Reflecting on my time at Boston University’s School of Public Health researching racism, firearm violence and police brutality, it is hard to believe that it is almost over. This experience has been very eye opening and I am thankful that I was able to work in issues that I am passionate about. I learned many interesting thing doing this research that has given me a new perspective on America. The first month and a half of my work, me and the two other interns created an entire database from 1990 to 2015 measuring various indicators of racism. We are the first to do this. There have been other articles claiming to measure the most racist states like this one for example, but it does not have multiple measurements or chart it for 25 years.
From our findings, I discovered that all 50 states have a massive problem and all struggle with racism, not just conservative states. I also learned that the Midwest is actually the worst area, while previously I believed that South would be the most racist. After gathering all of our data we began to analyze it and compared it to police shootings, firearm homicide rates and disparities between white and black victims. We discovered that disparities between firearm homicide rates are strongly correlated to the racism measurements, meaning that states that were more racist had higher numbers of black homicide rates. This discovery was not too surprising.
A discovery that did surprise me was that we did not find a strong correlation between the state level of racism and black-white disparities of people shot by police. This could be that some of the numbers we were working with were too small and skewed the data.
Another thing we measured was how states improved over the years and if they made any progress with these various measures. We discovered that there was a very strong negative correlation between disparities in police shootings and progress. This means that states that were working to be less racist and have improved over the course of 25 years had lower rates of disparities in police shootings, regardless of where they stand on the racist scale we invented. These were some of the sites that were useful when conducting our research.
All of the data was collected by me and two other interns, meaning that I had a significant impact on final results of this work. I believe that my work was vital and the three of us were very involved in this project. We are working to publish our database as well as writing a paper. We are allowing anyone to access this database, meaning I will have an impact on other research that is based off of this data. Before I stated that I was very overwhelmed by the workload, independence, and importance of the work I was doing. There is no other database measuring racism state by state for a span of 25 years. I was responsible for finding and plotting all the data and I was very worried that I would make a mistake or mess something up. After looking back on all the work I did, I wish that I can more trust and have confidence in myself.
The advice I would give to anyone else working on something similar would be to not be intimidated or overwhelmed by the work. To anyone who feels that they may be under-qualified for a position they were given, the best way to learn is through experience and hands-on work, not necessarily just schooling. I would also say that America is not completely doomed and there are people and organizations like BU committed to solving issues like these. I believe that by being given so much responsibility, I was able to accomplish more than I have ever thought I could.