A new study from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill contradicts previous findings from research suggesting taller men have more advantages in life as it doesn't take into account the unique experiences of black men. The new study found taller black men were more disproportionately targeted by cops than white men at any height.
Neil Hester, a social psychology Ph.D. candidate, and his advisor, associate professor Dr. Kurt Gray, analyzed data from more than 1 million New York Police Department (NYPD) stop-and-frisk encounters from 2006 to 2013. By analyzing police records of the encounters, which listed height and date of birth information, they found troubling statistics on disparities with black men as their heights increased.
Hester and Gray analyzed information of black men and white men at three different height levels. At 5 feet 4 inches, black men were stopped 4.5 times more than white men of the same height. At 5 feet 10 inches, black men were stopped 5.3 times more than white men of the same height. The disparity increased more for black men at 6 feet 4 inches; they were stopped 6.2 times more than white men of the same height.
Racial disparities in the stop-and-frisk policy is not new. In 2013, a federal judge ruled New York City's stop-and-frisk policy was unconstitutional due to the disproportionate number of black and Hispanic targets. This new study takes a more nuanced look at the racial disparity for black men and how it intersects with height.
"The findings were interesting because the way height is discussed in psychology literature, and day-to-day, is height is a really good thing for men, and a lot of research has shown that," Hester told Blavity. "But that research has almost exclusively used white male targets..."
He also added, "I think that social psychology has made a lot of progress in understanding exactly why and how people show racial prejudices and have certain racial stereotypes. But we need to move toward a more nuanced understanding of how race intersects with other factors to produce specific stereotypes or unique patterns of stereotypes."
With the NYPD findings, Hester and Gray then conducted experiments to analyze how the intersection of race and height affected the way black men were perceived. They photographed 16 men, eight black and eight white, from different perspectives to change the perception of their heights. Once the experiment identified which photos made the men appear taller to the participants, they gave the participants a list of questions about their perceptions on the race and the men in the photographs.
RT In place of stop-and-frisk, "omnipresence" -- interesting backgrounder on the light towers in place at city's public housing from untappedcities https://t.co/AIZAKPXML2 pic.twitter.com/aQYVJ8hXRw BrooklynBased #nyc #newyork— NYFreeGuide (@NYFreeGuide) March 7, 2018
Hester explained that participants who expressed racial stereotypes about black men being more threatening in general also rated taller black men as more threatening than shorter black men. Conversely, for white men, their heights made no difference. In fact, the participants identified taller white men as more competent.
Hester and Gray plan to use the stop-and-frisk data to collect experimental data as it relates to intersections of height and race with age.