On a blustery afternoon in January, a group of artists gathered at an East Village park in New York City. They lined-up black silhouette shooting range targets against a wall and fired-away with spray-paint.
Cypha, the artist leading the nascent movement to eliminate black targets, told NewsOne that the artists are “taking action and showing that art can change things.” No More Black Targets, as the movement is called, is raising awareness about how unconscious bias leads to the shooting of innocent Black males.
A 2015 study by researchers from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign inspired the movement. Yara Mekawi and co-author Konrad Bresin analyzed 42 different studies on how unconscious racial bias impacts a person’s decision to shoot a target depicting a Black person or White person.
Mekawi explained the findings to NPR:
“In our study, we found two main things: First, 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.”
No More Black Targets launched in January and is already creating quite a buzz. Its website explains the campaign and offers an opportunity to create a colorful target using design tools. The site also has a petition, urging visitors to vote to end the use of human black targets at shooting ranges.
The petition states:
“Young black men are 3X more likely to be shot by trained shooters than their white peers. A disturbing potential correlation: The most popular target for shooters to learn to use their firearm is a black silhouette. Unconscious bias can be deadly.”
Cypha said the collective of racially diverse artists have held several exhibits and events across the city, with plans to expand outside New York. He underscored that this movement is strictly about creating awareness toward reducing–if not eliminating–the fatal shooting of unarmed Black males.
“I’m a Black man and I think about these things. No one should wake up in the morning and think ‘are you next,’” said the artist, emphasizing that No More Black Targets is not an anti-police movement.
Art has a proven ability to effect change, said Cypha, who lectures about art and participates in exposing at-risk kids to art to keep them on the right path.
Another artist at the mural painting events, who’s known as 2 Cents, said she got involved in the movement because it’s focused on making positive change.
“When Cypha mentioned it to us at first, it was like, wow, why hasn’t anyone done this before, and then there’s the scientific research that backs up everything,” she stated to NewsOne. “People need to join forces and put something positive out there to the world.”
The growing movement formed a partnership with the New York Society for Ethical Culture. One of the organization’s leaders, Ann Klaeysen, told NewsOne that the Society knew immediately that a partnership with No More Black Targets would be “a perfect match for us.”
Klaeysen, who described herself as “a child of the 1960s,” views No More Black Targets as part of a larger movement that has picked up momentum since the election of Donald Trump. “It’s about finding common ground,” she explained.
The Society provides event space, promotion and connections. “It’s about empowering the movement,” Klaeysen stated.
She learned about No More Black Targets from the mother of her son’s best friend from kindergarten.
“My son is White and his friend Adam is Puerto Rican and Black,” she noted. “Adam is a target; my son is not. That’s not fair.”
Klaeysen, who is the Ethical Humanist Religious Life Adviser at Columbia University and Humanist Chaplain at New York University, said we’re all susceptible to unconscious racial bias.
She applauded No More Black Targets for “planting a seed” about this issue.