Depending on your cynicism (or reality) meter, the results of a new GenForward poll focusing on race, racial power and racism may be shocking, especially because the conventional wisdom is that millennials are the most tolerant of all generations; they are certainly the most diverse.
But as GenForward founder and lead researcher Dr. Cathy Cohen at the University of Chicago notes, “Our data reveal wide gulfs between white Millennials and their peers of color on issues of race and racism.”
In this latest survey—taken Aug. 31 to Sept. 16, 2017—there’s definitely a gap in perception around topical hot-button issues such as white discrimination, Confederate symbols and President Donald Trump.
For example, poll results show that 48 percent of white millennials think discrimination against whites is as bad as it is against blacks, in line with their older peers. When you aggregate data further, a large majority of white millennial Trump voters, 70 percent, say discrimination against whites is as bad as against blacks. No folks of color came near this.
Also, a majority of millennials of color believe the Confederate flag is a symbol of racism and support removing Confederate statues and symbols from public places. In contrast, a majority of whites see the Confederate flag as a symbol of Southern pride (55 percent) and oppose removing Confederate statues and symbols (62 percent).
An overwhelming majority of millennials across racial groups believe people of color face common challenges and could be political allies. While 84 percent of whites believe that whites and people of color could be political allies, barely a majority of Latinx Americans and less than a majority of African Americans and of Asian Americans agree with the possibility of political alliances between whites and people of color. So that means nobody but whites believes that whites can be political allies. Ouch.
There is some agreement on racism being a major problem facing the country. Of all the groups sampled—African American, Asian American, Latinx and white millennials, all noted that racism is one of the most important problems in the U.S., but it is not clear what each group’s (or individual’s for that matter) definition of racism may be.
Broken down further, the three most important problems in the U.S. for African Americans is first racism (52 percent) followed by health care (30 percent) and police brutality (25 percent). For Asian Americans, health care (45 percent) is first; the second most cited is racism (32 percent) followed by education (25 percent). For Latinx millennials, immigration is first (55 percent), racism (33 percent) then health care (29 percent), and for whites, first was health care (39 percent), environment and climate change (27 percent) and then racism/terrorism and homeland security (26 percent).
Other key findings from the new survey include:
- Millennials believe African Americans experience the most racial discrimination in American society but also have the second-most political power behind whites. Whites are cited as having the most economic and political power overall.
- A majority of African Americans (56 percent) and a multitude of Asian Americans (43 percent) have a favorable opinion of Black Lives Matter, but only 27 percent of Latinx Americans and 19 percent of whites share this view.
- Millennials of color cite organizing in communities as the most effective way to create racial change. White millennials cite community service and volunteering as the most effective strategy. The second-most cited strategy among African Americans is revolution.