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Poll: Racial Groups View Each Other With Mistrust

America, the proverbial melting pot, is boiling over with racial tension. Tension that may be impeding success for all racial groups, argue analysts from New America Media, the nation’s largest collaboration of ethnic news media.

New America Media’s most recent poll, Deep Divisions, Shared Destiny, reveals some unflattering realities concerning the ways in which America’s largest ethnic groups view each other. The poll uncovers the deep-seated mistrust some minorities have for one another and defines several stereotypes perpetuated by both ethnic and mainstream media sources.

In addition to identifying the unique strains of intentional isolation among Black, Hispanic and Asian American respondents, the survey also illuminates the desire expressed by all three groups to work collaboratively to build safer and stronger communities.

According to the poll of approximately 1,105 Black, Hispanic and Asian American adults, the friction between the three racial groups stems from the concurrent mistrust that these groups harbor toward each other. For instance, nearly half the Asian and Hispanic Americans surveyed were “generally afraid of African Americans because they are responsible for most crime.”

Meanwhile, 46 percent of Hispanics and 52 percent of Blacks believe “most Asian business owners do not treat them with respect.” Moreover, half the African Americans polled felt threatened by Hispanic immigrants, whom they felt “were taking jobs, housing and political power away from the Black community.”

“When asked about these stereotypes that are unfair, incorrect and misleading, we found significant percentages of the three groups agreeing with these statements. Belief in these erroneous stereotypes is an important component of tension and should be of great concern,” says Sergio Bendixen, an expert on Hispanic and multilingual polling and CEO of Bendixen Associates, which conducted the study on behalf of NAM.

Hispanics and Asians expressed far greater optimism about their lives in America and the country’s core values such as equal opportunity and equal rights. These groups concluded that hard work is rewarded in this society. By contrast, more than 60 percent of the African Americans polled did not believe that the American dream was applicable to them. Blacks also described themselves as more segregated from the rest of America than the other racial groups.

The poll found that African Americans overwhelmingly believe that the criminal justice system favors the rich and powerful. The majority of Hispanics and Asians disagreed.

“The African Americans who do not believe in the American dream, those who do not think that there is equal opportunity, those that do not [subscribe] to these core values seem to have the most negative opinions of the other two groups,” Bendixen says.

The poll revealed that, overwhelmingly, the three groups are more trusting of Whites than each other. Sixty-one percent of Hispanics, 54 percent of Asians and 46 percent of African Americans would rather do business with Whites than members of the other two groups. 

Experts offer isolation as a rationale for the preference. Blacks and Hispanics overwhelming attend churches and schools with people from their own race. And a large majority of all three groups date within their race, leaving little room for interaction with other groups with the exception of Whites who cannot be avoided.

Despite the challenges, there are strong reasons to be optimistic about the future of race relations in the United States.  A majority of each group believes they should put aside their differences and work together on issues that affect their communities and agree that the United States would be a better country if there were more people of color in positions of power.

In addition, all three groups felt that interracial relations will work themselves out over the next 10 years.

Poll respondents, many of whom depend on the ethnic media for news about their communities, expect these racially based news outlets to do more to shape the opinions and perspectives concerning all people of color.

Ted Yang, a reporter for Asian Week, the California-based weekly newspaper, insists that there must be a dialogue between all people and that it is the obligation of the ethnic media to start that sort of discourse.

–Michelle J. Nealy

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