When J. Cole insisted on his searing tribute to Michael Brown that all that young black men “wanna do is break the chains off,” it resonated because it acknowledged that the shooting of an unarmed, African-American teen by a white police officer in a St. Louis suburb seemed to be rooted in race. But an eye-opening national survey conducted by the Pew Research Center last week proves that many Americans still aren’t convinced the color of Brown’s skin is at the heart of this case.
Over the course of four days, 1,000 adults from across the U.S. weighed in on the Brown shooting. The survey subjects were divided overall, but never more so than when blacks and whites addressed the same issues.
African-Americans were overwhelmingly eager to engage in a broad discussion about race in America, with most saying the Brown case had pushed the topic to the forefront.
The shooting in Ferguson raises important issues about race that merit discussion:
80% of blacks agree
37% of whites agree
But white Americans weren’t as quick to equate the Brown case with race. Nearly half thought the issue was being overblown.
The issue of race is getting more attention than it deserves:
47% of whites agree
18% of blacks agree
Support for the police in the aftermath of the Brown shooting was nearly as divided along racial lines. As policies like “stop and frisk” and Stand Your Ground have become part of the lexicon, blacks and whites appear to have differing views on how officers have responded, specifically, to the scores of outraged protesters rallying (a rogue few looting in the early days) in Ferguson.
Images of Ferguson police clashing with protesters in the wake of Brown’s death have clearly impacted blacks and whites differently.
The police have gone too far in their response “to the shooting’s aftermath”:
65% of blacks agree
33% of whites agree
If there’s any indication that the lines between races may be dissolving, however slowly, it’s that a majority of millennials (55 percent) — adults under 30 — felt that “the shooting of the unarmed teen raises important issues about race.” Among the more mature set, people 65 and older, 40 percent thought important racial issues had been raised by Brown’s death, while 44 percent said race was getting more attention than called for. Among millennials, 34 percent thought race was getting too much attention.
What’s clear is regardless of where you stand on these issues, Mike Brown’s death on August 9 has become a part of the national conversation, one that many young people in particular are eager to have. Whether in the streets or in the tweets.
To learn more about race and how to tackle bias, head over to Look Different.