Wuerthner
Bison Slaughter in Yellowstone…Again
Scott Tucker
Premature Democratic Socialists: Reasons for Hope and Change
Julian Rose
Polish Minister of Health Proposes Carcinogenic 5G Emission Levels as National Norm
Dean Baker
Coal and the Regions Left Behind
Robert Koehler
Envisioning a United World
Weekend Edition
December 06, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Jeffrey St. Clair
Eat an Impeachment
Matthew Hoh
Authorizations for Madness; The Effects and Consequences of Congress’ Endless Permissions for War
Jefferson Morley
Why the Douma Chemical Attack Wasn’t a ‘Managed Massacre’
Andrew Levine
Whatever Happened to the Obama Coalition?
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail