Survey: Black people differ on societal issues based on political ideology

Democrats say racism holds them back; large minority of Republicans say work harder.

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America’s political divide has seeped its way into Black America, with Democrats and Republicans offering starkly different views on the impact racism has on their lives and ability to succeed.

The Pew Research Center survey shows Black people remain pessimistic about the future of racial equality and shows the split they have with each other when it comes to some societal issues.

Source: Pew Research Center

Black Democrats, for example, blame institutional racism for a lack of opportunities, while Black Republicans think those who can’t get ahead need to work harder.  

Khadijah Edwards, a research associate with Pew, called the October 2021 online survey of nearly 4,000 Black adults “a deep dive of Black Americans and the way that they feel about issues.” 

Among the survey’s findings:

  • The attention to racial inequality issues after George Floyd’s murder hasn’t “led to changes that are improving the lives of Black people, according to 65% of the respondents. That’s a reversal from September 2020 when 56% expected change for the better.  
  • Racism, police brutality and economic inequality rank as the top three “big problems” for Black people
  • The prison system (54%), policing (49%) and criminal justice system (48%) all need to be overhauled.
  • Still, Black people have little hope for changes in the justice system (67%) and in policing (58%) to improve racial inequality. Some 82% don’t believe descendants of enslaved people will receive reparations.
  • Just 13% of respondents called equality likely or extremely likely.

How Black people view discrimination, policing and the ability to get ahead varies based on political views. Black Republicans, according to the survey, believe society needs little to no change in areas of economics, health care, politics, policing and the prison system. Some 45% of Black Republicans say Black people “who cannot get ahead in the U.S. are mostly responsible for their own condition.”

America’s ideological divide mirrors what’s happening in the Black community. “Black Democrats [are] more likely to point out systemic issues and Black Republicans more at individual actions and saying that you can generally get ahead if you work hard,” Edwards said.

About 80% of Black people, regardless of ideology, report being victims of discrimination. But the cause of that discrimination shows another gulf, this time between Black people and the general public.

Source: Pew Research Center

More than half of the Black adults surveyed said racism in our laws remains a bigger problem than racism by individuals. The general public believes racism by individuals to be the more significant issue, Edwards said.

The results don’t surprise Jacques Kahindo, an assistant professor at Wilberforce University, a private HBCU located about 20 miles east of Dayton, Ohio. 

The de facto Republican position holds that “If you work hard, you can make it; therefore there’s no racism,” Kahindo told theGrio. “But if you don’t give me a job, how am I going to make it?”

He also said Black people have, to a degree, lost their sense of hope since Floyd died at the hands of Minneapolis police officers on May 25, 2020.

“There was a lot of optimism after the death of George Floyd because many people believed, finally, we’re going to have justice,” Kahindo said. “But now we see that optimism is fading away. We believed we would have social justice and budget justice [to] allocate money to fix the problem of systematic racism. 

“But now we’ve gone back to normal.”

That normal, according to the Pew survey, means the status quo. 

“Black Americans are clear on what they think the problems are facing the country and how to remedy them,” Pew wrote. “However, they are skeptical that meaningful changes will take place in their lifetime.”

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