Sarah Whites-Koditschek, al.com, October 25, 2019
Blacks and whites in the South hold diverging views about the world when it comes to seeing race, history and inequality, according to a new national report that focused in part on Birmingham and Montgomery.
In Birmingham, blacks were more likely to see race and discrimination as ongoing issues; whites were less interested in dealing with the past or focusing on race, according to the report produced by E Pluribus Unum, a group dedicated to ending racial divides. It is spearheaded by former New Orleans mayor Mitch Landrieu.
In Birmingham, they found whites tended to see success as a result of personal drive. The groups disagreed along racial lines about reparations for slavery and whether recent economic developments represent a benefit to their communities.
Over two-thirds of the city’s population is people of color. The median hourly wage for whites in Birmingham is $20 an hour and $14 an hour for people of color.
Whites are prepared at nearly twice the rate of blacks for jobs requiring a college education.
In Montgomery, which just saw the election of the city’s first African-American mayor, whites were more likely to have a negative view of the increasingly majority-minority city and expressed concern about blacks rising to municipal leadership positions.
Members of both races expressed pride in the city’s civil rights history and agreed upon a desire to improve schools. Blacks were more likely to see racism as a present-day problem.
“It’s painfully clear we have not reached our potential in this country and one of the sticking points is race,” said Landrieu in a press call Tuesday.
Fundamental to the problem, said Landrieu, are policies that discriminate.
A barrier to understanding, he said, is that many whites don’t have a deep understanding of history or how it impacts the present.
Whites and blacks in the project disagreed about whether discrimination had improved in the past 50 years. Blacks had a more negative view of progress in that time.
Most black respondents, 59 percent, said slavery greatly impacts them. Only 26 percent of white participants agreed.
Education levels and partisan affiliation made a difference. Democratic whites were more likely than Republican whites to agree that greater attention should be paid to race.