Monday, January 18, 2010


A Pew report for Dr King

The Pew Research Center’s Social & Demographic Trends project has given us a Martin Luther King Day gift: a report on their new survey on racial attitudes a year after President Obama’s election (full report (PDF) here).

Not surprisingly, the number of African Americans who think that they are, as a group, better off now than they were five years ago has about doubled since 2007, from 20% to 39%. And more than ¾ think that blacks and whites get along well.

It’s clear that perspective is a significant thing. When asked, “Has the country done enough to give blacks equal rights with whites,” 54% of whites and 42% of Hispanics said yes, “The country has made the necessary changes,” while only 13% of blacks responded that way. That doesn’t surprise me either: it’s easy for whites to see some bit of progress, as we’ve had many of over the years, and to say, “That’s made it better,” while those at the receiving end of the discrimination still see the problems, and what has yet to be done. Even the election of an African American president doesn’t automatically fix everything.

Interracial marriage chartThe part I find the most interesting is the section on interracial marriage. It seems, there, that blacks are, as a group, more accepting of familial diversity than whites and Hispanics are. See the graphic to the right (click to enlarge). What it says is that about 80% of blacks say they’d “be fine with” a family member’s marrying someone of another race, whether that person be white, Hispanic, or Asian... it doesn’t seem to matter which. In contrast, Hispanics and whites are more apprehensive about adding a new African American family member than they are about the other ethnic groups, and only 64% of whites say they’d “be fine with” a black in-law.

I find the difference curious. It seems to dispel a myth — one that exists among whites, at least — that about the same proportion of blacks dislike whites as the other way around. That certainly doesn’t seem to be the case, at least when folks are made to say that they wouldn’t want their daughter to marry one.

Finally, in both 2007 and 2009, significantly fewer blacks have put the blame for difficulty “getting ahead” on discrimination. On this question:

Which of these statements comes closer to your own views—even if neither is exactly right?

A. Racial discrimination is the main reason why many black people can’t get ahead these days.

B. Blacks who can’t get ahead in this country are mostly responsible for their own condition.

...52% of blacks (and about 70% of whites and Hispanics) chose B, and 34% chose A. The answer by whites fairly well tracks the numbers who think that discrimination is no longer a problem, but that’s not true of the statistics from blacks. That seems to say that blacks think there’s more that they, themselves can do to address or to overcome discrimination.

There’s lots more interesting stuff in the full report and in the data from the questionnaire. Far fewer blacks than whites trust the police, for instance. And about 10% of us have no friends of a different race than ourselves.


Sue VanHattum said...

>only 64% of whites say they’d “be fine with” a black in-law.

Only? It may be worse than other races, but what an improvement over the past.

I'm reminded of the percentages of people who are comfortable with same sex marriage. Only (whatever it is), not high enough, but so much better than before.

Yes, whites have a long way to go to unlearn racism, and to help in dismantling it. But we are making progress, thank goodness. (Well, i think we are, although recent right-wing racism makes me wonder...)

Thanks for this post, Barry.

Barry Leiba said...

Oh, yes, I just meant the "only" in comparison to the other groups, not to belittle the progress that's been made. But, progress or not, what that says is that more than 2/3 of whites would still have at least some issues with a close relative marrying an African American. I find that sad.