Daniel Nasaw, Wall Street Journal, December 16, 2015
Americans’ view of race relations is as grim as it has been in 20 years, in the wake of a series of deaths of unarmed black men in confrontations with police officers, the latest Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll shows.
This month, only 34% of Americans believe race relations in the U.S. are fairly good or very good, down from a high of 77% in January 2009, after the election of Barack Obama as America’s first black president.
The figure is the lowest since 34% in October 1995, after the acquittal on murder charges of African-American former football star O.J. Simpson, a traumatic and racially polarizing event.
Over the past two decades, blacks and Hispanics have always had slightly more negative views on race relations in the U.S. than whites. But for about four years following the election of Mr. Obama in November 2008, majorities of the three demographic groups viewed race relations in the U.S. as very or fairly good.
In February 2012, a white volunteer neighborhood watchman named George Zimmerman shot and killed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, who was black and unarmed, at an apartment complex in Florida, after reporting to police he had seen a “suspicious person” and was stepping from his vehicle to investigate. Mr. Zimmerman was acquitted of murder in July 2013.
Since then, a series of police killings of unarmed black teenagers or men–in Missouri, New York City, South Carolina, Chicago, Cincinnati and beyond, have sparked outraged protests and have significantly diminished views of race relations among all racial groups, the polls show.
In the latest Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll, 26% of African Americans, 33% of whites and 38% of Hispanics view race relations as very or fairly good.