I'm putting this in the form of a poll, 'cause I'm gonna ask the same two questions at the end of the story! Activists Voice Skepticism About Poll Gauging Attitudes Toward Poor Blacks and Racism
Date: Wednesday, November 14, 2007
By: F. Finley McRae, Special to BlackAmericaWeb.com
A national opinion poll purportedly indicating that blacks are blaming poor blacks for their lack of economic advance, rather than racism and discrimination, is increasingly raising suspicion among African-Americans.
Despite the poll's mixed results, some conservative analysts and commentators have leaped on it to support their contentions that substantial numbers of African-Americans are growing into "greater self reliance" and distancing themselves from "excuses for failure."
The poll, conducted from September 5 through October 16 by the Washington, D.C.based Pew Research Center in conjunction with Princeton Survey Research Associates, reportedly relied on responses from 1,007 African-Americans nationwide, according to Scott Keeter, director of survey research.
Polling was conducted in 48 of the nation's 50 states; only Alaska and Hawaii were omitted. Black interviewers were matched with African-Americans in many of the reporting sessions which were conducted by telephone, Keeter told BlackAmericaWeb.com.
Respondents were given a choice of only two answers: "Which of these statements comes closer to your own views, even if neither is exactly right? (a) Racial discrimination is the main reason why many black people can't get ahead and (b), blacks who can't get ahead in this country are mostly responsible for their own condition."
According to the poll, 53 percent of respondents said "blacks who do not get ahead are mainly responsible for their own situation, while just three in 10 said discrimination is the main reason for a lack of black progress."
This response was in sharp contrast to the Center's 1994 poll in which 60 percent of African-Americans said they believed that racial prejudice was the main thing keeping blacks from succeeding economically, and just 36 percent targeted other blacks, instead of hardcore racism and stubborn, deep-seated discrimination.
Although the majority of respondents reportedly said poor blacks are responsible for their own lack of economic mobility, the poll also contains responses that appear to contradict the poll's premise.
Most black respondents, according to the Center, said racial discrimination "remains pervasive and is a fact of life." Another 65 percent said "blacks often and almost always face discrimination when applying for employment," and 70 percent are slapped with bias when attempting to rent an apartment or buy a home.
Some 50 percent said discrimination is evident when they patronize restaurants, and 43 percent said discrimination dogs their heels in applications to colleges and universities.
Consistent with these findings, the vast majority endorse affirmative action as a tool to protect black economic advance by creating opportunities and fairness in employment and housing.
BlackAmericaWeb.com, to gauge African-American reaction to the poll, attempted to reach a broad cross-section of respected activists, leaders and thinkers across the nation,
Hazel Dukes, who presides over the 47 NAACP chapters in New York state, told BlackAmericaWeb.com that "racism is still a permanent fixture in the life of African Americans."
She said that "blacks have not had many opportunities to pass fortunes and wealth down from one generation to another" and pointed out that "America continues to do much more for other (ethnic) groups, which is to provide opportunities, but not for us."
Dukes suggested that blacks "must not blame each other and instead should remember that we've tried to assimilate, but when it comes to people of color, it usually does not work."
While she acknowledged a greater need among some African-Americans "to look inside and analyze the reasons for a lack of economic success," Dukes admonished critics to "look all around America's mega cities, and see who's downtown in the business communities or selling magazines and other items at newspaper stands."
Given those realities and many others, Dukes said, "no one can honestly say that all of the burden for economic success should rest on us alone."
Keeter, in his interview with BlackAmericaWeb.com, said that two African-American scholars -- Darren Davis, a professor at the University of Notre Dame, and David Wilson at the University of Delaware -- served as consultants for the poll. Juan Williams, a former Washington Post writer who is now a political commentator, also played a role, Keeter said.
The Rev. Dr. Norman S. Johnson, Sr., the senior minister of Los Angeles' First New Christian Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church, said the poll does not address "how to lift people out of poverty, but justifies a permanent underclass."
Dr. Johnson, a former executive director of the Los Angeles branch of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, said the real question is, "what was the motivation for the poll, given the overall tenor of the the society, which demonizes the poor?"
Dr. Andrew Apter, director of the James S. Coleman African Studies Center at UCLA and a professor of history and anthropology there, charged that the poll "takes the interests of an elite class -- in this case, the American white elite -- and universalizes those interests to appear as if they are shared by the population as a whole."
If the results of the survey are accurate, Apter said, "they represent the effectiveness of a hegemonic strategy, where the so-called victims blame themselves, rather than the unequal playing field."
That also explains, Apter said, "why people vote against their own interests as well."
So what say you?