Gun Violence

Racism in the Police Use of Force: the Implicit Bias Shoot-Don’t Shoot Game

Boy, Waffle House, a restaurant chain I hadn’t heard of until the shooting, is not having its best week, is it? First, there was racism-inspired shooting at its restaurant outside of Nashville, Tennessee. I tell you what, when you can’t even go out and close the bars and stop off at a waffle joint to finish the evening off without some mass shooter coming in and trying to mass shoot everybody, the country has gone to the dogs. This is beyond bad, it is just plain madness. Drunk people have got to be able to have they chicken and waffles on the way home in peace without fear of being in a mass shooting.

And, another thing America, when the po-po in cracker-white America takes your guns because you are too cray-cray to have them, don’t be giving them back. There is a reason the rural Christian conservative county government took them guns in the first place. Hell, I understand if it were some dumb gun-grabbing liberal court what took them guns, but a god-fearing Second Amendment-loving rural county court taking your guns? That’s some serious shit right there.

And then there was the racism-inspired violent arrest of a young woman the very next day! And, her crime? She was disputing plastic fucking cutlery. Hell, at least she weren’t minding her own bidness like those two lads up to Philadelphia in the Starbucks.

What the fuck, though? Plastic cutlery? Seriously? That’s a thing  to dispute over? Wallowing and rolling around on the ground like that. Threatening to break her arm. Exposing the poor woman’s breasts. What the fuck kind of arrest procedure is that? For plastic cutlery? Jesus Christ, when the police don’t show up to that call, laugh and tell everyone to go home, we’re so fucked if this what we’ve come to. Don’t take my word for it, just watch the video your own self.

Implicit Bias

Mixed in amongst all of the well-deserved outrage over all the racism liberally littering each of these incidents and the racism of the non-responses by the usual conservative suspects — correct me if I’m wrong, but I haven’t even read many thoughts and prayers responses to the shooting — is this little nugget from Vox: an extension the Harvard’s Project Implicit study of implicit racism. This time, though, it is in the form of a shooter game! And, it has been used on real live cops to see if they have a propensity for shooting unarmed black men over armed white men (spoiler: they do). And, now you too can see if you prefer shooting unarmed black men over armed white men! Isn’t America wonderful!?!

The Game

The game is easy to play, you just use your right hand to press the “j” key if you want to shoot the mo’fo,’ and your left hand to press the “f” key if you want to let the mo’fo’ live. You got one second to make your choice to kill or be killed so don’t tarry on your way to shooting some unarmed black man.

The Scoring

The scoring goes like this: You get five points if you choose not to shoot an unarmed person. You loose five points if you take too long and don’t either shoot or don’t shoot an unarmed person, but it is a whopping -50 points if you dither over an armed person, and you get the friendly message, you’re dead. If you shoot an armed person, you get ten points, and if you shoot an unarmed person, you loose between twenty and forty points.

The Game, Again

The game begins with a practice round. It’ll tell you when its done, so just keep shooting or not shooting until then. You get a series of three to five pictures of landscapes both urban and country before you get a person Photoshopped into one of the pictures. That person is either armed or not but is always holding something. After you shoot or don’t shoot, you get another series of three to five landscapes. Expect to spend about ten to fifteen minutes playing the game.

Once you’re done,  I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

My Take Aways

I was disappointed that by the end it did not give a break down of whether I was a scum-sucking racist preferring to shoot unarmed black men over all else or an angelic race ally refusing to shoot unarmed black men. Here are my other take aways:

  • I may have a wee bit of an implicit bias just judging by how often I shot the poor kid who was kneeling facing my right-his left and holding a black wallet in his left hand. I must’ve shot him three times. In my defense, I shot the white guy who was standing on the left side of the screen holding a cell phone in his right hand at least twice.
  • Cell phone and wallet manufacturers might could take a lesson from this game and make their products more easily and readily distinguishable from guns. I tell you, when the object is black, it is easy to confuse it with a gun.
  • The people standing at the sides with an object in their outside hand were the hardest to figure out. It must be a peripheral vision thing.
  • The good guy or teacher with a gun thing really takes a big hit. It is damn hard to decide who and what to shoot even without the necessity of aiming and only having one possible target in your field of vision. Seriously, you have a second to make your choice. If your field of vision were crowded with panicking, fleeing, hiding people, and someone was shooting at you, you’d be hard pressed not to just empty your clip at everything that moved. Christ, the idea that in a very confused situation, anyone without extensive training is going to do anything besides cause more death and misery is just a pipe dream.
  • If the object is obscured by blending into something into the background, you’re likely to shoot, too. Anything that interferes with your ability to see the outline of the gun clearly, is likely to cause you to shoot an unarmed person: appearing on the periphery of the screen, holding the object even further towards the periphery (left, right, up, or down), blending with the background, two hands extended, two objects held.

19 replies »

  1. An officer has a split second to make a choice. My shooting from beginning to end with 5 bullets fired was 5 seconds. I had less than a second to take in the totality of that was going on. A fake gun that looks real, is real to a police officers brain.

    This group is interesting. We started a Podcast/blog (through WordPress) that has reached over 30,000 people called Policing in Black and White. We DO NOT make money from this. We are TWO FORMER COPS who host a show for both sides of the community. We tell it like it is. If a cop is wrong, we nail him. We stick up for citizens of any skin color if they have been wronged. We also supports police who are in the right as well. We use our real stories as officers to communicate to the public. Both hosts were involved in deadly shootings as well. Feel free to listen and use our comment page!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Howdy Policing!

      The Harvard Implicit Bias studies including the shoot-don’t shoot version is designed to address implicit bias. When police take the test or similar, it turns out that they shoot black men more often than white men whether either are armed or not. It is a finding that has a strong correlation.

      By using a statistical analysis of the police shootings, arrest rates, indictment rates, conviction rates, incarceration rates, and execution sentences, it takes away individual circumstances and any personal commentary. It addresses our judicial system and our society. The clear conclusion is that our system is biased against black men.

      One reason that the Harvard Implicit Bias studies have validity is the rate at which our brain can process information and how much information it can process. As has been discussed in other posts, human beings — all mammals — are emotional decision makers. Essentially, the brain has two systems — an emotional system and a rational system. The emotional system is always on, requires no conscious effort, and is very fast. Everything a person encounters results in an emotional reaction to it. It is split second fast. Our rational system is only on when needed, requires conscious effort to use, and is slow. In an encounter where you have less than a second to decide to shoot or not shoot, it is the emotional decision maker at work. Because skin color is an extremely easily seen feature and evokes a strong emotional reaction, it carries a lot of influence in these hurried decisions. If a bias is revealed in an individual’s test, it is very likely to be true. If it is demonstrated over a large representative sample of a population, we can begin to conclude that it is true for that population.

      The science here is fairly well established and very strong. You should take a second look at the implicit bias research, especially that which pertains to police.

      Like y’all, I tell it like it is. If the science is bad, I nail it, and I don’t use it. I apply the science to situations I find in the news to help us better understand the reasons why things happen and to understand the individuals involved. It is my belief that by understanding the situations better, we can make a more accurate attempt at fixing those situations.

      I’m looking forward to listening to some of your podcasts.



      • Hey Jack!

        I actually read that article. I find most of it to be fact. The one thing I did have an issue with was the thought process. During my shooting…I honestly couldn’t tell you what color the suspect’s skin was. It was a bright sunny day. I was told after, that they were Asian. You could have told me they were black and I would’ve accepted it.

        We later used a high-tech machine to see if untrained civilians could differentiate between skin color within 1-2 seconds. We used the machine and told them to only shoot the white suspects, and not the black. Not one person passed. I think there is something to be said for that.

        As far as the rest of the article, I think it is right on point. I hope you listen to some of our shows. It involves crude humor, but that is our way of reaching listeners. If we were just two cops preaching, we would have no success. I look forward to having more conversations with you as you seem very well educated on these types of subjects.


        Liked by 1 person

        • Howdy Tim!

          Thanks for reading the article and commenting.

          You not knowing the skin color of a person in a stressed five second interaction is actually the point of the Harvard Implicit Bias study. Your conscious mind didn’t know. Your emotional mind did. It operates outside of your conscious awareness.

          You know, I love me some crude humor, so I’ll be listening… and commenting.



  2. When I worked for the parole department of a particularly southern cowboy BS state, I had to “play” the game you are speaking about…or one very similar to it. What absolutely bumfuzzled me at the end of it all was the “scoring” differences between black officers, white officers and the females of whatever race. The black officers tended to shoot a bit slower..the white males tended to shoot all the black people in the game regardless and a few whites with machine guns..the women though..they were not only MUCH slower o shoot but got the armed people significantly more often than the male officers, and made less mistakes. Make what you will of it……parole just implied we of the female persuasion were more likely to be shot before we stopped the perp. morons.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Howdy Suze!

      It is amazing how you can internalize racism or sexism or ageism or homophobia and use it against yourself… I know it isn’t what you’re talking about, exactly, but when you think about black police officers discriminating against black citizens and participating in the abuse of black citizens, it is. Just because someone of the abused group is participating in meting out the abuse don’t make it any less racist, sexist, etc.

      The shooting pecking order is the perfect illustration of white male privilege: I’m white and male, so I get to murder who I want.

      What a lovely world we live in.



  3. The game reminds me of the scene in the movie “Men In Black” in which Will Smith’s character has to pass the same type of test deciding which scary alien to shoot. Also, people tend to forget that in the vast majority of police interactions that involve a gun or suspected gun, it is a handgun, not a rifle or shotgun which are far more easily identified. What the game does not seem to cover is the question of shooting someone just because they have (or seem to have) a gun without knowing what they intend to do with it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Howdy Bob!

      Given the spate of police murdering unarmed black people, there have been a few articles comparing how police confront white armed threatening people without shooting them. In fact the great lengths the police will go to to avoid shooting a white armed person pointing a gun at them shouting about shooting them. The van driver in Toronto had killed people and when confronted by police was asking to be shot and claimed to have a gun. He wasn’t shot.

      If there were a clearer example of the racism inherent in our culture, well, I guess it’d have to be slavery.


      Liked by 1 person

      • The common thread is that some people are expendable and others are not so much. Another telling difference, when it comes to suspects who have killed a number of people in the same event, is that the white killer has a mental health problem (i.e., not typical of his race [supposedly]) while the killer of color (or immigrant, or non-Christian) is a terrorist.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Howdy Bob!

          As the week has progressed, I have found myself thinking more and more about who has empathy for whom. Empathy is key when we act with disregard for the needs and motivations of others. Empathy can explain why the white dominated media describe white mass shooters as mentally ill, blacks as criminal, and Muslims as terrorists. But, it also explains the rapid escalation of aggression by the police when dealing with people of color and the willingness to call the police on people of color.

          Good food for thought.



      • CalicoJack – You are conflating a few things here, firstly that was a Canadian cop not an American, they fire their weapons far less. Second you are assuming he wasn’t shot simply because he was white. If you watch the video the cop clearly steps out from behind the cover of his car, presumably because he’s assessed the threat as being an attempted ‘suicide-by-cop’ and this guy really didn’t have a gun (why run over people and then stand there if you have a gun, why not carry on…)
        I’m not sure why you think a Canadian cop not shooting a suspect proves systemic racism, but I guess that’s the blogs’s agenda.
        That’s not to say some /American/ cops are not racist, don’t shoot black people more or that cultural racism isn’t a thing, just that this Canadian event isn’t the poster child for any of that, and it’s somewhat offensive that you are basically calling that cop a racist for just doing his job well.


        • Howdy Cracker!

          I don’t know what video you’re referring to, but the video in the post was shot in a Waffle House in Alabama. I don’t know what shooting you’re referring to, either. I reference the Nashville Waffle House shooting explicitly, but no others. You seem to be talking about the Toronto incel terrorist attack and subsequent arrest. But, you betray your own argument. If the incel lad had been in the US and black, the likelihood of him just being shot dead would be high. Too many unarmed non-threatening black men have been shot dead in the US by US cops is too high to conclude otherwise.

          The thing that “proves” systematic racism is the overwhelming statistics about the how the US justice system treats black people differently than white people. This extends from the number of shootings to arrests to convictions and executions. The statistical evidence is so overwhelming that it is incontrovertible except by those who have a political axe to grind.



      • bobcabkings – Agreed, but where would you go from there? Mentally ill “Christians” committing terrorist attacks don’t appear to be doing so from specific religious teachings, but simply because they inherit a vague bunch of Judeo-Christian values as a result of their culture and are pushing back against social changes they don’t like.
        Mentally ill “Muslims” committing terrorist attacks appear to be doing so because they have been fed a radicalised version of Islam and are vulnerable enough to act on that.
        Recently the French proposed redacting those parts of the Quran that seemed to be linked to radicalisation, but the muslim community reacted negatively. (AFAIK there’s not the same Old/New Testament divergence in Islam that otherwise allows Christians to ignore teachings about stoning etc). There is an issue of self enforcing isolation here because they have had no equivalent of the Council of Nicaea.
        The point of Christian terrorism is to change gay/abortion laws, the point of Islamic terrorism is to make mankind submit to Islam, this isn’t just white biased labelling of non-normal behaviour, there is an inherent truth here too.
        Liberal Democracy trumps Christianity, but Liberal Democracy is also what Islam specifically rejects.


        • Howdy Cracker!

          Glad to see you sticking around and commenting.

          The desire to change gay and abortion laws to the are more in line with a conservative Christian interpretation of the Biblical teachings is attempting to impose a narrow conservative Christian interpretation of Biblical teachings on the rest of us whether we are conservative Christians, liberal Christians, or another religion. It is a defacto imposition of religious belief. Your claim that there is an inherent truth to the conservative Christian interpretation of Biblical teachings that other Christians do not share is evidence of this. This is a very good example of motivated reasoning. You have come to your conclusion, now you must find evidence to justify it.

          Islam, like Christianity, does not reject or accept political systems. It may judge a political system based on its morality. Because over 99% of Muslims live without committing terrorist acts, and the vast majority of Muslims living in the US and Europe accept democracy, I would say there is a compatibility between Islam and democracy. Again, motivated reasoning pushes you to misinterpret what is plainly obvious.

          Self-reinforcing views developing in isolation is not a problem unique to Islamic-based terrorists. It is a necessary but not sufficient cause of terrorism whether Islamic-based, Christian-based, or politically-based. The anti-abortion movement is just one example in the US. The bombings of abortion clinics, the assassination of abortion doctors, the extreme harassment of clinic patients are all born of an ideology that teaches defending “innocent” life, which I’ll note does not extend to all life, just that which the anti-abortionists deem innocent.



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