A Majority of Black Americans Feel They're Treated Unfairly by Just About Every Major Civic Institution

Cops. Courts. Schools. Elections.

Image
Reuters

With the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech approaching next week, Pew released today a new survey on public perception of the progress blacks have made in America since then. The top-level finding is unsurprising: African-Americans are much more pessimistic than whites are in rating the extent to which they still face inequality and unfairness in American society. And they're significantly more likely to say that a lot of work still needs to be done.

(The Daily Show recently captured these same awkwardly diverging views of reality with a less scientific survey.)

Economic and demographic indicators suggest that blacks in fact have not closed many of the divides that existed half a century ago when King spoke in Washington. Gaps between blacks and whites in household income and household wealth have actually widened since then. And gaps in poverty and homeownership rates have remained largely unchanged.

Of particular note are a set of questions posed in the survey about how blacks are treated today by some of the most important civic institutions in society: police departments, the justice system, public schools. Pew asked 2,231 nationally representative adults if they believed blacks in their communities were treated less fairly than whites by these and other elements of the community, including restaurants and stores.

Seventy percent of blacks felt this way about the police (no wonder). Meanwhile, only 37 percent of whites felt blacks were treated unfairly by police. Suspicion among blacks (and a stark divide in opinion with whites) remains notably high for elections as well (ahem).

The rest of the results are below.

And here's that Daily Show segment:

 

Top image: Police try to stop an activist as she demands justice for Trayvon Martin while marching with hundreds of others in New York, July 14, 2013. REUTERS/Adrees Latif

About the Author

  • Emily Badger is a former staff writer at CityLab. Her work has previously appeared in Pacific StandardGOODThe Christian Science Monitor, and The New York Times. She lives in the Washington, D.C. area.