50 Years After ‘I Have a Dream,’ Americans Say There’s Still a Long Way to Go to Racial Equality

The march on Washington, D.C. at the mall on August 28, 1963. 
National Journal
Matt Berman
Add to Briefcase
Matt Berman
Aug. 22, 2013, 8 a.m.

A new study look­ing at race in Amer­ica 50 years after Mar­tin Luth­er King’s speech at the March on Wash­ing­ton shows that nearly half of all Amer­ic­ans think there’s a lot of work left to be done to achieve ra­cial equal­ity. And some ra­cial gaps in the United States are still stark.

The sur­vey, from the Pew Re­search Cen­ter, shows that al­most half of Amer­ic­ans think that real ra­cial pro­gress has been made in the past five dec­ades. But the ra­cial break­down shows a big con­trast:

(Pew Re­search Cen­ter)

Sig­ni­fic­antly few­er black Amer­ic­ans think “a lot” of pro­gress has been made, com­pared with white and His­pan­ic re­spond­ents. And, by a large mar­gin, more black re­spond­ents be­lieve there’s a lot left to ac­com­plish.

The sur­vey found that in the five years since Barack Obama was in­aug­ur­ated, the per­cent­age of Amer­ic­ans who say the “situ­ation of black people is bet­ter today, com­pared with five years ago” has sig­ni­fic­antly dropped. For white re­spond­ents, the num­ber went from 49 per­cent in 2009 to 35 per­cent in the new sur­vey. For black re­spond­ents, it dropped from 39 per­cent to 26 per­cent. In both in­stances, the new num­bers more closely re­semble the 2007 re­sponses, just be­fore the re­ces­sion struck.

When you look at some of the ma­jor ra­cial dis­par­it­ies in the U.S. eco­nomy, there is some ob­vi­ous reas­on for the re­newed pess­im­ism.

In the past 40 years, some gaps in equal­ity have sig­ni­fic­antly widened, ac­cord­ing to Pew’s ana­lys­is:


In ad­di­tion, the black poverty rate is nearly double the white poverty rate. And the un­em­ploy­ment rate for Afric­an-Amer­ic­ans has been con­sist­ently high­er than that for white Amer­ic­ans. In Ju­ly, the black un­em­ploy­ment rate was 12.6 per­cent. The white un­em­ploy­ment rate was 6.6 per­cent.

There are also areas where the gaps have barely budged — and that’s not a good thing for equal­ity:


But it’s not all bad news. Some real pro­gress has been made in clos­ing ra­cial gaps in the last sev­er­al dec­ades:


In the polit­ic­al realm, some pro­gress is ob­vi­ous. In ad­di­tion to the first black pres­id­ent, there are more black mem­bers of Con­gress today than in 1963. In 1963, dur­ing the 88th Con­gress, there were five black mem­bers in the House. At the start of the cur­rent 113th Con­gress, there were 42. In 1963, there were no black sen­at­ors. Today, there are — well, there is just one, al­though the Sen­ate briefly had two Afric­an-Amer­ic­ans. As many Amer­ic­ans already know, there are some areas where there’s still plenty of pro­gress left to be made.

What We're Following See More »
CFPB Decision May Reverberate to Other Agencies
48 minutes ago

"A federal appeals court's decision that declared the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau an arm of the White House relies on a novel interpretation of the constitution's separation of powers clause that could have broader effects on how other regulators" like the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and the Federal Housing Finance Agency.

Morning Consult Poll: Clinton Decisively Won Debate
59 minutes ago

"According to a new POLITICO/Morning Consult poll, the first national post-debate survey, 43 percent of registered voters said the Democratic candidate won, compared with 26 percent who opted for the Republican Party’s standard bearer. Her 6-point lead over Trump among likely voters is unchanged from our previous survey: Clinton still leads Trump 42 percent to 36 percent in the race for the White House, with Libertarian nominee Gary Johnson taking 9 percent of the vote."

Twitter Bots Dominated First Debate
2 hours ago

Twitter bots, "automated social media accounts that interact with other users," accounted for a large part of the online discussion during the first presidential debate. Bots made up 22 percent of conversation about Hillary Clinton on the social media platform, and a whopping one third of Twitter conversation about Donald Trump.

Center for Public Integrity to Spin Off Journalism Arm
2 hours ago

The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, the nonprofit that published the Panama Papers earlier this year, is being spun off from its parent organization, the Center for Public Integrity. According to a statement, "CPI’s Board of Directors has decided that enabling the ICIJ to chart its own course will help both journalistic teams build on the massive impact they have had as one organization."

EPA Didn’t Warn Flint Residents Soon Enough
2 hours ago

According to a new report, the Environmental Protection Agency waited too long before informing the residents of Flint, Mich. that their water was contaminated with lead. Written by the EPA's inspector general, it places blame squarely at the foot of the agency itself, saying it had enough information by June 2015 to issue an emergency order. However, the order wasn't issued until the end of January 2016.


Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.