If there were any lingering questions about the state of race relations in America in the wake of the riots which reduced parts of Baltimore to smoldering ashes in April, they were answered rather emphatically when in June, 21-year old Dylann Roof killed nine black worshippers at the Emanuel AME church in Charleston, South Carolina. And although Roof’s actions did not start a “race war” (his professed intent), they did raise fresh questions about black-white relations, questions which played a role in the removal of the Confederate flag from the South Carolina capitol. Since then, we’ve gotten multiple noteworthy (if alarming) sound bites from the likes of Louis Farrakhan who said in a speech this week that blacks may need to “rise up and kill those who kill [them],” and the Ku Klux Klan’s Grand Dragon who in June suggested that “a lot of the whites in the U.S. are starting to wake up.” As we noted on Tuesday, the US has had its share of deadly social violence over the past year, much of split along along racial lines, but it’s mercifully avoided a full-blown racial war. However, in recent weeks there has been a troubling increase in invocations toward even more violence, and even more deaths, which seek to achieve just that: a United States gripped in racial warfare. It’s against that rather disturbing backdrop that we present the following results from Gallup, whose latest Minority Rights and Relations poll shows that “Americans rate black-white relations much more negatively today than they have at any point in the past 15 years.”
More color from Gallup:
Americans rate black-white relations much more negatively today than they have at any point in the past 15 years. Currently, 47% say relations between blacks and whites are “very good” or “somewhat good,” a steep decline from 70% in 2013. Whites’ positive ratings of black-white relations since 2013 have nose-dived by 27 percentage points, from 72% to 45%, while blacks show a smaller but still sizable drop of 15 points, from 66% to 51%.
The results are based on Gallup’s Minority Rights and Relations poll, which interviewed more than 2,000 Americans, including more than 800 non-Hispanic whites and more than 800 non-Hispanic blacks from June 15 through July 10.
Americans have generally been quite positive about black-white relations in the 15 years Gallup has asked this question. Prior to this year, between 63% and 72% of Americans rated relations between blacks and whites as very good or somewhat good.
Whites and blacks are generally in accord on the state of relations, with 45% of whites and 51% of blacks rating them as good. Whites and blacks have generally had similar and quite positive views over the past 15 years, with a notable gap only in 2007, a year in which blacks’ ratings on a variety of measures were more negative.
The most likely explanation for the deterioration in Americans’ perceptions of the health of black-white relations since 2013 are the multiple widely reported incidents in which black citizens were killed by the actions of white police officers. Several of those incidents sparked protests or riots.
As a result, Americans are now the most negative in their evaluations of black-white relations since Gallup began tracking this measure.