American Renaissance

U-M Study Details Racial Bias

1 in 3 African-Americans say they have been mistreated by police

Geoff Larcom, The Ann Arbor News, Jan. 23

Nearly one out of three African-Americans report that they have been unfairly stopped, searched and physically abused or threatened by the police, according to a University of Michigan study.

The study of a national sample of more than 6,000 people is the most recent to detail different levels of major discrimination, racial attitudes and exposure to everyday stress among black and white Americans.

U-M researchers say the study shows that African-Americans are much less likely today than they were in 1980 to believe that whites want to see them get a better break in life. Researchers noted that 14.4 percent of African-Americans today thought most white people wanted to see blacks get a better break, compared to 22.6 percent in 1980.

“These findings show that black Americans today continue to face substantial levels of racism and discrimination that may well turn out to have direct effects on physical and mental health,” said James Jackson, a senior research scientist at the U-M Institute for Social Research who headed up the study.

The survey, released Thursday, was funded by the National Institutes of Health and conducted between February 2001 and March 2003. Among its findings:

28.2 percent of African-Americans, 27.5 percent of Afro-Caribbeans and 17 percent of whites said they had been unfairly stopped, searched, questioned, physically threatened or abused by the police.

In response to a question about how often certain things happen in their everyday lives, about 23 percent of African-Americans reported that people acted as if they were not smart several times a month or more, compared with 19 percent of Afro-Caribbeans and only about 10 percent of whites.

Nearly 15 percent of African-Americans and Afro-Caribbeans, compared to only about 1 percent of whites, said they were followed around in stores a few times a month or more by store employees.

In the area of mental health, researchers said the survey showed surprisingly low rates of depression among African-American men and exceptionally low rates of all mental health problems, except post-traumatic stress disorder, among Afro-Caribbean women.

The study also shows that African-American women are nearly twice as likely as African-American men to have suffered a bout of major depression sometime in their lives (13.1 percent vs. 7.4 percent).

By contrast, 10 percent of Afro-Caribbean women and 12.6 percent of Afro-Caribbean men report suffering from major depression sometime in their lives, compared to 20.1 percent of white women and 16.1 percent of white men surveyed.

The study is the first known to include a national probability sample of blacks of Caribbean ancestry. Overall, 58 percent of the people interviewed were African-American, 26 percent were black with Caribbean ancestry and 16 percent were non-Hispanic whites.

Jackson noted the striking differences shown between African-Americans and Afro-Caribbeans. “Our data show that the simplistic notion of a black-and-white world is no longer tenable,” he said.

Jackson said that Afro-Caribbeans experience living conditions that are very different from most native-born African-Americans.

“If you live under very stressful conditions, you have to work harder to maintain your mental health,” he said.