Trust in Black America: Race, Discrimination, and Politics

Trust in Black America: Race, Discrimination, and Politics

Trust in Black America: Race, Discrimination, and Politics

Trust in Black America: Race, Discrimination, and Politics

Synopsis

The more citizens trust their government, the better democracy functions. However, African Americans have long suffered from the lack of protection by their government, and the racial discrimination they have faced breaks down their trust in democracy. Rather than promoting democracy, the United States government has, from its inception, racially discriminated against African American citizens and other racial groups, denying them equal access to citizenship and to protection of the law. Civil rights violations by ordinary citizens have also tainted social relationships between racial groupsosocial relationships that should be meaningful for enhancing relations between citizens and the government at large. Thus, trust and democracy do not function in American politics in the way that they should, in large part because trust is not colour blind. Based on the premise that racial discrimination breaks down trust in a democracy, Trust in Black America examines the effect of race on African Americans' lives.Shayla Nunnally analyzes public opinion data from two national surveys to provide an updated and contemporary analysis of African Americans' political socialization, and to explore how African Americans learn about race. She argues that the uncertainty, risk, and unfairness of institutionalized racial discrimination has led African Americans to have a fundamentally different understanding of American race relations, so much so that distrust has been the basis for which race relations have been understood by African Americans. Nunnally empirically demonstrates that race and racial discrimination have broken down trust in American democracy. Shayla C. Nu nnally is Assistant Professor with a joint appointment in Political Science and African American Studies at the University of Connecticut.

Excerpt

The Significance of Race and Risk in America

In July 2010, American television media revealed seemingly controversial footage of Shirley Sherrod, a black American woman and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development agent in Georgia, speaking about her being unable to treat a white farmer fairly. the videotape featured Sherrod’s March 27, 2010, speech delivered to a Douglas, Georgia, chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) for its twentieth annual Freedom Fund program. the video clip initially had been released online by Andrew Breitbart, a conservative blogger affiliated with BigGovernment.com, in order to show Sherrod’s and the NAACP’s racist attitudes toward whites, as it appeared that Sherrod described how she considered denying a white farmer access to government benefits.

At the time, the story seemed shocking and newsworthy. Fox News anchors suggested that the video clip exemplified a black bureaucrat in President Barack Obama’s administration practicing reverse discrimination against whites. Indeed, in their perspective, Sherrod represented ideals that were being incorporated into the agenda of the nation’s first black president. Critics asked how a civil servant could deny benefits to others based on their race. the alleged controversy also lay in the paradox of a civil rights organization promoting racial discrimination. Some charged that the naacp was hypocritical because, as a civil rights organization, it invited a “racist” speaker, despite its professed challenges against racism; here, it seemed as if the naacp endorsed a speech by a civil servant who supposedly upheld discrimination against whites.

In effect, Breitbart’s video snippet started a national media frenzy that characterized Sherrod as a racist, ill-willed civil servant who was “out to get . . .

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