SPPS needs to retract Cesario’s False Claims about Racial Bias in Police Shootings

Academia is very slow in correcting itself. This is typically not a problem in psychological science because many articles do not have immediate real world consequences. However, when they do, it is important to correct mistakes as quickly as possible. The question whether (If there is any doubt about it) or how much racial bias in policing contributes to the racial disparity in victims of lethal use of force is one of them. While millions of Americans are demonstrating in the streets to support the Black Lives Matter movement, academics are slow to act and to show support for racial equality.

In 2019, the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science (SPPS) published an article by Cesario et al. with the controversial claim that there is no evidence that racial bias contributes to racial disparities in lethal use of force. The article even came to the opposite conclusion that police offers have a bias to shoot more White people than Black people. The article was edited and approved for publication by Lee Jussim, who is know for tirades against liberal-bias in academia. I cannot speak for him and he has repeatedly denied an opportunity to explain his decision. So, I have no evidence to disprove the hypothesis that he accepted the article because the conclusion fitted his conservative anti-anti-racism world-view. This would explain why he overlooked glaring mistakes in the article.

The main problem with this article is that it is unscientific. It is actually one of the worst articles I have ever seen and trust me, I have read and critiqued a lot of bad science. Don’t take my word for it. Aside from myself, SPPS received two other independent criticism of the article. My critique was rejected with the argument that one of the other criticisms was superior. After reading it, I agreed. It is a meticulous, scientific take-down of the garbage that Lee Jussim accepted for publication. I was happy that others agreed with me and made the point more clearly than I could. I was waiting patiently for it to be published. Then George Floyd was murdered on camera and the issue of racial bias in policing led to massive protests and swift actions.

During this time everybody was looking for the science on racial bias in policing. I know because my blog-posts about Cesarios’s fake science received a lot of views. The problem was that Cesario’s crappy science was published in prestigious, peer-reviewed journals, which made him the White expert on racial bias in policing. He happily responded to interview requests and presented his work as telling the true scientific story. The take down of his SPPS article that undercut his racist narrative was still not published.

On May 29, I emailed the current editor of SPPS to ask when the critique would be published.

“Dear. Dr. Monteith,    given recent events, I am wondering where we are with the response to the SPPS article that makes false claims about lethal use of force against Black Americans. Is there a preprint of the response or anything that can be shared in public? “

Margo Monteith emailed me that there is no problem with sharing the article.

“I don’t see a problem with Cody putting his article online; SAGE has agreed that it will be an open access article (and they will feature on the SPPS website). I am only posting the main points to honor the request not to publish the entire article. “

I was waiting for it to be published by SPPS, but it is still not published, so I [edited on 6/19/20] shared it on June 17. It actually was published today on June 19th (pdf). ] Everybody needs to know that there is no scientific credibility to Ceario’s claims.

However, publishing a correction is not enough. Cesario and racists ideologists like Heather MacDonald will continue to use the published articles to make false claims in public. We cannot allow this. The critic of Cesario’s article is strong enough to show that the conclusions rest entirely on racists assumptions. In short, Cesario et al simply assume that police only kill violent criminals to end up with their conclusion that given crime rates, police are too soft on violent Black criminals. The problem with this racist conclusion is clear. The assumption that police only use lethal force against known violent criminals is plain wrong and we have many videos of innocent Black victims killed by police to prove it. If you draw conclusions from a false premise, your conclusions are false. It is as simple as that. The assumption is nothing but a racist stereotype about Black people. This racist assumption should never have been published in a scientific journal. The only way to rectify the mistake is to retract the article so that Cesario can no longer use the mantel of science to spread racist stereotypes about African Americans.

Please read the rebuttal (sorry, it is a bit statistics heavy, but you can get the main points without the formulas). If you agree that the original article is flawed, I ask you to show your support with BLM and your commitment to racial equality and let SPPS know that you think the original article needs to be retracted.

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