Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Blacks See Progress in Race Relations

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Blacks See Progress in Race Relations

Article excerpt

NOW on the 63rd anniversary of the birth of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Americans see their country as far closer to realizing the civil rights leader's dream of racial equality and justice than was conceivable at the time of his assassination 24 years ago. Of the greatest importance here is the marked shift in assessments of black Americans themselves.

News accounts feature incidents that reflect continuing racial problems - from Los Angeles police beating a black man whom they had arrested, to former Klansman David Duke getting 55 percent of the vote of whites in last November's Louisiana gubernatorial runoff, to racially motivated hate crimes.

Such incidents are far too common. Nonetheless, blacks and whites alike see substantial progress in race relations and expect it to continue. In a national survey last September, the Los Angeles Times found fewer than 1 white American in 4 describing conditions for black Americans a decade ago as satisfactory (excellent or good); but more than 3 in 4 expecting them to be such a decade hence.

What's more impressive, blacks had much the same view. Just 21 percent said conditions for black people were satisfactory 10 years ago. Fifty-five percent expected conditions to be excellent or good 10 years from now, compared to 25 percent expecting them to be "not so good" and 13 percent "poor."

Black Americans don't, of course, see the country as a paragon racially. But their assessments are remarkably positive. Asked in the Los Angeles Times poll, "Have you, yourself, ever been discriminated against because of your race when you were seeking a job or educational opportunity," 50 percent had experienced discrimination but 49 percent said they never had.

Similarly, a Gallup poll taken last June found 55 percent of black respondents saying blacks in their community did not confront discrimination in housing; and 56 percent took the position that "black children have as good a chance as white children in {my} community to get a good education." Asked if they had ever been a victim of discrimination in getting "an education, a job, a promotion, or housing," 63 percent of the blacks interviewed answered that they had not. …

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