Tuesday, August 27, 2013

A "Great" Improvement In Racial Equality ?

It has been 50 years since the March on Washington, whereDr. King delivered his famous "I Have A Dream" speech. The folks at the Gallup Poll decided to survey Americans on their perceptions of the change toward racial equality in the United States. The survey was done between July 10th and 14th of 2,027 nationwide adults -- with a 3 point margin of error for all respondents (and a slightly higher margin of error for individual groups within the survey).

The question asked was have you seen great change in racial equality in your lifetime. It is probably not surprising that more Whites think there have been "great change" than minorities (54% for Whites, 48% for Hispanics, and 29% for Blacks). But more interesting is the number who haven't seen great change in their lifetime -- and that's close to or above 50% for every group (including 46% of Whites). And the age group that has seen the least change is the 19 to 29 group. These people were born after the civil rights laws of the 1960's were passed -- and only 33% of them think great changes have been made in their lifetime.

I'm not one of them, but I think those young Americans are right -- not much has been accomplished in their lifetime. Far too many Americans, especially older Americans, think there is not much more that can be done since the civil rights laws have been passed -- so the situation has remained about the same for the last few decades. Whether there have been "great changes" or only "some changes", it should be clear that we have not yet achieved Dr. King's dream (or the American Dream for that matter). Much remains to be accomplished.

One of the biggest divisions the survey exposed was in the area of whether more can be done by the government. Only 22% of Whites believe the government should play a "major role" in helping minorities, about 54% of Blacks and 60% of Hispanics believe this. And while only 17% of Whites think new civil rights laws are needed to reduce discrimination, about 53% of Blacks and 46% of Hispanics think they are needed.

I have to agree with the minorities on these questions. I think government must play a major role in further reducing discrimination. Historically, Whites have not shown they are willing reduce discrimination (or share power) until they are forced to do so by government action. Like it or not, that is just a fact. If it was not for government action, we probably would still have Jim Crow laws and segregation in many states (and still be hearing that sad refrain that "The time is not yet right").

But the time was right for both the court decisions and the civil rights laws. And now the time is right for us to finish the job of insuring equality under the law and equality of opportunity for all Americans. Racism and discrimination are wrong. How could any decent person believe otherwise?


  1. I live in MS and have lived throughout most all the southern states during the past 50 years since the March on Washington. Equality is now and has been elusive for southern African Americans during that time even though laws have been passed like the Voting Rights Act. How can we criticize the lack of civil rights of nations abroad before we have righted the lack civil liberties here?

    1. You're absolutely right. The federal laws passed in the 1960's did not do away with discrimination, and for our country to criticize other countries for a poor human rights record demonstrates our ability to hold others to a higher standard than ourselves.


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