Do black human silhouette targets subliminally encourage police officers to shoot actual black people?
According to the No More Black Targets campaign, yes.
The group recently launched a Change.org petition in which they call upon the International Association of Law Enforcement Firearms Instructors to end the use of black silhouette targets in training exercises for law enforcement.
“Young black men are three times more likely to be shot by trained shooters than their white peers,” the campaign warns. “There’s a disturbing potential correlation — the most popular target for shooters to learn to use their firearm is a black silhouette.”
They cite “recent research on trigger bias” to argue that black humanoid targets make law enforcement officers more likely to shoot black people than white people.
The group references a study from the University of Illinois that they believe corroborates their concerns about “unconscious bias.”
One of the study’s researchers told NPR in 2015 that “people were quicker to shoot black targets with a gun, relative to white targets with a gun. And … people were more trigger-happy when shooting black targets compared to shooting white targets.”
But the University of Illinois study doesn’t actually make a connection between their findings and the use of black targets in training exercises. The research was not conducted using black silhouette targets but with actual images of black people.
The study concludes that people were quicker to shoot images of black people due to a “stereotype-consistent” response or because people simply perceive African-Americans to be more threatening. They never mention silhouette targets.
To fight the “the deadly epidemic of gun violence towards black people,” No More Black Targets proposes replacing black targets with “variations of more diverse target designs, changing from the negative stimulus shown in the study above.”
The group is partnering with the New York Society for Ethical Culture and includes “a collective of artists, diverse in backgrounds, ethnicities and nationalities, working in paint, digital media, pattern making and also physical installations.”
These individuals have created a number of alternative target designs, which they’ve published on their website. They also encourage others to create their own variations and submit them to the gallery.
The group hasn’t said whether gun owners will be able to order their own set of these targets and develop alternative trigger biases towards rainbows, graffiti, and psychedelic cloud patterns.
The petition has garnered 246 signatures as of February 21, 2017.