Michael Harriot

The Root, April 9, 2019.

The next time someone says that America needs to have a “conversation about race,” please remind them that, according to a new report from one of the most respected opinion researchers in the world, most white people in America think we talk about race too much. Most white people don’t think that being white has helped them get ahead in life. And statistically, most white people don’t believe that voter suppression or hiring discrimination affects black people.

“Race In America 2019,” Pew Research Center. (IStock photo)

On Tuesday, the Pew Research Center—a “nonpartisan fact tank that informs the public about the issues”—released its report: “Race in America 2019.” The new report on the national perceptions of race reveals some not-so-startling news about the lens through which Americans view racial progress, politics and good old-fashioned racism. (Unsurprisinglyit closely resembles the unpublished study Race in America 1819, except the font is different; the charts are in color and there are fewer references to “negro slaves.”)

Perceptions of race and racism

The startling topline of this poll is that 50 percent of white people say that being white has neither helped or hurt their chances of getting ahead and another 5 percent say being white has held them back. In fact, only 27 percent of whites would even admit that being white helps a little and another 18 percent say being white has helped them a lot.

Because the poll participants are anonymous, it is impossible to know if Felicity Huffman’s children were included in the results.

IStock photo

However, according to white people who were surveyed, a lot of racism is totally made up, anyway. Pew Research discovered that 52 percent of white people insist that the “bigger problem” is that people see racism where it does not exist, even though the vast majority of every other racial group feels that Americans don’t see discrimination when it does exist. Fourteen percent of whites feel like all or most black people are prejudiced against whites. Only 6 percent of whites believe white people are prejudiced against blacks.

You read that right. There are twice as many whites who believe in reverse racism than there are who believe in regular racism.

Although whites see disparities in how the police and the criminal justice system deals with black people, the majority of whites don’t believe blacks are treated less fairly than whites when it comes to hiring, pay, promotions, mortgages, health care and voting.

Graphic: Pew Research Center

Thankfully, the people who aren’t affected by racism have come up with a cure.

In spite of the fact that the majority of Asians, Hispanics and blacks say that Americans should focus on “the unique experiences of different groups,” 59 percent of whites say that we need to focus more on what different groups have in common. That might be because only 15 percent of whites think their race is important to their identity, while 74 percent of black Americans, 59 percent of Hispanics and 54 percent of Asians say their race is important to how they think of themselves.

To be fair, a large percentage of the Caucasian respondents might not be aware that they are white because they “don’t see color,” which may have skewed the results.

Racial Progress

According to Pew, the majority of black (73 percent), Hispanic (69 percent) and Asian Americans (63 percent) believe race relations are “generally bad,” while only 49 percent of whites think the president has worsened race relations, which is the same percentage of whites who think President “Both Sides” has improved race relations or at least tried to do so.

Across races, a majority of Americans (65 percent) say it has become more common for people to express racist views since Trump was elected. Still, nearly six out of every 10 white people(58 percent) say blacks and whites get along well; which is the same percentage of black people who say blacks and whites don’t get along well. That chasm is also reflected in the results that show a plurality of whites believe that we pay “too much” attention to race and another 21 percent say we give the issue the right amount of attention. 67 percent of black people, on the other hand, say we pay too little attention to race.

Data: Pew Research—Race in America 2019
Graphic: Michael Harriot (The Root/GMG)

When it comes to giving black people equal rights with whites, only 37 percent of white people think this country needs to make strides. Forty-three percent of whites think equal rights in America has “been about right” and nearly one-in-five whites (19 percent) say America has gone “too far” in fighting racial inequality.

So much for that conversation about race.

Political differences

Aside from racial differences, political differences drastically shaped how whites view race in America.

Most white Republicans (57 percent) said that police treat whites and blacks equally while 88 percent of white Democrats feel that police are unfair to blacks. More white members of the GOP believe that lack of motivation hinders black people from getting ahead than racial discrimination, lack of access to good schools or less high-paying jobs. Fifty-three percent of Republicans say America’s treatment of equal rights has “been about right,” and a majority of white Republicans insist that the legacy of slavery doesn’t really affect black people at all.

Subcategory: Whites; Pew Research Center — Race in America 2019
Graphic: Pew Research Center

The results of the survey come from a carefully constructed panel of 6,637 randomly-selected panelists and weighted to match the samples to the national benchmarks for race and ethnicity.

While that disclaimer might seem necessary because—after all—that’s how surveys are done. However, in this specific case, we found it necessary—not for the sake of accuracy. We just wanted to make sure you understood: even though white people be tripping…

Not all white people.