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Blacks Most Optimistic Than Any Time in 25 Years…

January 14, 2010 by  
Filed under News, Weekly Columns

( Despite a sour economy and crippling unemployment, blacks are more optimistic about their progress in America than at any time in the past 25 years, according to a new Pew Research Center poll released Tuesday.

Pollsters and political analysts say Barack Obama’s election as the country’s first black president is responsible for the upbeat assessment by blacks across a spectrum of issues, including race relations and expectations of future progress for the black community.

“It’s having an African-American president in the hope that, when all is said and done, he will help (blacks),” Ronald Walters, a retired University of Maryland political science professor, told McClatchy Newspapers. “Those of us who have been critical of (Obama) for things he hasn’t done in the first year, even we expect he will do something.”

Thirty-nine percent of blacks say they are better off now than five years ago, according to the poll. In 2007, only 20 percent of blacks felt that way.

Fifty-three percent of blacks believe the future will be better for blacks, and 10 percent said things would be worse. In 2007, 44 percent of blacks said the future would be better, and 21 percent said it would be worse.

“The poll shows a whole list of ways in which black attitudes are more positive than they were prior to President Obama’s election,” Andrew Kohut, president of the Pew Research Center, told the Associated Press. “When you have a big event like that, and all the indicators are pointing in one direction, I think the conclusion is inescapable.”

The upbeat black view was somewhat surprising given the long recession and slow jobless recovery that’s responsible for a 15.4 percent overall black unemployment and a staggering 49.4 percent jobless rate among black males ages 16 to 19.

Black lawmakers and civil rights organizations have urged Obama to do more to specifically address black unemployment, but the president has resisted, saying a general approach to fixing the economy is the best path to improve black economic woes.

Some of the same lawmakers and civil rights leaders say that Obama’s victory hasn’t moved America to a so-called post-racial society where character counts more than color. They point to incidents like the black and Latino summer campers who were turned away from a private suburban Philadelphia swim club after members complained about too many minorities in the pool.

Still, even though median black household income has dropped relative to whites since 2000, 56 percent of blacks and 65 percent of whites said in the Pew poll that the difference in the standard of living between blacks and whites has narrowed.

Obama’s election has also appeared to cause a shift in the public’s perception of race relations in the nation. Fifty-four percent of African-Americans said that Obama winning the White House has improved race relations, while only 7 percent said his election has worsened race relations.

Whites agree that progress has been made, but on a smaller scale. Forty-five percent of whites said Obama’s election has had no impact on race relations, 32 percent of whites said it’s made things better, and 15 percent said it’s made things worse.

But the two groups are still far apart when it comes to perceptions about discrimination.
Forty-three percent of blacks now say there’s a lot of discrimination against blacks, about the same as 2001. Only 13 percent of whites there is a lot of anti-black discrimination, down from 20 percent in 2001.

Katheryn Russell-Brown, director of the University of Florida’s Center for the Study of Race and Race Relations, said the Pew poll melds black optimism with current black reality. She said blacks might have had a more pessimistic view in 2007 – the last time such a thorough poll was conducted – because racially-charged issues like radio shock-jock Don Imus insulting the mostly-black Rutgers University women’s basketball team and the arrest of NFL quarterback Michael Vick for involvement in an illegal dog-fighting ring were dominating the news.

“There’s a shift in perception, but not in reality,” Russell-Brown, director of the University of Florida’s Center for the Study of Race and Race Relations told McClatchy Newspapers of the latest Pew findings. “Without changes to social equality, racial discrimination, police bias, the change in perception will be short-lived.”

Written By Frederick Cosby

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