A recent article in The Los Angeles Times describes the disparity between whites and blacks in how each group perceives the state of racial equality in the United States, as described in a Pew Research Center survey published in August:
Many experts argue that “structural racism” — advantages and disadvantages that perpetuate themselves even without people choosing to discriminate — plays a big part in continued inequality. For instance, even if companies don’t try to avoid hiring blacks, blacks may be less likely to get the best jobs because many get filled through word-of-mouth. That gives an edge to those who live and socialize with people already working lucrative jobs, who remain disproportionately white.
But whites have pulled away from such ideas: Over recent decades, fewer agreed on national surveys that slavery and discrimination had created conditions that made it hard for blacks to advance, University of Illinois at Chicago sociology professor Maria Krysan found. Instead, more chalk up inequalities to differences in culture, blaming those who aren’t succeeding, she said.
Pew found young whites were more likely than older ones to say blacks were treated unfairly. Yet in another study, based on the national Monitoring the Future survey, Emory University sociologist Tyrone Forman found young whites were increasingly likely to say they were indifferent to racial matters. Between 1976 and 2011, the percentage of young whites who said they never worried about race relations nearly tripled.
The problem is that “a lot of these biases have gone underground but have not disappeared,” Forman said. “And that’s what is powerful and dangerous about racial apathy. We are all still looking for the smoking gun,” such as Paula Deen using racial slurs — instead of more subtle discrimination, he said.
The study, coinciding with the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, did not address perceptions by other racial groups, including Asian or Middle Eastern Americans. Still, the results highlight the varying perceptions about racial experience in this country.