The often contentious relationship between U.S. law enforcement and young African-Americans predates the protest movement that has called attention to violence, harassment and profiling by police in the last year, according to a new survey of black millennials. The “Black Millennials in America” report, released Wednesday to the Associated Press, reveals that more than half of black youths have indicated they, or someone they knew, had been victims of violence or harassment from law enforcement.
But even during the national protest movements, under the banners of “Black Lives Matter” and “Say Her Name,” 71 percent of the black millennials surveyed said they believed police were "there to protect [them.]" By comparison, 85 percent of whites, 76 percent of Latinos and 89 percent of Asians in the U.S. also said police were there to protect them, according to the survey.
Information in the report -- said to be the first of its kind from the Black Youth Project at the Study of Race, Politics and Culture at the University of Chicago -- also revealed a sharp disparity of attitudes among black, Latino, Asian and white millennials when it comes to the U.S. policing, guns and the criminal justice system. The millennials, born between the late 1980s and the early 2000s, had been surveyed by researchers several times over the past decade, the AP reported.
"We see story after story about how this leads into a more combative situation which has escalated and led to, in some instances, tragic outcomes," said Jon Rogowski, assistant political science professor at Washington University in St. Louis, who co-authored report. "So the experiences that these different communities have had based on where they live and the kinds of policing procedures that are in place there, we would argue, lead to these different patterns."
The study comes as U.S. leaders and community activists struggle over reforming law enforcement practices, an effort spurred by reactions to the deaths of young black men at the hands of police. Those deaths include Trayvon Martin, a 17-year-old killed by a vigilante in Florida three years ago; Michael Brown, an 18-year-old killed by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, last year; and Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old who died in police custody in Baltimore earlier this year.