U.S. sees sharp rise in number of whites troubled by racism, polls show
PHILADELPHIA, Pa. — Minorities and other people of color have long known that racism is a national problem and should be confronted. Now more white Americans agree with them, according to a new report.
W.K. Kellogg Foundation and the Northeastern University School of Journalism analyzed polls about racism in America. Researchers concluded that a majority of Americans think more should be done to end racism. To that end, the foundation announced January 28 that it is beginning a "Truth, Racial Healing and Transformation Commission." It will discuss solutions for ending inequality based on race. The Kellogg Foundation provides grants, or financial support, to various issues.
Media coverage, combined with technology, has helped to make a powerful case that racism is a big problem, said Jonathan Kaufman. He is director of Northeastern's journalism school. Recent police shootings of unarmed black people have led to demonstrations around the country. Although more people have become aware of racial bias lately because of the shootings, they now see it as a general pattern, he said.
After New President, Beliefs Shift
"When whites see injustice, they're human, and they understand what it's like to be afraid," Kaufman said. "I think that cuts through people's prejudices and makes them think twice."
President Barack Obama won election in 2008. Since then, polls have shown an overall decrease in the number of people who believe race relations are "very or fairly good," according to the report. In January 2009, a Wall Street Journal/NBC poll found that 79 percent of whites, 76 percent of blacks and 64 percent of Hispanics agreed. Seven years later, people were asked the same question. This time, 33 percent of whites, 26 percent of blacks and 38 percent of Hispanics felt that way. A Gallup poll showed a 10-point drop for blacks and 35-point drop for whites on attitudes toward race relations between 2008 and 2015.
Increasingly, technology is being used to record racial problems. Many of the police shootings were recorded on video. The researchers found this has led to new attitudes among whites about racism.
New Views Of Justice System
In 1995, a New York Times/CBS poll showed only 15 percent of whites believed the criminal justice system treated blacks unfairly. However, 51 percent of blacks felt that way. By 2015, that number had risen to 44 percent of whites and 77 percent of blacks. Polls from CNN/Kaiser Family Foundation and Gallup showed an increase in the number of whites who believe this.
An Associated Press (AP)-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll found that 47 percent of whites said police sometimes treat minority groups more roughly. A total of 81 percent of blacks felt the same way. Also 52 percent of whites said police treat all races and ethnic groups equally. In the same poll, 73 percent of blacks said police violence is mainly caused by a bad relationship between police and the black community. Just 45 percent of whites thought so. The AP-NORC poll was done in July 2015.
Kellogg will spend $35 million over seven years on the commission. The foundation has spent money on similar programs in countries like South Africa after the end of apartheid. This was a system of segregation that separated blacks and whites. Kellogg also runs several programs in U.S. cities. The commission is the first national attempt to deal with racial inequality since President Bill Clinton tried to get the country to talk about it in 1997.
"Space To Create Conversation"
La June Montgomery Tabron is the Kellogg president and chief executive officer. She said the country is open to "greater shared learning and understanding of one another, a space to create conversation and action."
Over the next four to six months, more than 50 organizations will help put together a commission. They will create groups of people to discuss and try to solve issues like employment, health, segregation and housing, Tabron said.
Kellogg's analysis took polling information over the past two decades from CNN/Kaiser Family Foundation; PBS NewsHouse and Marist College's Institute for Public Opinion; The New York Times/CBS; The Wall Street Journal/NBC News; The Pew Research Center and Gallup. Poll questions were not identical. However, researchers said they were similar enough to draw conclusions and identify trends.