According to polling by the Public Religion Research Institute, the percent of American who say that the criminal justice system treats black people unfairly rose by 9 percentage points in just one year. In fact, every category of person polled was more likely to think so in 2014 than in 2013, including Republicans, people over 65, and whites.
The biggest jump was among young people 18-29, 63% of whom believed the criminal justice system was unfair in 2014, compared to 42% in 2016. The smallest jump was among Democrats — just 3 percentage points — but they mostly thought the system was jacked to begin with.
America has a history of making changes once police violence is caught on tape and shared widely. One of the first instances was after police attacked peaceful Civil Rights marchers in Selma, Alabama. The television had just become a ubiquitous appliance and the disturbing images of brutality were hard to ignore when they flashed across living rooms.
The death of Mike Brown in Ferguson, MO, and the aftermath is the likely candidate for this change. If you do a quick Google Image search for the word “ferguson,” the dominant visual story of that conflict seems solidly on the side of the protesters, not the police.
Click to see these images larger and judge for yourself:
H/t @seanmcelwee.Lisa Wade, PhD is a Visiting Scholar at Tulane University. She is the author of American Hookup, a book about college sexual culture; a textbook about gender; and a forthcoming Introduction to Sociology text. You can follow her on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.