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Racist Conspiracy Theories Black Americans Believe Are Still Happening Today

Black Americans have always looked at U.S. institutions with a side-eye. History has given them many good reasons to doubt the fairness of institutions like the prison system and policing. This distrust has led the way for racist conspiracy theories to take root in Black communities, leaving generations suspicious of some of America’s biggest institutions.

A recent Pew Research report found that most Black Americans believe in racial conspiracy theories about U.S. institutions and say they were designed to hold Black people back.

What Is A Racial Conspiracy Theory?

In the report, the Pew Research Center defined a “racial conspiracy theory” as the suspicions that Black adults might have about the actions of U.S. institutions based on their personal and collective historical experiences with racial discrimination.

Unlike traditional conspiracy theories, racial conspiracy theories are often supported by historical evidence of intentional or negligent harm. Some examples include the Tulsa Race Massacre of 1921 and the Tuskegee Syphilis Study.

Racial discrimination also played a huge factor in why Black Americans believe so strongly in racial conspiracy theories. Most Black adults say they have experienced racial discrimination and that they’ve felt undermined because of it, according to part of the in-depth deep dive.

The Report

In the report, Pew surveyed 4,736 Black adults in the U.S. from Sept. 12 to 24, 2023, in English and Spanish. Although some responses varied based on gender, education, family income and political affiliation, most Black demographic subgroups believed in racial conspiracy theories.

One of the conspiracies with the most consensus was geared around the prison system.

According to the report, 82% of Black adults say they have heard the following racial conspiracy theory about the prison system: Black people are more likely than White people to be incarcerated because prisons want to make money on the backs of Black people. Seventy-four percent of Black adults believe this racial conspiracy theory is true and happening in the U.S. today.

Below are some of the most popular racial conspiracy theories from the report and the percentage of Black adults who believe they are still happening today:

  • Black public officials are singled out to be discredited in a way that doesn’t happen with white officials (76%)
  • Police do very little to stop guns and drugs from flooding Black communities (76%)
  • Black people are disproportionately incarcerated so prison can make money (74%)
  • Big businesses market luxury items to Black people to keep them in debt (67%)
  • Medical researchers experiment on Black people without their knowledge or consent (55%)
  • The government encourages single motherhood among Black women to eliminate the need for Black men (55%)
  • The government promotes birth control and/or abortion to keep the Black population small (51%)

Click here if you would like to read the entire report.

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