Race relations dividing America

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Mahrukh A Mughal
PEW Research Centre carried out an online nationally representative survey of 6,637 adults between 22 Jan and 05 Feb 2019, in English and Spanish, using Pew Research Centre’s American Trends Panel. In addition to exploring the public’s view about the state of race relations and racial inequality in America, the survey also looks at personal experience with racial and ethnic discrimination with the role race plays in people’s lives. Among the report’s key findings were that most Americans say it is now more common for people to express racist or racially insensitive views; more than four-in-ten say it is more acceptable. Most Americans65% – including majorities across racial and ethnic groups – say it has become more common for people to express racist or racially insensitive views since Trump was elected President. A smaller but substantial share 45% says this has become more acceptable. Democrats and those who lean Democratic are more likely than Republicans and Republican learners to say it has become more common and more acceptable for people to express racist and racially insensitive views since Trump was elected President. Among Democrats, 84% say this is now more common and 64% say it’s more acceptable; fewer than half of Republicans say it has become more common42% and just 22% say it has become more acceptable for people to express these types of views. Views of Trump’s handling of race relations are far more negative than views of how Obama handled the issue. A majority of Americans 56% say Trump has made race relations worse; just 15% say he has made progress towards improving race relations, while 13% say he has tried but failed to make progress and 14% say he has not addressed this issue.
In contrast, 37% say Barack Obama made progress on race relations when he was President, and 27% say he tried but failed. A quarter of Americans say Obama made race relations worse. These retrospective views of Obama’s handling of race relations are nearly identical to views expressed during Obama’s last year in office. Not surprisingly, assessments of Trump’s and Obama’s handling of race relations differ considerably along partisan lines. Democrats overwhelmingly say Trump has made race relations worse by 84%, including large shares of black 79% and white 86% Democrats. Views are more divided among Republicans. About a third of Republicans 34% say Trump has improved race relations and 25% say he has tried but failed to make progress; 19% of Republicans say he hasn’t addressed the issue, while 20% say he has made race relations worse. When it comes to views of Obama’s handling of race relations, 55% of Democrats say he improved race relations during his Presidency; just 8% say he made things worse. In contrast, 51% of Republicans say Obama made race relations worse, while 14% say he made progress toward improving it. As is the case with views of Trump’s handling of race relations, white and black Democrats offer somewhat similar assessments of how Obama handled this issue when he was President. Republicans and Democrats thus have vastly different views on race. In addition to being linked to views of Trump’s handling of race relations, partisanship is strongly associated with racial attitudes more broadly. In fact, after controlling for other factors, partisanship has a greater association with views about the country’s racial progress than demographic factors, though being young and more educated are also significant predictors, particularly among whites. Because whites and nonwhites often have widely different views of racial issues, and nonwhites disproportionately identify with or lean to the Democratic Party, gaps between Republicans and Democrats are often shown among whites in this report in order to account for differences in the racial composition of the two parties.
White Democrats 64% are far more likely than white Republicans 15% to say the country hasn’t gone far enough when it comes to giving black people equal rights with whites. Eight-in-ten white Democrats 80% – vs. 40% of white Republicans – say the legacy of slavery continues to have an impact on black people’s position in American society today. And when it comes to views about racial discrimination, 78% of white Democrats say the bigger problem is people not seeing it where it really does exist, while a similar share of white Republicans says people seeing racial discrimination where it really does not exist is the bigger problem. Blacks are more likely than other groups to say their race has had a negative impact on their ability to get ahead; whites are the most likely to say their race helped them. About half of black adults 52% say being black has hurt their ability to get ahead at least a little, with 18% saying it has hurt a lot. About a quarter of Hispanics and Asians 24% each and just 5% of whites say their race or ethnicity has had a negative impact. In turn, whites are more likely than other groups to say their racial background has helped them at least a little. Among blacks, those with at least some college experience are more likely than those with less education to say being black has hurt their ability to get ahead. Race relations continue to haunt American Society. Unfortunately, the last four years of Trump’s Presidency has seen increase in violent incidences of white supremacy and Black abuse as is evident from George Floyd case. Michael Brown, Alter Sterling, Tamir Rice, Eric Garner, Sandra Bland, Freddie Gray and Breonna Taylor were all victims of white police officer’s brutality and hatred. Non-conviction of white police officers in these cases have left deep scars on American social fabric which can perhaps never be erased.
—The writer is an author of ‘2020 & Beyond’ and teaches International Political Affairs.