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Research on Blacks, including surveys and polls, has always been tainted, tending to reflect the author’s bias. Results routinely fail to depict Black life and times. However, some research on Blacks is valid and should not be summarily dismissed. Here’s the rub: Many Blacks, particularly Black leadership, reject research, never acknowledging valid findings relating to Blacks. This could indicate an unwillingness to honestly assess Blacks’ status and bears on crucial issues.
The Pew Research Center recently released a report, “Optimism about Black Progress Declines-Blacks See Growing Values Gap Between Poor and Middle Class.” It is generating criticism and consternation.
Excerpts from the report are presented here without comment; Analysis is left to readers who are encouraged to respond: Collective responses may not only help debunk skewed research, but more likely acknowledge whatever validity if any, exists.
“The Pew Report asserts Blacks see a growing values gap between the poor and middle-class. It finds that nearly four in ten Blacks say that because of the diversity within their community, Blacks can no longer be thought of as a single voice.
It also finds Blacks less upbeat about the state of Black progress now than at any time since 1983. Just one in five Blacks say things are better for Blacks now than they were five years ago. Fewer than half of all Blacks (44 percent) say they think life for Blacks will get better in the future, down from the 57 percent who said so in a 1986 survey.
Whites have a different perspective. While they, too, have grown less sanguine about Black progress, they are nearly twice as likely as Blacks to see Black gains in the past five years. A majority of Whites (56 percent) say life for Blacks in this country will get better in the future.
Similar race-based gaps in perception emerge on several other key topics explored in this survey. For example, Blacks have much less confidence than Whites in the fairness of the criminal justice system. Also, Blacks say that anti-Black discrimination is commonplace in everyday life; Whites disagree.
But there are also areas where the two groups largely see eye-to-eye. Blacks and Whites agree that there has been a convergence in the past decade in the values held by Blacks and Whites. On the issue of immigration, Blacks and Whites agree that most immigrants work harder than most Blacks and most Whites at low-wage jobs. Large majorities of both Blacks and Whites say rap and hip-hop-two music styles with roots in the Black community that have gained mainstream popularity in recent years-have a bad influence on society.
The survey finds that Black and White Americans express very little overt racial animosity. About eight in ten members of each racial group express a favorable view about members of the other group. Large majorities in both groups say that Blacks and Whites get along either “very” or “pretty” well, though in both cases, a greater number say “pretty well.” More than eight in ten adults in each group also say they know a person of a different race whom they consider a friend.
The most newsworthy African American figure in politics today—Democratic presidential hopeful Barak Obama—draws broadly favorable ratings from Blacks and Whites. But there is a racial divide in perceptions about his potential electoral liabilities: Blacks are more inclined to say that his race will detract from his chances to be elected president; Whites are more inclined to say his relative inexperience will hurt his chances.
Three-quarters of Blacks say that Obama is a good influence on the Black community. Even greater numbers say the same thing about Oprah Winfrey (87 percent) and Bill Cosby (85 percent), who are the most highly regarded by Blacks from among 14 Black newsmakers in this survey. Just 17 percent of Blacks say that rap artists 50 Cent is a good influence.
Over the past two decades, Blacks have lost some degree of confidence in the effectiveness of leaders within their community, including Black political figures, the clergy and the NAACP. A sizable majority of Blacks still see all of these groups as either very or somewhat effective, but those saying “very” effective has declined since 1986.”
The Pew Report (findings and premise?) projects a bleak future for Blacks. Unfortunately, that forecast is shared by many Blacks who are unwitting accessories to their own oppression, adding to the Herculean task of effectively challenging racist oppression.
Larry Aubry n can be contacted at e-mail