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New Studies on Talking about Race in Families and How Interactions Build or Erode Police-Community Trust

New research conducted by SPARQ Co-Director Jennifer Eberhardt and colleagues have uncovered racial disparities in family conversations in the home following George Floyd's death.
Nicky Sullivan, Jennifer Eberhardt, and Steven Roberts

“If parents do not talk with their children about racism, they will be ineffective in teaching their children how to combat racism.” In a new study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, SPARQ Co-Director Jennifer Eberhardt, SPARQ Faculty Affiliate Steven Roberts, and Stanford PhD student Nicky Sullivan examined how Black and White parents talked to their kids about racism before and after George Floyd’s tragic death. They found that after Floyd’s murder, Black parents talked about race, racial inequality, and racial identity with their kids more while White parents were more likely to share colorblind messages. 

"American racism is alive and well," Roberts said. “The first step is to acknowledge the history and contemporary reality of racism in the U.S. One cannot fight what one does not see.”

Police Car

In another recent study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, SPARQ Co-Director Jennifer Eberhardt and Faculty Affiliates Nick Camp, Rob Voigt, and Dan Jurafsky found further evidence that police officers treat Black and White drivers differently – you can hear it in their tone of voice. The researchers examined short audio clips from body camera footage during traffic stops and found that officers exhibit less warmth and respect in their voices when talking to Black drivers than they do when talking with White drivers. The researchers also found evidence that these subtle negative cues in officers’ tone of voice erode citizens’ trust in the police. “We really wanted to see if there were differences in the most common and routine interactions,” says Camp. “But even with these routine encounters, we see disparities, and they  have consequences.” 

Check out where the study has been featured: