Election Coming; Racial Strife on the Upswing

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This chart from Gallup showing Americans’ view of “black-white relations” from 2001 on has been making the rounds:

So, in 2008 Americans elected the first black president, and attitudes about black-white relations held steady at a pretty high level (improving more among blacks).  Then all of a sudden, in 2013, things fell apart to the lowest level of the millennium?  I don’t buy the notion that Americans are seeing a real uptick in problems.  This is a fabricated narrative promoted by the news and entertainment media in the service of the Democrat Party.

Pay particular attention to the lighter line, which traces the attitude of blacks.  In 2001, they had a more positive view than did whites.  Notice the dramatic drop just before the 2004 presidential election, bouncing back in 2004. (Note that the surveys tend to be conducted in June.)  Then we get another drop just in time for the 2008 presidential election.  A cynic might wonder whether the fevered pitch of news about a supposedly emerging racism is mainly reflective of the fact that blacks’ attitudes hadn’t been showing their pre-election dip in the run-up to 2016, although some of that could come from the fact that the question doesn’t appear to have been asked for five years.

Other race-related Gallup polls add some depth to the picture:

  • From 1995 through 2012, Americans had an improving view of progress on civil rights for black Americans.
  • In general, that trend applied for both races, although whites tended to move toward claiming “great” improvement, while blacks tended toward “somewhat.”
  • Not surprisingly, the public’s sense that new civil rights laws were needed decreased over that time period.
  • Returning to the first link above, this period saw a general improvement in Americans’ belief that racial problems would “eventually be worked out, although for blacks, a long worsening of this attitude among blacks from 1963 through 2001 preceded a less dramatic improvement over the past 20 years.

Sit with that last point for a moment.  In 1963, 70% of black Americans were confident that racial discord would eventually be worked out.  Moving into the change of century, 70% of black Americans held the opposite view.  It would take a research paper to unpack these findings, but having lived through most of the period in question, I find the idea that race relations and civil rights have deteriorated since the ’60s absurd.

I remember when Al Sharpton brought his divisive clown show to Teaneck, New Jersey, a couple towns away from where I lived at the time, when a 16-year-old black teen about my age was shot.  The parallels are stunning.  Witnesses claimed he had his hands up and had said “don’t shoot,” and activists were saying that black children were being purposefully killed.  Yet, the general sense of the public in the area was that expressed by a Teaneck teacher in this New York Times story from the time:

“I don’t particularly care for the people heading the march,” said Mrs. Phelan, who is black. ”I am not an Al Sharpton supporter, and I would not march in anything that is led by him. He tends to exacerbate the situation rather than help it, and I will not be part of the Al Sharpton show.”

Per the Gallup polls, Americans were headed in the right direction until the era of Obama.  Increasingly, we were understanding that old wounds heal, and that it would happen naturally, through our society and our culture.  Unfortunately, powerful people have too much of a vested interest in division — in keeping some people down and making others feel guilty about it — for them let us heal without a fight.

Fewer than half of Americans think black-white relations are somewhat or very good.  That perception is definitely a problem, but it’s one that we solve by rejecting the self-serving messages of agitators, politicians, and media personalities and turning to each other as neighbors.



  • tisiphone

    As legislators were preparing to vote on the Act (Civil Rights Act of 1964), Senator Hubert Humphrey, a key advocate of the bill, assured his colleagues that the new law “would not require an employer to achieve any kind of racial balance in his work force by giving preferential treatment to any individual or group.” To drive the point home, Humphrey went so far as to promise, from the floor of the Senate, that if the Civil Rights Act were ever to be cited as a justification for preferential hiring practices, he would physically eat, page by page, the paper on which the bill was written.

    Congress did not incorporate that statement into the bill.
    Have we lost our way? Can we ever find our way back?

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