Backward Priorities? Race Relations Is The Last Thing On Americans’ Minds

March 14, 2014  |  

You would think in such polarized times as these, Americans would be conscious of race relations and the role persistent prejudice still plays in our society. But according to a new study, that is the last — literally the last — thing on folks’ minds.

According to a new Gallup survey, race relations occupies the final spot on a list of 15 national priorities, after climate change. An incredibly low 17 percent worry about race relations a “great deal” and 26 percent a fair amount. But a whopping 56 percent say they think about the issue “a little/not at all.”  The economy, federal spending and the budget deficit, and the availability and affordability of healthcare were the top three concerns.

Twenty-four percent of respondents say they worry about climate change a “great deal,” reports The Huffington Post.

Maybe Americans are buying into the post-racial society notion. But evidence proves there is still a lot to do in terms of race relations. Since Barack Obama became the first black president, racial tensions have heightened.

According to a poll commissioned by the Associated Press, the number of Americans with “explicit anti-black attitudes” increased from 48 percent in 2008 to 51 percent in 2012. Implicit racist attitudes jumped from 49 percent to 56 percent. “Another set of A.P. polls showed anti-Latino attitudes had climbed between 2011 and 2012,” reports  The New York Times.

The Southern Poverty Law Center found that the number of hate groups in America increased from 926 in 2008 to 1,007 in 2012, and radical-right groups rose even faster.

And then you have tone deaf comments from politicians that make preconceptions and stereotypes about blacks and other minorities legitimate. Just yesterday, Wisconsin Congressman and likely 2016 presidential candidate Paul Ryan (R) was backtracking and explaining away comments he made during a radio interview that had a marked racial undertone.

Calling the remarks “inarticulate,” he was speaking about his ideas for alleviating poverty and said, “We have got this tailspin of culture, in our inner cities in particular, of men not working and just generations of men not even thinking about working or learning the value and the culture of work, and so there is a real culture problem here that has to be dealt with.”

Rep. Barbara Lee, a California Democrat and Congressional Black Caucus’s Poverty and Economy Task Force responded with the following in a statement, quoted on Politico, “My colleague Congressman Ryan’s comments about ‘inner city’ poverty are a thinly veiled racial attack and cannot be tolerated. Let’s be clear, when Mr. Ryan says ‘inner city’ when he says, ‘culture,’ these are simply code words for what he really means: ‘black.'”

Rep. Ryan maintains that he wasn’t talking about one community or culture, but rather “society as a whole.”

How often do you think about race relations?

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