Results from a new Winthrop Poll of more than 2,200 Southerners should make you sigh. And it’s not results on abortion or former President Trump or about the Confederate flag or memorials.
Look at the results about discrimination and you’ll find a boatload of people feel discriminated against, including more than half of White people — the very people who have controlled things in the South for generations.
It appears we’ve become a region of victims.
It’s not particularly surprising that just about everybody agrees Black Southerners face discrimination. Three-quarters of respondents said they faced some or a lot of discrimination, including 71% of White respondents and 94% of Black respondents. From the days of chattel slavery through Jim Crow and civil rights protests in the 1960s, Blacks have been treated as less than equal across the South. In a system stacked against Blacks, it’s taken decades for Black leaders to attain some power to make real differences in Southern cities and counties. But you still don’t see Black governors here.
“Whites and Blacks see a very different landscape when looking at discrimination,” said Winthrop pollster Scott Huffmon. “Black Southerners are two and a third times more likely to believe Blacks face ‘a lot’ of discrimination. They are also more likely than Whites to believe Hispanics and Asians face ‘a lot’ of discrimination.”
And the reason: They still do. About three-fourths of all respondents believe Hispanics and Asians face some or a lot of discrimination, according to the poll.
But what’s bamboozling is half of all respondents believed White people face some or a lot of discrimination. Most telling: 57% of White respondents said they face some or a lot of discrimination, while 38% of Blacks in the poll said Whites faced no discrimination.
Interestingly, the poll also showed that two-thirds of White respondents said they had not been discriminated against in the last year, while 40% of Blacks said they were.
That’s a clear disconnect. Lots of White people believe they face discrimination, even though they admit they haven’t actually been discriminated against. About all we can figure is that too many White people are believing the narrow perspectives they hear on Fox television and from autocratic politicians who are still using fear to divide Americans.
Huffmon said people in the poll spoke about sensitive or racial topics, even though there were cases where they said they were afraid to speak out because they feared harassment.
“To me, this indicates that we are talking in echo chambers and living in silos where we only interact — and I mean truly interact — with like-minded people,” he said. “Just like research has shown that exposure to people of other races reduces racism and exposure to LGBTQ folks reduces prejudice, the only solution to increasing polarization is exposure to, and the humanizing of, the ‘other side.’
“Unfortunately, technology and modern life are making it easier to thicken the walls of our silos rather than break through them.”
As a region and as a nation, we need to stop succumbing to divisive, discriminatory rhetoric and realize that we’re all in this together – and if we work together and don’t turn on each other, we can lift up everyone.
The new Winthrop Poll had more interesting results. Three quarters of all who took the poll said gays, lesbians and Muslims faced some or a lot of discrimination. Two in three said woman and Jews faced some or a lot of discrimination. Half said Christians and Southerners faced some or a lot of discrimination. And 41% said men faced some or a lot of discrimination.
Let’s not be a region of victims. Let’s tear down our silos. Let’s take responsibility, work together and get along, not succumb to tribalism that too many politicians want to steer you toward.
Andy Brack is editor and publisher of the Charleston City Paper. Have a comment? Send to: email@example.com.
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