STUDY: Half of Black Millenials Know a Victim of Police Violence, Still See Cops as Protectors

By Kenrya Rankin Nov 06, 2015

A new report examines how black millennials interact in their social and political environment, delving into everything from their relationship with law enforcement to workplace discrimination. Perhaps unsurprisingly, it uncovered that back in 2009—before the deaths of Michael Brown, Aiyana Stanley-Jones and Tamir Rice at the hands of police—more than half of young black people said that they knew someone who had been the victim of police violence or harassment.

The report, “Black Millennials in America,” was created by Black Youth Project, a Chicago-based organization dedicated to researching and spotlighting the lived experiences of young black Americans. Researchers polled a total of 6,000+ black, Latino and white millennials (ages 18 to 29) in via three rounds of surveys in 2005, 2008 and 2009, and 2012 to 2014. They also pulled data from the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Key findings:

  • They have a complicated relationship with police. More than half (54.4 percent) of young black people surveyed say that either they or someone they know have been harassed by police or been the victim of police violence. That number goes down to 32.8 percent of whites and 24.8 percent of Latinos. Meanwhile, 66.1 percent of blacks (74.4 percent of Latinos and 80.3 percent of whites) think the police in their neighborhood are there to protect them. But just 44.2 percent of blacks surveyed actually trust the police. “We know that young blacks are more likely to be harassed by the police. We know that they are more likely to mistrust their encounters with the police,” Cathy Cohen, leader of the Black Youth Project, said in a statement. “But we also know from actually collecting data that a majority of them believe that police in their neighborhood are actually there to protect them, so I think it provides us with more complexity.”
  • Unemployment is rampant. While just 8.5 percent of whites ages 20 to 24 are unemployed, 10.3 percent of Latinos and 16.6 percent of black youth are out of work.
  • Work is a hostile environment for many black women. More than one in three young black women experience discrimination at work, versus 13.9 percent of white women and 21.2 percent of Latinas.
  • Poverty has a firm hold. Fully 32 percent of black youth ages 18 to 24 were living below the poverty line in 2013, compared to 21 percent of Latinos and 17 percent of whites.
  • Gun violence is a concern. Black (41.2 percent) and Latino (42.8 percent) youth are “very” or “somewhat” afraid of gun violence. And 76.2 percent of blacks think it’s more important to control gun ownership than to protect the rights of gun owners, versus just 42.8 percent of whites.
  • Voting is a priority. When it comes to voting in presidential elections, 45.9 percent of black youth cast their vote in 2012, versus 41.4 percent of whites. And 79 percent of blacks think they can make a difference by voting.


Read the full report here.