WASHINGTON, D.C. - Protests have broken out across the country following the grand jury's decision in Ferguson to not indict Darren Wilson, the white police officer who shot and killed unarmed black teenager Michael Brown in August.
The protests take on a heightened significance in light of research that shows a stark gap between black and white Americans when it comes to attitudes about racial fairness. In a 2013 survey, the Pew Research Center found that blacks are much more likely than whites to say that blacks in their community were treated less fairly than whites in dealing with the police, in the courts, and in other contexts.
When you look at the statistics, these attitudes make sense. Among those younger than 18, black youth are twice as likely to be arrested than white youth, according to data analyzed by the Sentencing Project. This disparity exists despite the fact that studies have shown youth of color and white youth commit the types of crimes that make up the bulk of arrests-- burglary, theft and arson--at the same rates. Although juvenile arrest rates have fallen significantly in the past 20 years, juvenile arrest rates for blacks have stayed the same.
And here's the most shocking number: Young black males were 21 times more likely than their white peers to be shot dead by police officers between 2010 in 2012, according to an analysis by ProPublica.
What these numbers make clear is that when it comes to law enforcement and the criminal justice system, white and black Americans have had very different experiences, which helps explain the gulf in attitudes.
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