Are White People Finally Coming Around on Police Brutality?

For a long time there’s been a huge Black-white gulf in opinions about police brutality: Black people think it’s common while white people think it’s rare. In a 1968 poll taken after the 1967 riots, for example, 51 percent of Black respondents said police brutality was a major cause of the violence. Only 10 percent of white respondents agreed. That’s a 41 point gap.

So what’s happened since then? It’s impossible to find polls with identical question wording, but I dug up a few that were all related to police use of force and had crosstabs for Black and white respondents. Here are the results:

Between 1968 and 2014, there’s no movement. But in 2019, five years after Ferguson, there’s a noticeable drop: white opinion is only 30 points different from Black opinion. And in a YouGov poll taken a few days ago, there’s yet another drop. By next week or the week after, who knows?

I’ll caution again not to read too much into this since each of these polls asks its question differently, but it looks like the events of the past five years really have changed white opinion a fair amount. If we go through another week like the last one, where smartphone video of obvious police brutality is leading the evening news night after night, we might get pretty close to zero. The George Floyd protests might be what finally awaken white America to the fact that Black movements against police abuse are, and always have been, justified and just.

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Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

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SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

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