A recent poll conducted by PBS NewsHour and Marist College’s Institute for Public Opinion on race relations and racial equality found that the majority of Americans feel race relations are getting worse.
Results from the poll, divided by responses from whites, Blacks and all respondents, showed all three groups were pretty close on their feelings of race relations.
When asked, “Would you say race relations in the U.S. are better, about the same, or worse than they were a year ago?” 58 percent of all respondents, 60 percent of whites, and 56 percent of Blacks said they believe race relations are worse.
However, most of the other questions showed differences in opinion. When asked about equal justice, 87 percent of Blacks responded that African Americans and whites do not have the same opportunity in equal justice. Meanwhile, whites were almost equally divided on the issue, with 50 percent saying both groups do have the same opportunity and 46 percent saying they do not.
A large divide was seen when those polled were asked about their thoughts on Black Lives Matter: 65 percent of Blacks responded that the movement focuses on issues of racial discrimination; however, only 25 percent of whites responded in this way. Meanwhile, 59 percent of whites described the movement as a distraction from the real issues, whereas only 26 percent of African Americans felt this way.
These results speak to the lack of education on the movement and show that the movement’s message still has not been heard. However, this does not come as a surprise given how the movement has been described by political figures in the media.
Several Republican candidates vying for the 2016 presidency have made public over the past few months their misunderstanding of the Black Lives Matter movement (which is troubling since this issue is currently at the forefront of social justice issues in America). In August, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee demonstrated his complete lack of knowledge of the movement in an interview with CNN.
“So I understand how people have great passions,” he said, “but I also understand that the way you begin to resolve them is you do it by loving people and treating people with dignity and respect, and you don’t do it by magnifying the problems; you really do it by magnifying the solutions.”
However, Huckabee clearly did not do his homework before making those assertions. The Black Lives Matter group launched a comprehensive platform, Campaign Zero, earlier that same month. The detailed website includes a section dedicated entirely to solutions and has ten suggestions they would like to see implemented: “Integrating recommendations from communities, research organizations and the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing, these policies aim to protect and preserve life.” Had Huckabee taken the time to actually research the issues he was speaking about, perhaps he would have delivered a different message.
Most recently, Ben Carson slammed the group, saying, “My beef with the Black Lives Matter movement has been, I think they need to add a word. And that word is ‘All.’ All Black Lives Matter,” he said, and added, “of course all lives matter. When we get off into a little thing that says, ‘No, this is the only thing you can say,’ that’s sickening to me.”
What Carson, like many Americans, fails to see in the movement is the true message of the group. It does not strive to elevate any lives higher than others; rather, the slogan comes with an implied “too” to serve as a reminder that Black lives matter in addition to all other lives.
If Americans who responded to the poll are listening to descriptions of the movement from people like Huckabee and Carson, the results are far less surprising. However, even a brief visit to the Campaign Zero website gives a detailed account of the group’s goals and shows clear, demonstrated and detailed research went into the platform. Rather than just a “distraction” or “slogan,” Campaign Zero provides the problem, solutions, research and more, complete with statistics, facts and figures.
When looking at what political figures have publicly said regarding the Black Lives Matter movement, the results of the poll become less surprising. However, when comparing the rhetoric of Huckabee and Carson to the Campaign Zero platform, it becomes clear that a little more knowledge on this crucial issue would perhaps change their perspective. The poll also shows that perhaps people should not rely on mainstream media for their education on social justice and other political issues because it is clear that those speaking out have not always taken into account all the necessary facts.