Whose lives mattered? How White and Black Americans felt about Black Lives Matter in 2016

Kevin Drakulich*, Kevin H. Wozniak, John Hagan, Devon Johnson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


White Americans, on average, do not support Black Lives Matter, while Black Americans generally express strong support. The lack of support among white Americans is striking, and we argue that it matters why this racial gap exists. Using a nationally representative survey collected during the crest of the first wave of widespread attention to the movement, we explore four potential explanations for interracial differences in feelings toward Black Lives Matter. These explanations reflect competing claims made by advocates and opponents of the movement and have distinct implications for understanding the meaning of these racial differences. Two explanations focus on attitudes toward the police, and two focus on racial prejudice. The results suggest that interracial differences in contact with the police mattered to views of the movement, though in opposite ways for white and Black Americans. Support for the movement among Black Americans was not motivated by an animosity toward the police. Ultimately, the lack of white support for Black Lives Matter was best explained by anti-Black animus and racial resentment, reflecting a concern about the threat this contemporary civil rights movement presents to the racial status quo.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)227-251
Number of pages25
JournalLaw and Society Review
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Law


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