The Real State Of Race Relations in America
Overall, when it comes to race-relations these days, Americans are as likely to be positive about the current state of the country as they are to be negative.
While an advancement such as this is welcome, a closer look reveals that the gap between whites’ and non-whites’ views of where the country stands is wider than at any point in recent history, with non-whites now almost twice as likely as whites to view the nation’s situation positively, while whites grow increasingly pessimistic.
There is a wider issue to do with emphasis. For example, 41% of blacks are currently satisfied with the way they are treated in society. This is considered good, relative to how it was back in the Nineties, when only 34% of blacks were satisfied. In and of itself, however, 41% is still a dire number.
Perhaps the most important example of this dynamic is a 2012 survey by Gallup, which polled the willingness of people to vote for a president of various backgrounds. One category was: If your party nominated a generally well-qualified person for president who happened to be black, would you vote for that person?
4% said no. In other words, one out of every twenty-five people would still not vote for a black person to be President. That’s one or two people in the roadside bar. That’s a couple of people sharing the pews at the Church service. That’s two-or-three people around you in the cinema. That’s several workers in the cafeteria. That’s half-a-dozen people in the shopping mall. That’s two-and-a-half-thousand people at the football stadium.
Once again, the relatively mild, even positive interpretation amongst some bloggers and critics, as if the statistic is encouragingly trivial, is due in large part to context. When seen in relation to the huge numbers ruling out voting for people of various other backgrounds, such as a Gay or Lesbian, (30%), a Muslim, (40%), or an Atheist, (43%), 4% looks insignificant; but considering in isolation that so many people are still refusing to consider someone for the highest office because of their colour, irrespective of their qualifications and the content of their character, in the second decade of the twenty-first century, it is an awful statistic.
We should also consider that approximately 12% of the respondents in the survey would have been Black, and would, you’d imagine, have almost unanimously answered affirmatively to the hypothetical.
Amongst respondents aged 65 or over, only 91% were prepared to vote for a black President. So: one out of ten people at the country club, at the retirement village, strolling nostalgically down the board walk, or watching Fox. (Yes, according to Nielsen TV data through mid-January, the average age of Fox News viewers is 68-years-old. The viewers are also 99% white).
On a related issue, 87% of Americans approve of marriage between blacks and whites, and again, this is received in a generally positive light because of the gradual upward trajectory of the statistic over time. Considered without the historical trajectory, however, it is appalling. Only 84% of whites approve of such unions. Still. It took until as recently as the mid-nineties for even a bare majority of Americans to be accepting of inter-racial marriage. Only 70% of people 65 or older consider it acceptable. That’s an astonishing three-out-of-ten older Americans disapproving of their son or grand-son getting married to a girl with a darker skin color.
African Americans are less likely now than 20 years ago to say discrimination is why blacks, on average, have worse jobs, income, and housing than whites. Today, 37% of blacks attribute such differences to discrimination, as opposed to 44% in 1993. An improvement, but 37% is still an extraordinarily high number in a modern first-world society. A 2008 Washington Post-ABC poll asked the question: “If you honestly assessed yourself, would you say that you have at least some feelings of racial prejudice?” Three out of ten whites said “yes”.There is no doubt this subliminal discrimination continues to have a measurable effect on a black person’s ability to get a job. In one study, from the University of Chicago, researchers sent 5,000 resumes to “help-wanted” ads in the Chicago area. Each applicant was similar in every way but one: Some of the names were stereotypically “white,” and some of the names were stereotypically “black.” Not only were “white-sounding” names “50% more likely to get called for an initial interview, but better credentials weren’t enough to overcome the gap. “Sarah” and “Todd” are far more likely to advance the first steps toward employment than “La-Teesha” and “Jamal”.
And this is all on top of the huge national disparities in arrests and incarcerations. Who goes to jail is only somewhat related to who commits crimes – it’s also a function of policing and prosecution. 17% of black Americans feel they were treated unfairly by police in the past 30 days. This number jumps to 24% among 18- to 34-year-old black males.
Two adjacent communities could have identical rates of drug use and theft, but if one community has a heavy police presence – and the other doesn’t – arrest statistics will show a heavy slant in one direction. An example is marijuana usage. Blacks smoke pot at a similar rate to whites, but the African American arrest rate for marijuana possession is three times the one for whites. It is for reasons such as this that 68% of blacks say the U.S. justice system is biased against them.
This discrimination makes it harder to secure a good mortgage rate, which makes it harder to live in better neighborhoods with better schools, which reinforces disparities in education and income.
So: If you’re a black man in his late twenties, looking for a job,there is a one-in-four chance you will be singled out and stopped by the cops; one in twenty-five of the people, wherever you go, would not vote for someone of your skin color to be President under any circumstances, including one-in-ten of the older folk; nearly-two-out-of-ten of those folks would disapprove of you marrying your girlfriend if she happened to be white, with three-out-of-ten of the older people feeling that way; and, because of your recognizably African-American name, you are 50% less likely than your white competitors to get a call for an initial interview after you’ve submitted your C.V.
Oh well. At least you can exercise your right to vote for positive change without your state legislature consciously devising pedantic I.D requirements to counter virtually non-existent voter fraud, or drastically limit periods of early voting. Oh…That’s right…