Blacks, Latinos, Asians—United, Divided
Wednesday, December 12, 2007
Blacks, Hispanics and Asians share negative stereotypes of each other, a New America Media study sys, but believe that race relations will improve. (Credit: Los Angeles Times)
Ethnic Media Urged to Reach Out to Other Groups
A poll of 1,105 African American, Asian American and Hispanic adults finds that "a majority of African Americans and a significant percentage of Hispanics and Asian Americans consider the coverage of problems related to race in the ethnic media to be irresponsible," New America Media, a collaboration of ethnic news organizations that sponsored the study, announced on Wednesday.
"At the same time, overwhelming majorities of African Americans, Asian Americans and Hispanics think that the ethnic media in the United States have the responsibility to do everything in their power to improve race relations. This poll gives ethnic media a rationale, an obligation and a basic direction on this issue — to teach each group about the other and begin a dialogue that will move race relations into the twenty-first century."
According to its executive summary, "This first-of-its-kind multilingual poll of Black, Hispanic and Asian Americans finds a multi-ethnic America that is at once divided by race and ethnic tension, while at the same time optimistic about a more harmonious multi-ethnic future. All three groups underscore racial tensions among them as a serious problem demanding attention, and share negative stereotypes of each other. Yet these same majorities also believe that race relations will improve significantly over the next 10 years.
"Predominantly immigrant populations — Hispanics and Asians — express great optimism about their lives in America. Both Hispanics and Asians believe that hard work will be rewarded and 'the system' works. By contrast, over 60 percent of Blacks polled do not believe the American Dream works for them. They also describe themselves as feeling more segregated from the rest of America than do Asian and Hispanic immigrants. Ethnic isolation and divergent perspectives about barriers to success underlie the racial/ethnic mistrust and tensions reported by the three groups.
"Viewed in historical perspective, the poll is a benchmark for America's evolution as a global society. Unlike earlier European (White) immigrants to America who often advanced by setting themselves apart from African Americans, today's Hispanics and Asians see themselves as belonging to the same country as the Blacks and Whites preceding them. Pointedly, both Asians and Hispanics acknowledge that Black America forged the path for their own assimilation through the civil rights movement. And all three groups believe that advances by each will benefit the other, and describe their futures as interdependent. All three expect that time will improve race relations.
"The poll is a call to action for the ethnic media leaders who sponsored it. While respondents believe that ethnic media are 'irresponsible' when it comes to covering race relations and need to move beyond a conversation only within their own group, they also describe ethnic media as a vital intermediary for strengthening inter-group communication."
Here are the poll's other major findings:
- "THERE ARE SUBSTANTIAL demographic and socioeconomic differences between Hispanics, Asians and African Americans in the United States.
"Hispanics are significantly younger than their African American and Asian counterparts. Approximately over half of all Hispanics and four-fifths of all Asians residing in the United States are immigrants. In contrast, 90 percent of Blacks are U.S. born. Asians have substantially higher incomes than Hispanics and African Americans. Almost half of Asians have a college degree. In contrast, less than one-fifth of Hispanics and African Americans have achieved that educational level.
- "THE POLL CLEARLY indicates that racial tension exists among the African American, Hispanic and Asian communities in the United States. This racial tension manifests itself in the following survey results:
"An overwhelming majority of respondents from the three racial/ethnic groups consider 'racial tension' to be a very important problem in the United States.
"A majority of Hispanics, Asians and African Americans would prefer to do business with White Anglos rather than with the other two racial/ethnic groups.
"Significant percentages of all three groups share negative stereotypes about the other two. However, similar percentages of respondents in each group also disagree with those stereotypes. These mixed results reflect the extent to which the poll is capturing not a static picture but a racial landscape in flux. Forty-four percent of Hispanics and 47 percent of Asians report that they are 'generally afraid of African Americans because they are responsible for most of the crime.' But 50 percent of Hispanics and 45 percent of Asian Americans disagree with this statement.
"Forty-six percent of Hispanics and 52 percent of African Americans agree with the statement that 'most Asian business owners do not treat them with respect.' Smaller percentages of Hispanics and African Americans disagree.
"Just over half of African Americans feel threatened by Latin American immigrants because 'they are taking away jobs, housing and political power away from the Black community,' while 45 percent disagree. Only 34 percent of Asians feel Hispanics are displacing them.
- "CONTRASTING OPINIONS about what America promises and delivers as a society are key to understanding the problems that exist among Hispanics, African American and Asians.
"Whereas Asians and Hispanics share a strong faith in the American Dream ('If you work hard, you will succeed in the United States'), African Americans do not believe the Dream works. Asian breakdown shows Vietnamese having the highest majority — 81 percent — of respondents who believe if you work hard you will succeed in the United States.
"Similarly, a majority of Hispanics, and a significant percentage of Asians, believe in the concept that every American — Black, Hispanic, Asian or White — has an equal opportunity to succeed. By contrast, the majority of Black respondents — 66 percent — do not agree. It is interesting to note that 'poor' Blacks and 'middle class' Blacks have similar views on 'core values' issues like equal opportunity. Vietnamese and Filipinos score higher on issues like equal opportunity because they have a more 'patriotic or conservative' mindset than their Chinese or Korean counterparts.
"Again, whereas an overwhelming majority of Blacks believe the criminal justice system favors the rich and powerful, a majority of Hispanics and an even larger majority of Asians disagree.
"This sharp contrast in faith in the system suggests that the newer you are to this country, the more optimistic you are about its ideals. More than half of Hispanics and four-fifths of Asians interviewed are immigrants, whereas 90 percent of Blacks in the poll are native born.
- "HIGH LEVELS OF ETHNIC ISOLATION exist among the groups, which may underlie and reinforce racial tensions.
"A majority of Hispanics, African Americans and Asians report that most of their friends are from their own racial or ethnic group, with Asians having the highest percentage of friends among other groups and Hispanics the lowest.
"Hispanics and African Americans report that more than three-quarters of those they attend church or religious services with are from their own race or ethnic group, and that approximately two-thirds of those they go to school with are also of their own race or ethnicity.
"Substantial majorities of Hispanics, African Americans and Asians report that they have never dated someone from the other ethnic and racial groups.
"It is worth noting that 16 percent of Blacks, 17 percent of Hispanics and 9 percent of Asians do report having dated someone from the other two racial and ethnic groups. Without polls from earlier decades to compare these numbers with, it's difficult to know which way the trend lines are moving. But a NAM poll of California young people may be indicative. Some 65% of this most diverse sector of the population in the country report having dated someone of a different race.
- "DESPITE THE CHALLENGES, there are strong reasons to be optimistic about the future of race relations in the United States. Even though African Americans, Asians and Hispanics live apart in many ways, at the same time, they respect each other's contributions and see themselves as co-existing in a society in which they will ultimately work out ways to relate to each other for their mutual benefit over the long term.
"The sharing of important values— patriotism, spirituality and devotion to family — may be the most solid foundation for optimism about improving relations among the three largest ethnic and racial groups. There is a shared appreciation for the cultural and political contributions that Hispanics, African Americans and Asian Americans have made to society. Hispanics and Asians recognize that African Americans led the fight for civil rights and against discrimination, and forged the path for integration for the other groups. Asian Americans and African Americans agree that Hispanic culture has enriched the quality of their lives. African Americans and Hispanics perceive Asian Americans to be role models when it comes to family and educational values.
"More than half of respondents from all three groups consider discrimination a problem for their communities. At the same time, each group acknowledges that the ascendancy of the others could work to its own advantage.
"A majority of each group believes that they should put aside their differences and work together on issues that affect their communities, and agrees that the United States would be a better country if there were more African Americans, Asian Americans and Hispanics in positions of authority at universities, businesses, media and government.
"African Americans, Asians and Hispanics are optimistic about the future. Strong majorities of each group believe that racial tensions will ease over the next 10 years.
"The recognition among all three groups that inter-racial, inter-ethnic relations will work themselves out and their determination to address problems among the three groups marks a watershed in the evolution of race relations in America. Unlike earlier immigrant groups—which saw their futures as dependent on their ability to align with and prove themselves to be White and not Black—Asians and Hispanics accept America as a multi-racial society into which they must fit themselves. And while Blacks report greater barriers to success compared to Hispanics and Asians and harbor deep fears that immigrants will displace them, they temper their pessimism by even greater optimism than the other groups that race relations will significantly improve over the next decade."
- Sergio Bendixen of New America Media and Vijay Prashad, professor of international studies at Trinity College, on National Public Radio's "Tell Me More."
- Lesley Clark, Miami Herald: Minorities poll shows rifts, hope for change
- Richard Rodriguez, New America Media: Race Poll Sign of Hope and Despair (audio)
Sandip Roy, New America Media: Ethnic Media Take On Race Challenge
Richard Prince's Journal-isms originates from Washington and is published Monday, Wednesday and Friday. It began in print before most of us knew what the Internet was, and it would like to be referred to as a "column." For newcomers: The words in blue (on most computers) are links leading to more information. The Web site BugMeNot.com provides passwords and user names to some registration-only news sites, but use may be illegal in some states. Any views expressed in the column are those of the person or organization quoted and not those of any other entity.
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