It’s official. Race relations are souring, as recent events, and the response of key figures on both the Left and Right, pull the fabric of American unity to pieces. A Gallup Poll just released proves most American adults feel that race relations between Black and White people are “very (24%) or somewhat bad (31%), while less than half call them very (7%) or somewhat (37%) good.”
This is in complete contrast with how we were feeling after the 1990s, a decade when American culture was healing its longstanding racially-based wounds, as the number of mixed-families and multi-race children born skyrocketed. According to Gallup data, sentiment regarding White-Black relations from just after the turn of the millennium, 2001, until 2013, changed dramatically for the worse.
The percentage of polled Americans considering relations “good to any degree” spanned 63% to 72%, depending on the year. In 2015, the percentage declined significantly, dipping down to 47%. But who would have guessed otherwise? During President Obama, our first Black president’s time in office, ironically the United States witnessed a number of high-profile events that received great attention, events where White cops killed unarmed Black citizens.
When we think about it, is it really an uptick in racially-charged events? Likely not; social media was coming to the fore in American society around this time. It’s probably more due to Twitter and other social media platforms that news of such events spread virally, leading to greater media coverage, and thus overall awareness on the part of Americans of all backgrounds.
The data was collected from a phone polling conducted from June 8 to July 24, 2020. Of course, this was at the height of the mayhem after the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis in May, at the height of the BLM and Antifa protests — and in some cases riots and lootings — and so, perhaps this figure is a bit skewed. According to Gallup, a Washington, D.C. analytics and advisory company, the survey is based on the results of sampling 1,226 U.S. adults. This total sample includes an oversampling of Black Americans, to reflect their present percentage of total population.
In general, across the years, White Americans were far more likely than their Black counterparts to consider White-Black relations as positive. Still, the majority of both groups felt that race relations were generally good until 2015. This raises important questions of both the media’s, and our political leaders’, handling of the crisis of police shootings. Terrible events could have propelled us into a future where there exists greater unity; in fact, the effect has been the opposite.
According to MappingPoliceViolence.Com, Black people are three times more likely to be killed by police than White people. Hispanic people are only about 1.3 timed more likely to be killed by police, per one million Americans. That includes cops of ALL races, however. The meaning of these statistics changes, though, when the percentage of unarmed people killed by police is tabulated: Only 1.3 times more Black people are killed, compared to White people. The meaning of this? More armed Black folks were killed by police, translating into a higher number of interactions between armed Black people and law enforcement, overall.
And, the level of violent crimes in a U.S. city does not correlate with the overall rate of police killings of civilians. In America’s fifty largest cities, from the city with the highest kill rate, Oklahoma City, to the lowest, NYC, the rate of violent crime is literally all over the chart.
In the last eighteen months, perceptions of race relations has dropped mare significantly for White Americans than Black. (down from 54% to 46%, and 40% to 36%, respectively) This the lowest recorded percentage of Black Americans in all the time this survey has been conducted in its eighteen years.
The survey did not stop there, also querying participants about other pairs of race relations, with less troubling results: While 44% of (both White and Black) Americans surveyed considered relations between White and Black Americans to be very or somewhat good, in comparison with 78% for White-Asian relations, 68% for Black-Asian relations, 66% for Black-Hispanic relations, and 62% for White-Hispanic relations.
During the majority of the time Gallup took this same poll, the years 2001 until 2013, White-Black race relations did not differ significantly from how White-Hispanic relations were perceived. As stated earlier, this all changed in 2015, as our nation saw turmoil in numerous cities in response to high-profile incidents detailed above. During the entire time, White-Asian relations rated consistently highest, with more than 75% of polled adults considering such “good.”
Even with this recent change in how Americans view race relations between White and Black people, 59% remain positive, thinking a solution will obtain. In 2018, that figure stood at 57%, compared to under 50% in the mid- to late ’90s, the time of the L.A. riots following the not guilty verdict of the Rodney King beating by police, and the high-profile O.J. Simpson murder case, which Americans followed day and night with bated breath.
As might have been expected, the day after Barack Obama was elected, the figure rose briefly to 67%. Unfortunately, having a Black president did little to solve longstanding issues surrounding race in our society. White Americans’ rate of optimistic views has hovered around 60%, while Black people’s optimism is at 54%, actually higher than the 50% figure after President Obama won the Democratic nomination in June, 2008. Back in 1963, during our nation’s Civil Rights Movement, 70% of Black people were feeling that change was just around the corner. Apparently not.
So just what does this data mean? It;’s difficult to say. One might argue that race relations can differ based on the community that one lives in. Some areas are more racially integrated. For instance, Staten Island’s North Shore enjoys a greater positivity of race relations than many other parts of the city and country. And, one might argue that a sampling of only a little over one thousand people does not do justice to a nation comprised of over 350 million people. These are valid points and cannot be ignored.
Still,half of the total number of Black American surveyed felt that they were treated unfairly at least once in the past month. But where? In the workplace? There are strict laws against that now. In housing? Again, strict laws prevail. In more informal interactions, such as at the supermarket? At the gas station? We just don’t have the data to know for sure.
In the end, it’s up to us, the people of Staten Island, NYC, and America, to move past the past, and forge a new era of togetherness, together. If we focus only on the negative, the negative aspects of our society will grow. Of course, we cannot ignore what’s wrong, but we must remain optimistic, yet realistic, and stop judging one another by the color of a person’s skin, and finally live the words of the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther Kin, Junior: “I look to a day when people will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” Help your neighbors, regardless of their skin color.
Remember,community means all of us, and if each of us does our part to make one another feel welcome and cared for, Staten Island, and our nation, will become an example unto the world. Racism and bias will always be a part of the world; some poeple just won’t learn. But let them know that THEY are the outsiders, the small minority, and that tolerance will not include tolerance of hate and discrimination.