1960-Now: Polls show what has changed, what hasn’t

By Elizabeth Ballinger
A recent Gallup poll determined 56 percent of U.S adults report believing racism against blacks is still a rampant problem. A gap, however, was found between races on the matter: 78 percent of blacks polled agreed that racism is still common, compared to a marginal 51 percent of whites. “Everything has changed,” said Rev. Joseph Lowery, co-founder of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) with King, in a recent interview with MSNBC. “And nothing has changed.” Before Obama’s candidacy, 94 percent of Americans polled by Gallup said they would consider voting for a black presidential candidate. In 1967, that number sat at 53 percent. It appears now, weeks away from Obama’s inauguration, many Americans have high hopes for what his presidency will mean for race relations. More than two-thirds of Americans rank his election among the top three advances for blacks in the last 100 years. As for the outlook of race relations, 67 percent say racial conflicts will always be a problem in the country, particularly between blacks and whites. And then there’s the less talked of group: Latinos. While people of Hispanic origin report fewer experiences of discrimination based on their ethnicity than blacks, these numbers may be misleading. Statistics usually refer to “Hispanics” as all of Spanish and Latin American descent. However, numbers shows the experience of immigrants and second-generation Latinos is vastly different from that of the larger Hispanic population. “Most people don’t consider anti-immigration attitudes a form of racism,” said Henry Amaya, BC’s advisor to the Black Student Union (BSU). “But you have a huge population of people who are being asked to leave this country being told they are not welcome here.” The Pew Research Center found that most blacks and whites agreed that immigrants in the country, most of whom are Hispanic, work harder in low-wage jobs than they do. Agricultural, low-paying food and other service and manufacturing jobs were found to be disproportionately occupied by immigrant work. “These are people who contribute to the fabric of society in ways we almost never stop to think about,” said Amaya. “Every time you eat canned food, or you pick up your laundry, chances are an immigrant took part in producing it.” Statistically, a slight decrease in anti-immigrant sentiment has occurred in the last year, despite federal proposals of constructs, such as a fence along the Southern border, to prevent new illegal immigration. Many Americans wish to make the process of attaining citizenship easier for illegal immigrants already here easier, while a larger portion maintain that these people are law-breakers, and should therefore be treated as such. The income gap between whites, blacks and Hispanics is still considerable, with whites making an average of $16,000 more than the other two groups. The average African American family’s income was 58 percent that of whites in 1960, By 2006 it had only risen 3%. The portion of children living in poverty in black communities was at two-thirds in 1960, it has since fallen down to just over 25%, is still two times higher than that of white children. “There have been some gains,” said Julian Bond, chairman of the NAACP, “but it is uneven.” Forty-four percent of blacks said they believe life for African Americans will get better.