Fewer than 1 in 3 black Americans and not even half of whites say the United States has made “a lot” of progress toward achieving racial equality in the half-century since the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. declared he had a dream that one day his children would not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.
As the nation is poised to observe the 50th anniversary next week of the King-led March on Washington, a poll and an accompanying analysis of racial disparities by the Pew Research Center concludes that while five decades’ progress has been palpable on some fronts, King’s goal remains elusive on others.
Blacks and whites generally agree that the two races get along well, but about 7 in 10 blacks and more than 1 in 4 whites also concur that blacks are treated unequally by the criminal justice system. A majority of blacks also say they are treated less fairly than whites in public schools and in the workplace.
Although gaps in life expectancy and high school graduation rates have all but been eliminated, disparities in poverty and homeownership rates are about the same. Imbalances in household income and wealth, marriage, and incarceration rates have widened.
The Pew poll says that nearly half of all Americans — 49 percent in all, or 44 percent of whites, 48 percent of Hispanics and 79 percent of blacks — said a lot more progress needed to be made to achieve King’s vision of a colorblind society. Republicans are more likely than Democrats to believe there has been racial progress. Fully 80 percent of all Americans say at least some more needs to be done.