Poll Says Two-Thirds of Black Americans Believe Racism is a Major Problem in the U.S. and Recent Increased Attention on Racial Inequality Has Not Brought Any Changes

Demonstrators deploy a “Black Lives Matter” banner near the White House during a demonstration against racism and police brutality, in Washington, DC, on June 6, 2020.

Two-thirds of Black Americans say that recent increased focus on race and racial inequality in the US has not led to changes that are improving the lives of Black people, according to a new report from the Pew Research Center.

The finding marks a pessimistic turn: In September of 2020, a majority of Black adults (56%) felt the added attention to issues of race and equality following a summer of protests sparked by the murder of George Floyd would lead to changes that improved the lives of Black people.

In the new survey, however, 65% of Black adults say that such changes haven’t materialized. Just 13% see it as extremely or very likely that Black people in the US will achieve equality, with little variation in that figure by age, gender, region or education level.

The survey — which included interviews with more than 3,000 Black Americans nationwide conducted last fall — finds 82% consider racism a major problem for Black people in the US. About 8 in 10 Black Americans report having personally experienced discrimination because of their race or ethnicity (79%) — including 15% who say they experience such discrimination regularly. And roughly 7 in 10 (68%) say racial discrimination is the main reason why many Black people can’t get ahead these days.

“Overall, Black Americans are clear on what they think the problems are facing the country and how to remedy them,” write Kiana Cox and Khadijah Edwards, the report’s authors. “However, they are skeptical that meaningful changes will take place in their lifetime.”

A broad majority (85%) of Black adults say Black people in the US today are significantly affected by the legacy of slavery, and 77% say descendants of people enslaved in the US should be repaid in some way. But just 7% of Black adults see the payment of reparations as very or extremely likely in their own lifetimes. Among the overall US adult population, just 30% favor such reparations.

Racism ranks as the most pressing problem for Black people living in the US out of six issues tested in the survey. Almost two-thirds of Black adults, 63%, say it is an extremely big problem for Black Americans, while 60% say the same of police brutality, 54% of economic inequality, 47% affordability of health care, 46% efforts to limit voting and 40% the quality of K-12 schools.

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SOURCE: CNN, Jennifer Agiesta and Ariel Edwards-Levy