June 28, 2013

For African Americans, discrimination is not dead

America’s struggles with race and racism are never completely out of the news. But it is hard to remember when a series of stories have given this issue such resonance, whether in the rulings of the Supreme Court on affirmative action and voting rights, a tense trial in a Florida courtroom and even the racially insensitive comments of a celebrity chef.

In the wake of the election of the nation’s first black president, African Americans’ sense of the country’s – and their own – progress improved markedly, as a 2010 Pew Research Center report documented. To some extent, these more positive views endure: Our June survey found that blacks (36%) were far more likely than whites (19%) to say that economic conditions were excellent or good, even though the unemployment rate for blacks was roughly double that for whites.

Yet the good feelings among blacks after Barack Obama’s election co-exist with a persistent belief that discrimination and unfairness remain a part of life for African Americans in this country. To take a recent example, in May fully 88% said there was a lot or some discrimination against blacks, with 46% seeing a lot of discrimination. A majority of whites (57%) also saw at least some discrimination against blacks, but just 16% said there was a lot of discrimination.

Topics: Barack Obama, Race and Ethnicity, Discrimination and Prejudice, African Americans

  1. Photo of Carroll Doherty

    is director of political research at Pew Research Center.


  1. Old Nick Esq.3 years ago

    How much of this poll data is actual racism vs. perceived racism? How much of the perceived racism is nothing more than hypersensitivity to racism in the current socio-political climate?

    Jim Crow is long dead. Blacks are no longer forced to the back of the bus and denied tables at restaurants or rooms in hotels. I don’t see many white people using the n-word around blacks (except for drunk celebs and characters in Tarantino movies). So what is being used as the metric for racism?

    Is it “I applied for a job and didn’t get it” or “The interest rate on my car loan seems high” or “people on the street don’t make eye contact with me?” What are the acts of discrimination that make 88% of blacks feel discriminated against?

    Given today’s political currency of victimhood and the enforcement of thoughtcrime that is political correctness, how much of this discrimination, wasn’t actually discrimination, but a generation of black people taught to feel offended at every sideways glance and awkward pause in a conversation?

    You hear about job fairs where 5,000 people apply for 20 open position. If 13% of the population is black, than statistically 650 applicants should have been black. If they company hires 2 black people (13% of 20 is 2.6 – and you can’t have 0.6 of a person) do the remaining 648 rejected black people get to claim discrimination? Would they say they were discriminated against if asked about it for this poll?

    There in lies the rub. How do you separate the actual discrimination of from perception of discrimination when no actual discrimination may have happened?

    1. some13 years ago

      -There in lies the rub. How do you separate the actual discrimination of from perception of discrimination when no actual discrimination may have happened?

      The simple answer is, you can’t. Key word is “you”. Only the person being discriminated (actual or not) can separate it.

    2. Alan3 years ago

      My experience as a black man baby-boomer is that racism against blacks is rooted in the concepts of “white superiority” and the “black inferiority”. There are times when whites “naturally” behave in a superior manner toward blacks. This superiority thinking manifests in many behaviors. To blacks, this behavior is racism because we see that whites generally don’t act superior to other whites. Conversely, some of the worst “racists” are black men over 50. These men are racists because they were degraded or made to feel and think inferior. Racism is bad either way. It makes us all less human. The difference is in who has the power to impact quality of life decisions in America. Generally, black racists don’t have any power and white racists have unlimited power.

      1. Marla Luster3 years ago

        Great comment, Alan! So glad to see someone with a brain, idk, it’s so hard to discuss this topic when people think it’s okay to just assume blacks are dumb (and that’s why they do poorly on standardized tests and drop out of school at higher rates), lazy (and that’s why they are using higher rates of public assistance and have a higher unemployment rate), violent (and that’s why they have a higher imprisonment rate)–and all that’s okay, NOT racism. Huh?????

      2. Anonymous1 year ago

        That is very true. You have an excellent eye for seeing the truth, and not acting like a victim.

      3. Anonymous1 year ago

        But, I don’t agree that whites are above blacks and most don’t feel that way, if the do, they are messed up, not their race. Though I know you aren’t in any way attacking them.

    3. somegraduatestudent2 years ago

      old nick …

      surveys only measure responses, which suggests that they at least measure perceived discrimination. we assume, prima facie, that surveys responses indicate discrimiation (however it is defined).

      measuring discrimination can be a difficult thing. given that it is a difficult thing to measure (i suspect your criticism’s basis draws from this assumption), i suggest you proceed with caution when making general statements the existence of discrimation, especially when your data collection process is–i’m assuming–passive and casual at best.

      the degree of rubbish in the rest of your comment is too excessive to comment on. for example, even though there may be a given proportion of blacks in the population, it is unreasonable to expect that that proportion of blacks will be at any given job fair in any given place at any given time. this is nonesense.

    4. Anonymous1 year ago

      this notion of perceived racism is crap. racism can easily be measured. ever heard of systemic/ institutional racism?

  2. Steven Collins3 years ago

    Don’t have to be black or Hispanic to see that he’s right. Division is key to power. Divided, categorized, you can count of group a to do this and group b to do that. What I always find interesting in my race is when my pastor talks about how the democratic party has failed an entire race.

  3. Ben Davidson4 years ago

    As long as there are politicians, people will be divided using some factor that is uncontrollable. Complexion is a great one. The “African American” box that people get dumped into is a really great political tool. Way back in an anthropology class, the professor said something like “All racial lines are artificial and no matter where you draw them, the lines will blur with those on one side belonging to the other.” Nature dictates that we will all blend. It is only politicians who need the power of voting blocks that make us segregated. If the political mentality didn’t keep on waving racial flags in our faces, we’d ignore it in less than a generation. A child would only be curious about differences in people. Politicians make them see a difference.

    1. Basir4 years ago

      I agree with this statement. You post is assuming a complicated categorical premise but it is a good observation.
      I would take about a generation and with the help of miscegenation this country would slowly transition to a post- racial state.

      However; identities would and group determination would conceive new separations, albeit, colorful the groups would still harvest some type of division.

      1. Ben Davidson4 years ago

        Oh How I’d love to take some time to discuss this with you and those with open minds. It would take little (however impossible) to quickly teach that all that counts is what you do. Of course it could easily be degenerated into some racist rant but the basic concept of how we are taught racism by those who will not let it go because of the power it distributes and seemingly simple answers it gives. Racism diminishes everybody. But of course judging by action demands behavior which is thermodynamically unfavorable – it takes work from all parties.

    2. John Atkinson4 years ago

      Let me take a wild guess here… you’re white.