By Llowell Williams, July 20, 2016 —

Photo Credit: The All-Nite Images / Wikimedia Commons

After the past several weeks, Americans are understandably on edge. With the news seemingly serving up an endless series of accounts of police shooting black men dead in questionable circumstances coupled with the recent spate of shootings targeting police officers, as in Dallas and Baton Rouge, race relations might appear to be rather dismal.

The reality isn’t nearly so bleak. According to a recent poll conducted by Gallup, 49 percent of black Americans say they are satisfied with the direction the country is going in; 47 percent of Hispanics say the same thing.

These findings, Gallup notes, are consistent with survey results over the last three years.

Though a slight majority of both minority groups do not see the country moving in a positive direction, their dissatisfaction does not come close to that of one other group: white Americans.

Gallup found that only 28 percent of all white Americans see the current state of the nation in a positive light.

On the surface, these results show a modest degree of optimism from black and Hispanic Americans but a deep cynicism from whites.

A recent survey by Pew regarding the current perceptions of race helps further illuminate these attitudes. When asked about the basic state of race relations in the country, 61 percent of black Americans replied that it was “generally bad.”

This compares starkly to white Americans, only 45 percent of whom share this view.

Almost as interesting is the finding that while just one-fifth of black Americans agree that too much attention is paid to racial issues, twice as many whites say the same.

What does this mean? On the one hand, while most black Americans see racism as a serious, contemporary issue, almost as many believe the country is on the right track — that race relations are not in decline.

On the other hand, it reveals that most white Americans, though, do not view racism as a major problem today, and an overwhelming number take issue with the direction the U.S. is headed in.

These somewhat inverse perceptions prove more informative about the current racial climate in the United States than mainstream discourse would care to admit. So while 38 percent of white Americans say enough has changed to give black Americans equal rights (and another 40 percent say this will eventually happen), just 8 percent of black Americans say enough has been done. However, slightly more black Americans than white, 42 percent, are optimistic that change will eventually come.

Many white Americans see racial equality as a nonissue; with such a view, social change could be seen as both unnecessary and perhaps even unfair.

Though Barack Obama’s two terms as U.S. president were without a doubt pivotal for black Americans, heralding a social step forward, it also brought out the worst racist impulses still present in this country — many of the seven in ten white Americans dissatisfied by the nation’s progress no doubt saw his successful election as a step in the wrong direction.

When it comes to the contentious 2016 presidential race, Republican nominee Donald Trump has coasted heavily on stoking the discontentment and anger of this sector of white Americans.

Though this tactic has apparently been successful enough to get him to the Republican National Convention, the reality that virtually half of Hispanic and black Americans want to continue to see the nation progress socially will be the failing of this strategy.