Poll: 50 years af­ter MLK, civil rights goals un­met

South Florida Times - - NATION - By JESSE J. HOL­LAND and EMILY SWAN­SON

WASH­ING­TON - Fifty years af­ter the as­sas­si­na­tion of Mar­tin Luther King Jr., only 1 in 10 African Amer­i­cans think the United States has achieved all or most of the goals of the civil rights move­ment he led, ac­cord­ing to a new poll by the As­so­ci­ated Press-NORC Cen­ter for Public Af­fairs Re­search.

Three-quar­ters of African Amer­i­cans said there has been lit­tle or no progress on fair treat­ment by po­lice, and more than half an­swered the same about fair cov­er­age by the me­dia, po­lit­i­cal rep­re­sen­ta­tion or equal eco­nomic op­por­tu­ni­ties.

Cur­rently, things are steadily “go­ing on a quick down­ward spi­ral,'' said Stephanie Sutton, 42, a Sil­ver Spring, Mary­land, house­wife who is black. “In­equal­ity touches ev­ery­thing, from work, po­lice, schools, ed­u­ca­tion, in­come, houses.''

Even when it comes to vot­ing rights - the high point for per­ceived progress for all of Amer­i­cans in the poll - just 34 per­cent of blacks said there has been a lot of progress made to­ward equal­ity. An­other 29 per­cent said there has been at least some progress.

“We're go­ing back­ward to where we're start­ing to see more black males mostly get­ting as­saulted by po­lice of­fi­cers un­justly and stuff like that,'' said Kyla Mar­shall, 28, of Lans­ing, Michi­gan, a state gov­ern­ment worker who is black.

Amer­i­cans over­all were only slightly more op­ti­mistic. More than half said ma­jor progress has been made to­ward equal vot­ing rights for African Amer­i­cans, but just a quar­ter said there has been a lot of progress in achiev­ing equal treat­ment by po­lice or the crim­i­nal jus­tice sys­tem. Among whites, 64 per­cent think there's been a lot of progress and an­other 25 per­cent think there's been mi­nor progress on vot­ing rights, while 28 per­cent think there's been a lot of progress and 31 per­cent par­tial progress to­ward equal­ity in the crim­i­nal jus­tice sys­tem.

The poll found that 30 per­cent of Amer­i­can adults - 35 per­cent of whites and just 8 per­cent of blacks _ said all or most of the goals of the 1960s civil rights move­ment have been achieved. Most of the re­main­der said par­tial progress has been achieved.

“I think the civil rights move­ment was phenom­e­nal in forc­ing banks, po­lit­i­cal sys­tems and ed­u­ca­tional sys­tems'' to change, said Grant Jay Wal­ters, 53, of Ham­burg, New York, who is white. “I think it ab­so­lutely achieved its goals. I do not think the civil rights move­ment can go in and change the hearts of men. There's still a lot of racism in the com­mu­ni­ties and I'm not sure how you can ever make that go away.” The poll was taken about six weeks ahead of the 50th an­niver­sary of King's death.

King was shot and killed April 4, 1968, out­side his sec­ond-?oor room at the Lor­raine Mo­tel in Mem­phis, Ten­nessee, by seg­re­ga­tion­ist James Earl Ray. King has since been ac­knowl­edged as an Amer­i­can hero for his quest for free­dom, jus­tice, equal­ity and peace among all races.

The poll found only one area _ vot­ing rights - where a ma­jor­ity said a lot of progress has been made for racial equal­ity since the civil rights move­ment. In to­tal, 57 per­cent of Amer­i­cans said there has been ma­jor progress on equal vot­ing rights, though just 39 per­cent said there has been ma­jor progress on po­lit­i­cal rep­re­sen­ta­tion for African Amer­i­cans.

Close to half said there has been ma­jor progress on re­duc­ing seg­re­ga­tion in public life _ 47 per­cent _ and equal ac­cess to good ed­u­ca­tion - 48 per­cent. About a third said there has been at least some progress in those areas.

On the low­est end of the spec­trum, just 23 per­cent said there has been a great deal of progress in fair treat­ment of blacks by po­lice or the crim­i­nal jus­tice sys­tem, and nearly half said there has been lit­tle to no progress in ei­ther of those areas.

Whites were more likely than blacks to think there has been progress in every area asked about in the poll. Blacks are “claim­ing racism but I don't see it my­self,'' said Tommy Romero, 47, of New Ibe­ria, Louisiana, who is white. “They're claim­ing it but it's all about what they feel about the past, slav­ery and ev­ery­thing else. That's how I feel.''

Romero said that things over­all have got­ten much bet­ter con­sid­er­ing the racism of the past, es­pe­cially in the South.

“Things were ter­ri­ble back then,'' he said. “The way mi­nori­ties were treated, drink­ing at sep­a­rate foun­tains, eat­ing at sep­a­rate restau­rants, and sit­ting on cer­tain parts of the bus, stuff like that, po­lice beat­ing on them, that just made no sense.''

In gen­eral, 54 per­cent of Repub­li­cans and just 14 per­cent of Democrats think most or all of the goals of the civil rights move­ment have been achieved. That ranged from 76 per­cent of Repub­li­cans and 46 per­cent of Democrats say­ing there has been a lot of progress on vot­ing rights, to 43 per­cent of Repub­li­cans and 9 per­cent of Democrats say­ing there has been a lot of progress on fair treat­ment by po­lice.

Just over half of all Amer­i­cans _ in­clud­ing 79 per­cent of blacks and 44 per­cent of whites _ said African Amer­i­cans con­tinue to face dis­ad­van­tages to get­ting ahead in the United States. That's com­pared with 22 per­cent who said blacks ac­tu­ally have ad­van­tages and 26 per­cent who said their race makes no dif­fer­ence in get­ting ahead.

PHO­TOS COUR­TESY OF HIS­TORY.COM

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.