NYC action in solidarity with Ferguson. Mo, encouraging a boycott of Black Friday Consumerism.

The APA Findings on Racial Bias Against Black Men are Important—But Not Enough

The American Psychological Association (APA) has recently released a study confirming what we already know: Racial bias makes people perceive black men as larger and more threatening than white men of the same size. The study adds to a body of research which reiterates what black men and their communities experience everyday – that white supremacist society portrays them as inherently violent and threatening, leading to their increased criminalization and assault by police.

It’s a good work for white and non-black folks to use as a starting point to have conversations around racial justice. Yet in having these conversations we must look beyond the notion of implicit bias toward the work of radical black activists who remind us that racism is a structural, not just an interpersonal, issue.

We already know that racist bias against black people exists, and that it is fatal. News reports and testimonies from killers alike have used the language of physical monstrosity to describe black victims of police violence. And psychologists point to not just explicit racism, but implicit bias as rampant in policing. In order to help counter this, the study’s researchers suggest that officers be required to undergo training to isolate and root out their implicit biases.

Yet while the study is important, it’s also important to remember that bias itself is not the whole story, and bias training alone won’t suffice. Rather, bias is just the tip of the iceberg of a systemic and structural anti-blackness at play, from everyday interactions to the policing and prison system and beyond. As was analyzed in a recent UN report, anti-black racism has been built into the very foundations of American capitalism and the American social order – and dismantling this fatal racism requires a structural approach:

There is a profound need to acknowledge that the transatlantic trade in Africans, enslavement, colonization and colonialism were a crime against humanity and are among the major sources and manifestations of racism, racial discrimination, Afrophobia, xenophobia and related intolerance…Past injustices and crimes against African Americans need to be addressed with reparatory justice.

We owe this realization to the powerful work of black activists and intellectuals who have illuminated this system in the fight for their own dignity and lives. We can look toward Angela Davis’s work on prison abolition or the work of black and other feminists of color on the link between fighting sexual violence and fighting the carceral system. And many of these threads come together in the Movement for Black Lives’ visionary platform, which calls for – among other things – universal health care, divestment from policing and prisons, and reparations in the form of access to a basic minimum income and education.

You can find the study and the above resources here:

APA Study

Jamelle Bouie on the construction of black masculinity as super powerful and dangerous

Platform of the Movement for Black Lives

Angela Davis, Are Prisons Obsolete?

The Case Against Prisons

Image Credit: By The All-Nite Images from NY, NY, USA – Black Lives Matter Black Friday, Wikimedia Commons 

Reina Gattuso is passionate about empowering conversations around queerness, sexual ethics, and social movements with equal parts rhapsody and sass. Her writing has appeared at Time, Bitch, attn:, and The Washington Post. She is currently pursuing a masters degree in Indian cinema, theater, and visual art at Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi.

Reina Gattuso writes about her sex life for the good of human kind.

Read more about Reina

Join the Conversation