A poll put out Wednesday by a group of African-American lawyers, judges, educators and law students revealed a gulf between how black Americans and white Americans believe black people are treated by police.
The National Bar Association poll showed 88 percent of blacks believe police treat black people unfairly while just 59 percent of white Americans hold the same view.
The gulf is wider still in Southern states, where 90 percent of blacks say there is unfair treatment compared to 55 percent of whites.
The poll, released in partnership with Sachs Media Group, surveyed 1,088 adults and ran June 25-July 6, amid a stream of national coverage on police treatment of blacks in cases such as the Eric Garner slaying in New York City and the death of Freddie Gray while in the custody of Baltimore police. When asked whether such media coverage heightens racial tensions, 78 percent of blacks and 88 percent of whites agreed.
There was a similar chasm between how whites and blacks see race relations. Asked whether the situation is better now than it was 50 years ago, 76 percent of whites and 58 percent of blacks responded affirmatively. When asked about the last 10 years, however, respondents were less optimistic — only 47 percent of whites and 38 percent of blacks polled say relations are better today than a decade ago.
“Our national conversation about race has been going on for a long time, and it’s encouraging to see signs of progress. However, 50 years of conversation is too long without seeing more movement and, to a certain extent, regression,” said NBA President Benjamin Crump. “This survey shows that clearly there remains work to be done.”
Respondents’ outlook on racial equality was the most upside-down, with less than a quarter of those polled saying the nation is close to equality. The sentiment was strongest among older whites, with 27 percent of those between 56 and 64 years old agreeing. Whites over 65 years old registered at 24 percent, with millennial blacks, the generation born between the early 1980s and early 2000s, coming in at just 20 percent.
“These findings should concern all citizens and public officials who still see the need to build a greater sense of community after so many years of policy progress,” said National League of Cities Executive Director Clarence Anthony. “There is significant work to be done – especially among young adults who don’t see positive change around them. While they’ve grown up at a time when we’ve made considerable advances in creating more racially inclusive communities, clearly we all have a lot more work to do.”