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After years of high-profile videos of police killing black people — most recently George Floyd — many white people have come to recognize the police brutality and systemic racism that people of color have rallied against for years. But polls still show a big gap in how black and white Americans understand race relations, police violence, protests and progress.
For example, a few days after Floyd’s death, YouGov asked Americans if police treat black people differently from white people. How do you think white and black respondents answered?
On the one hand, a majority of black and white respondents agree that police don’t treat black and white people equally, but on the other hand, the gap here is still pretty stark. That might help explain why black and white Americans are divided in their support for the protests. How divided do you think they are?
That’s another pretty big gap, and it raises a thorny issue — white Americans increasingly recognize racism and police brutality against African Americans as a problem, but don’t necessarily support protests advocating for change. That might have something to do with the way white and black Americans perceive Floyd’s death.
Again, a large gap, even if another question in that poll showed that roughly three-quarters of both white and black respondents strongly approved of firing the officers involved. But that’s also a very specific, well-documented and high-profile case. When asked about police behavior in general, such as whether police are more likely to use excessive force against a black person, Americans are more divided. See if you can guess just how divided.
And perhaps even more telling is the way Americans describe their personal feelings toward police.
Source: Axios/Ipsos, May 29-June 1, 2020
Unlike police killings, the effects of racism in the larger criminal justice system aren’t often captured on video, which can make it harder to raise awareness of its insidious inequality. Perhaps as a result, white Americans are less likely to agree with black Americans on this issue than on questions about Floyd’s death.
The latest round of protests may have swayed public opinion in the last few weeks, but last year, black and white Americans were divided on how much progress they thought the U.S. has made on equal rights.
Given the persistent gap in how white and black Americans view race, discrimination, police violence and protests, it’s perhaps not surprising that the groups don’t have the same outlook on whether the country can ever achieve equal rights. How do you think black and white Americans feel about the future?