Few Americans believe that there has been significant progress in the last 50 years in achieving equal treatment for blacks in dealing with the police and the criminal justice system.
Majorities of Americans across racial and ethnic groups say more progress is needed, according to a new poll by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. But African Americans, many of whom may have been hopeful about Democrats’ promises of racial justice initiatives in 2020, are especially pessimistic that more progress will be made in the years to come.
Overall, only about a quarter of Americans say there has been a lot or a lot of progress in achieving racial equality in policing and criminal justice. About another third say there has been “some” progress. An overwhelming majority of adults say more progress is needed for racial equality, including about half who say “much” more.
“There is more attention around certain issues and there is an understanding: More people are realizing that there is a lot of corruption in the system,” said Derek Sims, a 35-year-old bus driver in Austin, Texas, who is black. He considers himself more optimistic than pessimistic that change will happen.
However, Sims said: “People don’t really want to come together and discuss ideas. There is too much tribalism.”
Among those who think more progress is needed to achieve fair treatment of black Americans by the police, 31% say they are optimistic that will happen in the coming years, while 38% are pessimistic. About another third say they have no opinion.
Only 20% of African Americans who think more needs to be done are optimistic; 49% are pessimistic.
The results of the AP-NORC survey reflect what some criminal justice advocates have warned elected leaders for more than a year: that unless something definitive is done soon to begin transforming policing and the criminal justice system , it might be more difficult to mobilize dissatisfied black voters. in the midterm elections.
And already, the Democrats’ shift to the center on issues of racial justice has given advocates pause. During his first State of the Union address earlier this month, President Joe Biden said the answer to reported increases in violent crime “is not to defund the police.”
“The answer is to fund the police with the resources and training they need to protect our communities,” Biden said in comments that have been seen as a clear denial of the rhetoric of some Black Lives Matter activists.
In 2020, following the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, many Americans of all racial and ethnic backgrounds called for criminal justice reforms in protests across the country. On Capitol Hill, almost two years later, no consensus has been reached on reforms, via the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act.
“What we saw in the case of George Floyd, we in the black community know that those officers were found guilty because of the protest,” said DeAnna Hoskins, president and CEO of JustLeadershipUSA, a justice reform advocacy group. New York-based non-profit prison. The ap.
“The only reason you get results is because there was a protest that included black and white people. You have a much larger voter base saying something needs to be done,” she said.
Due to very different lived experiences, it has been more difficult to get Americans of all racial and ethnic groups to maintain their protests and demand an end to systemic racism, Hoskins added.
The survey shows that there is common ground on the issue across racial and ethnic groups, but it also suggests that black Americans feel more urgency than white Americans. More white Americans than black Americans say there has already been significant progress toward racial equality in policing, 30% vs. 10%. Among African Americans, 40% say there has been no progress.
And while at least three-quarters of black and white Americans say more progress is needed, black Americans are much more likely than white Americans to say much more needs to be done, 70% versus 47%.
Last year marked 50 years since the war on drugs was declared in the United States. Bipartisan public policy at the federal and state levels caused the nation’s incarceration rate to skyrocket to the highest level in the industrialized world. Black Americans, in particular, bore the brunt of police militarization and laws that imposed mandatory minimum prison sentences.
There were also post-incarceration consequences, such as losing the right to vote, being barred from public housing and certain college financial aid programs, and having difficulty finding employment with a criminal record.
Compared to views on policing and criminal justice, Americans are more likely to think that there has been significant progress in the last 50 years in achieving equal treatment for African Americans in political representation, access to a good education, access to good health care and access to good jobs. And there is more pessimism about progress in the coming years in policing and criminal justice than in other areas.
Heydy Maldonado, 30, blames the way television and print media cover crime — which she says often frame violence in a way that suggests it’s only endemic in black and Hispanic communities — for lack of hope in reforms.
“They attack us,” said Maldonado, whose family is Honduran and Salvadoran. “I’m sure there’s more crime out there, and it’s not just our race, it’s not just people of color. It’s an ongoing battle.”
“I feel like we need to be united and talk to each other and keep fighting for change,” he added. “Eventually, hopefully, this could all be a thing of the past.”
The AP-NORC survey of 1,289 adults was conducted February 18-21 using a sample drawn from NORC’s probability-based AmeriSpeak panel, which is designed to be representative of the U.S. population. The sampling error margin for all respondents is plus or minus 3.7 percentage points.
Foxglove reported from Washington.
Aaron Morrison writes about race and justice for the AP’s Race and Ethnicity Team. Follow him on Twitter at: https://www.twitter.com/aaronlmorrison.