The way we most often imagine racism occurring in our minds is at the flashpoint of life-changing experiences: a police officer in action making a split second decision in a life or death situation … a real estate broker deciding which houses to show a family… a manager who decides which candidate to hire for a position.
But another way to conceptualize racism is that people, over time, form views and opinions about the world around them that strongly influence the outcome of these quick moments. The entirety of the life experiences of the policeman and the black suspect intersect during this brief moment. The same is true of the real estate broker and the Black family, and the manager choosing between white and black applicants.
This intersection is the object of this research. As part of our CityView series, the first of its kind, the University of Suffolk and USA TODAY have collaborated to interview residents of major American cities about the issues they face, with a focus on perceptions of race. in America. Over the past several months, we’ve surveyed residents of Milwaukee, Detroit, Los Angeles, Louisville, and Oklahoma City, cities that are geographically, politically, economically, and racially diverse, but whose residents share views, especially based on racial divisions.
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In the 5 cities surveyed, black respondents were more likely than other races to rate their city lower, to think they were stopped by the police more frequently, and to believe that the police used force even when it is not necessary.
Each city has its own black superlative. Worst Place to Live: Milwaukee, WI. 80% of Black residents rated Milwaukee as a “fair” or “poor” place to live, while only 28% rated it as an “excellent” or “good” place to live. Most Powerful Police Department: Los Angeles, CA. 69% of black respondents said the police used force unnecessarily and 71% said they wanted to shift some of the funding from the police to social services and mental health. Treats black residents the most different way: Louisville, KY. 60% of black respondents felt they were treated differently because of their race, which is significantly higher than respondents who identified as white (39%), Hispanic (21%), or “other” (29 %). Additionally, among those who felt they were treated differently because of their race, 92% of black respondents felt they were treated worse, not better, compared to 16% for white respondents.
Black residents of Louisville, KY are not alone. Among those who feel treated differently because of their race, black respondents generally feel less well treated: Overall, over 80% felt they were treated less well simply because they identified themselves as black.
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However, while many black respondents still feel they are treated less well because they are black, fewer white respondents think they are treated better because they are white. In Milwaukee, 60% of all black respondents felt less well treated while 44% of all white respondents felt better treated because of their race. In Louisville, this division was more drastic 55% compared to 29%. In Oklahoma City, the division was 48% of blacks treated worse versus 22% of whites better treated.
Perhaps this dichotomy is central to the debate over American race relations: Black Americans may feel the disadvantages of being black more concretely, while white Americans do not feel significantly advantaged. Bridging this experiential gap could go a long way.
Despite the frustrations, most black residents of these cities do not support “police funding” as demanded by many Democrats and progressive activists. Not only do most oppose the slogan “finance the police”, but the fraction of black residents who oppose it are close to the fraction of the general population who oppose it in the five cities.
An additional nugget of these polls is that more often than not, the opinions of Hispanic, Asian and multiracial respondents correspond more to white respondents than to black respondents. So, CityView says that if mixed marriages were to increase, Americans’ views on these issues would likely converge as our different life experiences collide. Indeed, according to Pew Research, the long-term increase in intermarriage over time, especially among those with a university education, will accelerate as more and more people in the United States move forward. ‘will identify as multiracial.
I think localized research, exemplified in the Suffolk-USA TODAY CityView project, is underutilized as a tool to help understand and resolve race issues in the United States. City statistics like these are essential to help educate local mayors, police chiefs, school administrators, students and the public about the real problems of today and how they can be solved. Local media can be a stakeholder by copying the Suffolk University / USA TODAY model to provide personal stories that emerge from the research, and how they can further improve race relations in each city.