What Ferguson Tells Us About Policing, the Legal System, and Young People of Color

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The killing of eighteen-year-old Michael Brown by former Ferguson, Missouri police officer Darren Wilson has rightfully garnered national attention. It is important, however, to note that the tension between police forces and Black communities is nothing new, nor is it confined to Ferguson, Missouri. 

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BYP Memo: Young People’s Attitudes toward President Obama, Political Parties, and Government, Implications for the Midterm Elections

Members of the crowd cheers as US Presid

The media often report that young people are disengaged from midterm elections. Understanding how young people feel about President Obama and the major political parties, as well as their beliefs about how well they can effect political change, can shed light on the role they will play in this election cycle. 

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BYP Memo: The Policing of Black Communities and Young People of Color


Eighteen-year-old Michael Brown’s murder by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri has focused the nation’s attention on racial disparities in the law enforcement system. Brown’s case is not an isolated incident. Along with Brown, the cases of Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis in Florida and, more recently, Eric Garner in New York and Ezell Ford in Los Angeles, all tell stories of how unarmed Black men became victims of police forces charged with serving and protecting their communities and are then denied justice by the legal system.

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BYP Memo: Moving Beyond Marriage, What Young People of Color Think about the LGBT Agenda

Over the last decade, we have witnessed a dramatic shift in how the public and the courts view same-sex marriage. Much of the reporting on this issue focuses on the overwhelming levels of support for same-sex marriage from the millenial generation. But as victories pile up for the marriage equality movement, we know much less about how young people view the LGBT agenda, and whether young people of color believe the LGBT agenda best serves their communities. These questions are particularly important as LGBT organizations negotiate policies such as the Employment Non-Discrimination Act and prepare strategies around other important LGBT issues.
Our latest report provides answers to these questions using a nationally representative survey of 1,500 young people between the ages of 18 and 30 conducted during June 2014. Our main findings are as follows:
  • More Black (80.2%) and Latino (74.9%) youth believe the marriage equality movement has taken too much attention away from other important LGBT issues compared to white youth (64.0%).
  • More Black youth (58.0%) believe that LGBT issues in communities of color are not well-represented by mainstream LGBT organizations than Latino (45.9%) and white youth (42.7%).
  • More than a third (35.0%) of Black youth reported that HIV/AIDS is the single most important issue for LGBT organizations to address. Latino youth reported that bullying (20.1%) is the most important issue, while white youth (21.3%) reported that same-sex marriage is the most important issue.
  • Young people of color are more supportive of policies that would provide sensitivity training for police around transgender issues (77.8% and 73.2%, respectively) and require health insurers to provide coverage for transgender health issues (64.5% and 65.8%, respectively) than white youth (66.2% and 56.3%, respectively).

BYP Memo: What Young People Think About the Affordable Care Act

affordable care act

Next week, the first round of open enrollment under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) will close until October. Policymakers and pundits have speculated about how young people will respond to the ACA general, and the individual mandate in particular. The success of the ACA depends in part on the willingness of young people to either sign up for health coverage, or pay the penalty. We are one of the few organizations to collect data from a nationally representative sample of young people to investigate what young people really think about the ACA.

In this report, we discuss the findings from a national survey we conducted in January 2014 of 1,500 young people under the age of 30. We find the following:

  • More than 80 percent of Black youth approve of the ACA compared with 51.8  percent of Latino youth and 34.0 percent of white youth.
  • Black youth support the individual mandate at higher rates (41.4 percent) than either Latino youth (33.4 percent) or white youth (9.4 percent).
  • Black youth (9.5 percent) and Latino youth (7.7 percent) reported they signed up for coverage under the ACA at more than double the rate of white youth (3.5 percent).
  • Among the uninsured, 70 percent of Black youth reported they planned to sign up.


BYP Memo: Ukraine, Russia, and Support for Military Conflict Among America’s Youth


War has been a nearly constant feature of American life since 9/11. The ongoing dispute between Russia and Ukraine over the Crimean region has once again raised questions about the U.S. role in the world.

Some critics of the Obama administration, such as Senator John McCain, argue that the U.S. needs to demonstrate its strength in foreign policy. On March 6, the United States sent six F-15 fighter pilots to patrol the Baltic region; next week, another 12 F-16 fighters and 300 U.S. troops will be dispatched to Poland, while a naval destroyer will be sent to the Black Sea.

President Obama and many other domestic and international leaders have said that Russia violated international law through its intervention in Ukraine. Does this justify the use of American military forces? Young people comprise the vast majority of America’s armed forces, and people of color make up a larger percentage of active duty personnel compared with the general population.

According to the latest BYP memo, attitudes toward military conflict among young people reveal that in general, they support military conflict at slightly lower levels than the population as a whole. young people of color are considerably less supportive of military conflict than white youth. Compared with white youth, young Blacks and Latinos are much less supportive of using military force for the purposes of upholding international law, but young people of all racial groups are strongly opposed to the use of military to spread democracy abroad.


BYP Memo: Equal Protection? Race and Young People’s Attitudes Toward the Legal System


The verdicts in the Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis cases have focused increased attention on racial disparities in the American justice system, and according to The BYP’s latest memo, nearly three-quarters of Black Youth believe the legal system does not treat all groups equally, a rate considerably higher than that for white and Latino youth.

Similarly, only about 60 percent of Black youth report feeling like full and equal citizens with all the same rights and protections as everyone else, compared with 64.1 percent of Latino youth and 72.9 percent of white youth.

The findings come from a survey of 1,500 young people ages 18 to 29 to gauge their attitudes toward the legal system and examine to what degree they feel fully protected under the law.

What do such feelings of distrust and political alienation mean for the functioning of our democracy? Please read the full report to find out.


BYP Memo: The Effects of North Carolina’s New Electoral Reforms on Young People of Color


In August 2013, North Carolina enacted one of the nation’s most comprehensive reforms of the voting process. Under the new law, early voting will be reduced, Election Day-registration will be eliminated, and every voter will have to produce government-issued identification. These reforms are likely to have disproportionate effects on young people of color; shortening the early voting period is likely to significantly reduce turnout among Black youth, while the elimination of Election Day-registration is likely to have especially negative effects on turnout among young Latinos, and the photo ID requirement may significantly reduce turnout among all young of color.

Prior to the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Shelby County v. Holder, such laws would have been subject to preclearance from the Department of Justice under the Voting Rights Act. The Justice Department is suing North Carolina in federal court to block implementation of the law; however, last week, it was announced that the lawsuit will not be heard until 2015, after the 2014 midterm elections.

In the latest BYP memo, researchers consider the possible effects of these new restrictions on voter turnout, focusing specifically on young people of color.


REPORT: Latino Youth Support Same-Sex Marriage At Much Higher Rates Than Black Youth

According to the Black Youth Project’s latest memo, Latino youth support same-sex marriage at much higher rates than Black youth, while support among white youth falls in between.Our analysis examined public opinion on same-sex marriage in 2009 and 2012, focusing on youth between the ages of 18 and 29.

Though it is commonly believed that generational changes are responsible for increased public support for same-sex marriage, we find that attitudes toward same-sex marriage among young people vary considerably.

In both 2009 and 2012, Black youth supported same-sex marriage at much lower rates than either white or Latino youth, who were the most supportive of same-sex marriage. While support for same-sex marriage among young people increased significantly across all racial groups between 2009 and 2012, Black youth continue to support same-sex marriage at lower rates than both white and Latino youth.

Black, white, and Latino youth are more supportive of same-sex marriage than older adults. However, the differences by age group are much smaller among Blacks than they are for either whites or Latinos.

Since 2009, the gender gap in support of same-sex marriage has declined among white and Latino youth, but has increased slightly among Black youth.

This latest report is the 13th in a series of memos entitled “Black and Latino Youth: The Future of American Politics” released by the Black Youth Project.

REPORT: The Millenial Generation’s “Time Tax” Obstacle


Americans aged 18 t o 29 are more racially diverse than the general population. With young people of color making up a pretty important share of the American electorate, their votes are critical in deciding the nation’s leaders. A new report released by the Advancement Project and OurTime.org called The Time Tax: America’s Newest Form of Voter Suppression for Millennials & How it Must Be Eliminated to Make Voting Accessible for the Next Generation, shows that the young population has a unique challenge when voting. The “time tax,” continues to cause an impact of voting in the country, particularly for young people of color.

The “time tax” is defined as, “disproportionately waiting in the nation’s longest lines to vote, time spent obtaining voter ID and the underlying documents required for ID, as well as other inconveniences.” The report also highlights a key fact: that young voters showed up to the polls in spite of such barriers.