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Blacks Have Become Less Hopeful about Racial Equality in Recent Years

The elation many African- Americans felt about racial progress after the 2008 election of Barack Obama has waned considerably, as a new Pew Research Center poll reports nearly 8 in 10 blacks say a lot of work remains to be done to reach racial equality.

The poll’s release coincides with a slew of celebrations over the next week in commemoration of the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech at the 1963 March on Washington, when he eloquently spoke about his dreams of a nation of racial equality.

In the Pew poll, less than half of all Americans say the U.S. has made substantial progress in the past 50 years toward racial equality.

A majority of blacks and whites say the two races generally get along “very well” or “pretty well,”  but blacks remain far behind whites in household income and net worth.

While 35 percent of blacks report that they have been discriminated against in the past year, the corresponding number for Hispanics was 20 percent and 10 percent for whites. In addition, a majority of blacks say they are treated less fairly than whites in dealings with police, in the courts, in local public schools or on the job.

As a nation, 49 percent of Americans say “a lot more” remains to be done to achieve racial equality, while 79 percent of blacks share that view, compared with 44 percent of whites and 48 percent of Hispanics.

“The public seems to be saying that we as a society are heading in the right direction, but we aren’t there yet,” said Pew senior editor Rich Morin.

The poll of 2,231 adults was conducted from Aug. 1-11, 2013, with a sampling error of plus or minus 2.5 percentage points. 

Pew also did an analysis recently of the black unemployment rate, showing that for the last six decades the black rate has been double the white unemployment levels.

According to the Pew analysis, in 1954, the earliest year for which the Bureau of Labor Statistics has compiled unemployment data by race, the white rate averaged 5 percent and the black rate averaged 9.9 percent. Last month, the split was an unemployment rate among whites of 6.6 percent, compared to the black unemployment level of 12.6 percent.

Over those 60 years, the unemployment rate for blacks has averaged about 2.2 times that for whites – with the widest gap of 2.77 times that of white unemployment coming in the late 1980s, when the manufacturing sectors shriveled and the smallest gap of 1.67 times ironically coming in summer 2009 during the Great Recession, when white unemployment soared.


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