The study surveyed more than 10,000 adults in July on several questions related to the public’s attention to slavery and racism, whether more needs to be done to achieve equal rights in the country and if White people benefit from privilege over Black people.
Pew found that 75% of Black adults, 64% of Asian American adults and 59% of Hispanic adults say increased attention on the nation’s history of slavery and racism is a good thing. Among White adults, 46% said greater attention to slavery and racism was good.
The study also concluded that there is division along racial and political party lines when it comes to views on the nation’s progress in the last 50 years.
For example, 71% of Republicans say the nation has made “a lot” of progress with ensuring equal rights for all Americans but only 29% of Democrats agreed.
Black adults, however, were skeptical with just 19% saying the US had made a lot of progress and 64% saying the country has made a little progress. Conversely, the study found that 64% of White adults believe the nation has made a lot of progress.
There is also division in how the nation should achieve equality. According to the study, 58% of Black adults say most of the nation’s laws and major institutions need to be completely rebuilt compared to 18% of White adults.
Carroll Doherty, director of political research for Pew, said the center did the study last month to take the pulse of Americans’ attitudes a year after the death of George Floyd sparked a racial reckoning and uprisings across the country. Researchers also believed it was timely given the nationwide controversy over whether history about racism should be taught in schools, he said.
Doherty said his biggest takeaway was that the starkest divisions among Americans appeared to come from the more specific questions about how to address inequality and the nation’s level of progress.
“There’s a general sense among the public that the nation has made at least some progress,” he said. “But beneath the surface are differences on how much progress and where do we go from here.”
The Pew study also found that Black adults overwhelmingly believe White people benefit from societal advantages with 90% saying they benefit a “fair amount.” Meanwhile, White people are divided on whether they have advantages over Black people with 47% saying they benefit a fair amount and 52% saying they don’t benefit much or at all.
“Whites do not live in Black bodies and have not experienced the particularities of this lived experience,” Smith said. “Ordinary things they take for granted, like going for a walk, are life threatening for people of color. On a daily basis, thousands of micro-aggressions are meted against people of color which Whites have no understanding of.”