FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

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.

July 19, 2018
Rajai R. Masri
The West’s Potential Symbiotic Contributions to Freeing a Closed Muslim Mind
Jennifer Matsui
The Blue Pill Presidency
Ryan LaMothe
The Moral and Spiritual Bankruptcy of White Evangelicals
Paul Tritschler
Negative Capability: a Force for Change?
Patrick Bond
State of the BRICS Class Struggle: ‘Social Dialogue’ Reform Frustrations
Rev. William Alberts
A Well-Kept United Methodist Church Secret
Raouf Halaby
Joseph Harsch, Robert Fisk, Franklin Lamb: Three of the Very Best
George Ochenski
He Speaks From Experience: Max Baucus on “Squandered Leadership”
Ted Rall
Right Now, It Looks Like Trump Will Win in 2020
David Swanson
The Intelligence Community Is Neither
Andrew Moss
Chaos or Community in Immigration Policy
Kim Scipes
Where Do We Go From Here? How Do We Get There?
July 18, 2018
Bruce E. Levine
Politics and Psychiatry: the Cost of the Trauma Cover-Up
Frank Stricker
The Crummy Good Economy and the New Serfdom
Linda Ford
Red Fawn Fallis and the Felony of Being Attacked by Cops
David Mattson
Entrusting Grizzlies to a Basket of Deplorables?
Stephen F. Eisenman
Want Gun Control? Arm the Left (It Worked Before)
CJ Hopkins
Trump’s Treasonous Traitor Summit or: How Liberals Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the New McCarthyism
Patrick Bond
State of the BRICS Class Struggle: Repression, Austerity and Worker Militancy
Dan Corjescu
The USA and Russia: Two Sides of the Same Criminal Corporate Coin
The Hudson Report
How Argentina Got the Biggest Loan in the History of the IMF
Kenn Orphan
You Call This Treason?
Max Parry
Ukraine’s Anti-Roma Pogroms Ignored as Russia is Blamed for Global Far Right Resurgence
Ed Meek
Acts of Resistance
July 17, 2018
Conn Hallinan
Trump & The Big Bad Bugs
Robert Hunziker
Trump Kills Science, Nature Strikes Back
John Grant
The Politics of Cruelty
Kenneth Surin
Calculated Buffoonery: Trump in the UK
Binoy Kampmark
Helsinki Theatrics: Trump Meets Putin
Patrick Bond
BRICS From Above, Seen Critically From Below
Jim Kavanagh
Fighting Fake Stories: The New Yorker, Israel and Obama
Daniel Falcone
Chomsky on the Trump NATO Ruse
W. T. Whitney
Oil Underground in Neuquén, Argentina – and a New US Military Base There
Doug Rawlings
Ken Burns’ “The Vietnam War” was Nominated for an Emmy, Does It Deserve It?
Rajan Menon
The United States of Inequality
Thomas Knapp
Have Mueller and Rosenstein Finally Gone Too Far?
Cesar Chelala
An Insatiable Salesman
Dean Baker
Truth, Trump and the Washington Post
Mel Gurtov
Human Rights Trumped
Binoy Kampmark
Putin’s Football Gambit: How the World Cup Paid Off
July 16, 2018
Sheldon Richman
Trump Turns to Gaza as Middle East Deal of the Century Collapses
Charles Pierson
Kirstjen Nielsen Just Wants to Protect You
Brett Wilkins
The Lydda Death March and the Israeli State of Denial
Patrick Cockburn
Trump Knows That the US Can Exercise More Power in a UK Weakened by Brexit
Robert Fisk
The Fisherman of Sarajevo Told Tales Past Wars and Wars to Come
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail