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  1. Most African-Americans across all major religious traditions, including those who are unaffiliated, prefer a bigger government that provides more services to a smaller government providing fewer services. Significantly more African-Americans (70%) report that they prefer bigger government compared with the total population (46%), who are much more divided on the issue (43% prefer smaller government). And nearly eight-in-ten (79%) African-Americans say the government should do more to help the needy, even if it means going deeper into debt, while only 15% say the government cannot afford to do much more to help the needy. pewforum.org
  2. Regardless of their religious background, African-Americans overwhelmingly support the Democratic Party. The 2007 Landscape Survey finds that more than three-quarters of all African-Americans (76%) describe themselves as Democrats or say they lean toward the Democratic Party, while just 10% favor the Republicans. Across all religious groups, at least two-thirds of African-Americans express support for the Democratic Party. Among the total population, by comparison, less than half (47%) describe themselves as Democrats or lean toward the Democratic Party, while 35% support the GOP. This unity of partisanship among African-Americans carries over into the voting booth, where they have voted overwhelmingly for Democratic presidential candidates in recent elections (95% for Barack Obama in 2008 and 88% for John Kerry in 2004). African-Americans also support the Democrats by wide margins regardless of their overall level of religious commitment; in the general population, by contrast, religious commitment is linked with differences in party affiliation. For example, in the general population, four-in-ten of those who attend worship services at least once a week favor the Democratic Party, but among those who attend less frequently, more than half (51%) favor the Democrats. No such gaps are seen within the African-American community, where huge majorities favor the Democratic Party regardless of their level of religious commitment. pewforum.org
  3. On a variety of measures, African-Americans express comfort with religion’s role in politics. According to a summer 2008 Pew Research Center survey, six-in-ten African-Americans (61%) say houses of worship should express their views on social and political matters, while only 36% say churches should avoid these topics. On this question, African-Americans closely resemble white evangelical Protestants, among whom 59% say churches should express their views and 38% say churches should keep out of social and political matters. By contrast, among the overall population, the balance of opinion leans in the opposite direction; 52% say that churches should keep out of politics, while only 45% say churches should express their views on social and political issues. Half of African-Americans feel there have been too few expressions of faith by political leaders, and an additional 24% say there has been the right amount of religious expression by political leaders; only 23% say there has been too much religious talk from politicians. On balance, the public overall is less concerned with a lack of religious speech from politicians; only 36% say there has been too little of such expressions, while 30% say there has been the right amount and 29% say there has been too much. Even though African-Americans generally are comfortable with the notion that politics should be influenced and informed by religion, they also support certain limitations on the mingling of politics and religious institutions. For instance, nearly six-in-ten (58%) say churches and other houses of worship should not come out in favor of political candidates. Among the population overall, two-thirds take this point of view. pewforum.org
  4. Overall, about four-in-ten African-Americans (41%) think that homosexuality should be accepted by society, while 46% say that homosexuality should be discouraged. By contrast, among the public overall, those who say that homosexuality should be accepted outnumber those who say it should be discouraged (50% to 40%). Among African-Americans, members of evangelical churches express the most conservative views on this issue (58% say homosexuality should be discouraged), while unaffiliated African-Americans are among the least conservative (only 32% say it should be discouraged), a difference of 26 percentage points. Again, however, religiously based differences are smaller among African-Americans; among the population overall, 64% of evangelicals say homosexuality should be discouraged by society, compared with 20% of the religiously unaffiliated, a difference of 44 percentage points. The same is true when it comes to religious observance, with the most religiously observant African-Americans most likely to say that homosexuality should be discouraged, a similar pattern as seen among the overall population. But, once again, the differences between the most and least religiously observant are more pronounced in the population overall than among African-Americans. According to Pew Research Center surveys conducted in the summer of 2008, nearly two-thirds of African-Americans (64%) say they oppose allowing gays and lesbians to marry legally, a significantly higher level of opposition than among whites (51%). Among both African-Americans and whites, however, evangelical Protestants are much more opposed to gay marriage than are mainline Protestants. pewforum.org
  5. Social Issues Similar links exist among African-Americans as among the general population when it comes to religion and views on social issues such as abortion and homosexuality. But once again, the religiously based differences on these issues are less pronounced among African-Americans than in the overall population. Abortion Overall, 49% of African-Americans favor keeping abortion legal in most or all cases, while 44% want abortion to be illegal in most or all cases. These figures are similar to those seen among the public as a whole (51% vs. 42%). Among African-Americans, members of evangelical churches are most likely to say that abortion should be illegal (53%), while those who are unaffiliated with any religion are least likely to say that abortion should be illegal (34%), a difference of 19 percentage points. Among the population overall, the difference in opinion between members of evangelical churches (61% opposed to abortion) and the unaffiliated (24% opposed) is nearly twice as large, at 37 percentage points. Among both African-Americans and the general population, those who are most religiously observant are more likely to think that abortion should be illegal. For example, more than half (51%) of African-Americans who attend religious services at least once a week think that abortion should be illegal, compared with only 35% of those who attend worship services less often, a difference of 16 percentage points. Here again, these religiously based differences are smaller than among the general population; overall, fully 61% of weekly worship service attenders say they oppose abortion, compared with only 31% among those who attend services less often, a difference of 30 percentage points. pewforum.org
  6. Among African-Americans, as with the public generally, views on political ideology and social issues, such as abortion and homosexuality, are linked with both religious affiliation and religious observance (as measured by worship service attendance and importance of religion in one’s life). For instance, black members of evangelical Protestant churches and the more religiously observant express more conservative views than those who are unaffiliated with any particular religion or are less religiously observant. But these religiously based differences tend to be smaller in the African-American community than in the population as a whole. And on some political issues, there are few religious divides to speak of within the black community. Perhaps the most striking of these is partisanship, with the vast majority of African-Americans of all religious backgrounds expressing support for the Democratic Party. Ideology Like the overall population, African-Americans are more likely to describe their political ideology as conservative (32%) or moderate (36%) than as liberal (23%). Members of evangelical churches and the most religiously committed members of all religious groups are most likely to describe themselves as conservative, while those who are unaffiliated and less religiously committed are among the least likely to describe themselves as such. While this is true among both African-Americans and the general population, these differences are much smaller among African-Americans. For example, among African-Americans, members of evangelical churches and those who are most religiously observant are just as likely to describe their ideology as moderate as to say they are conservative; by contrast, among the general population, the same groups are much more likely to say they are conservative than moderate or liberal. pewforum.org
  7. African-Americans also express higher levels of religious belief than do Americans overall. Compared with the population overall, for instance, African-Americans are more likely to believe in God with absolute certainty (88% vs. 71% among the total adult population), interpret Scripture as the literal word of God (55% vs. 33%) and express a belief in angels and demons (83% vs. 68%). They also are more likely to say they are absolutely convinced about the existence of life after death (58% vs. 50%) and to believe in miracles (84% vs. 79%). These views are held by the overwhelming majority of members of historically black churches. But even African-Americans who are unaffiliated with any religion consistently express higher levels of religious beliefs compared with the unaffiliated public overall. Unaffiliated African-Americans, for instance, express certain belief in God (70%) at levels similar to those seen among the general population of mainline Protestants (73%) and Catholics (72%) and are about twice as likely as the overall unaffiliated population (36%) to express this belief. Furthermore, unaffiliated African-Americans are somewhat more likely than mainline Protestants or Catholics overall to hold a literal view of the Bible (33% among unaffiliated African-Americans vs. 22% among all mainline Protestants and 23% among all Catholics) and are three times as likely to hold this view compared with the overall unaffiliated population (11%). pewforum.org
  8. African-Americans attend religious services and pray more frequently than the general population. While 39% of all Americans report attending religious services at least once a week, a majority of African-Americans (53%) report the same. Similarly, while 58% of all Americans report praying at least once a day, a significantly higher number of African-Americans (76%) report praying daily. This pattern is seen across most major religious traditions. Perhaps most interestingly, unaffiliated African-Americans attend religious services and pray in much higher numbers than the unaffiliated population overall. For example, 15% of African-Americans who are unaffiliated report attending religious services at least once a week, compared with only 5% of the unaffiliated population as a whole. And fully 28% of unaffiliated African-Americans attend religious services at least once a month, compared with only 10% of the unaffiliated population overall. Similarly, nearly half of unaffiliated African-Americans say they pray daily (48%), more than twice the level seen among the unaffiliated population overall (22%). On this question, unaffiliated African-Americans more closely resemble the overall population of mainline Protestants (53% pray daily) and Catholics (58%) than they do the overall unaffiliated population. pewforum.org
  9. In many ways, African-Americans are significantly more religious than the general population, with the vast majority considering religion very important in their lives. African-Americans also are more religiously observant on a variety of other measures, from frequency of prayer and worship service attendance to belief in God. Importance of Religion Nearly eight-in-ten African-Americans (79%) say religion is very important in their lives, compared with 56% among the U.S. adult population overall. Consistent with this, members of historically black churches are among the most likely of any religious group to say religion is very important in their lives. Among African-American members of historically black churches, 85% say religion is very important to them. Across a wide variety of religious groups, black members are more likely than members of their faiths overall to say religion is very important to them. African-Americans who are members of evangelical Protestant churches, for instance, are 10 percentage points more likely than evangelicals overall to see religion as very important in their lives (89% vs. 79%). The difference is even greater among members of mainline Protestant churches. More than three-in-four African-American members of mainline churches say religion is very important in their lives (76%), compared with about half (52%) of all mainline Protestants. Religion also is important in the lives of many African-Americans who are not affiliated with any particular religion. Fully 45% of unaffiliated African-Americans report that religion is very important in their lives and an additional 26% describe religion as somewhat important, meaning that, overall, more than seven-in-ten African-Americans who are unaffiliated with a religion say religion is at least somewhat important in their lives. This compares with only about four-in-ten (41%) among the unaffiliated population overall. pewforum.org
  10. Gender As in the population overall, African-American men are significantly more likely than women to be unaffiliated with any religion (16% vs. 9%). African-American women are somewhat more likely than African-American men to describe themselves as Protestant (82% of women vs. 72% of men). Among African-American women, 62% are members of historically black Protestant churches, 16% are affiliated with evangelical churches and 4% are mainline Protestant; among men, 55% are members of historically black churches, 14% are evangelical and 4% are mainline Protestant. African-American women also stand out for their high level of religious commitment. More than eight-in-ten black women (84%) say religion is very important to them, and roughly six-in-ten (59%) say they attend religious services at least once a week. No group of men or women from any other racial or ethnic background exhibits comparably high levels of religious observance. Age African-Americans are more likely to be affiliated with a faith compared with the public overall, but as with the general population, younger African-Americans are more likely than their older counterparts to report being unaffiliated with a religion. For example, nearly one-in-five African-Americans under age 30 (19%) are unaffiliated, compared with just 7% of African-Americans who are age 65 and older. Education Among African-Americans with less than a high school education, nearly two-thirds (63%) are members of historically black churches, as are about the same number (60%) of African-Americans who are high school graduates. Among African-Americans who have completed college, however, fewer (53%) are members of historically black Protestant churches. Additionally, black college graduates are somewhat more likely to be part of mainline Protestant and Catholic churches as compared with those from other educational backgrounds. Geography While at least half of African-Americans in all regions of the country are members of historically black churches, a disproportionately large percentage of Southern blacks say they belong to historically black churches; nearly two-thirds of African-Americans who live in the South (64%) are members of this tradition. The West is the only region of the country where upwards of one-in-ten African-Americans (11%) describe themselves as Catholic. In the Midwest and the Northeast, the number of African-Americans who are unaffiliated with any particular religion is similar to the share of the general population in these regions that is religiously unaffiliated. By contrast, in the South and the West, African-Americans are less likely to be unaffiliated compared with the overall population. Fully 60% of all members of historically black churches reside in the South, with 19% residing in the Midwest, 13% living in the Northeast and 8% located in the West. This closely resembles the geographic distribution of the black community overall; 56% of African-Americans live in the South, 21% reside in the Midwest, 15% are located in the Northeast and 9% live in the Western United States. pewforum.org
  11. The vast majority of African-Americans are Protestant (78%), compared with only 51% of the U.S. adult population as a whole. By a wide margin, African-Americans stand out as the most Protestant racial and ethnic group in the U.S.; far fewer whites (53%), Asians (27%) and Latinos (23%) belong to Protestant denominations. But Protestantism in the U.S. – and in the black community – is not homogeneous. Rather, it is divided into three distinct traditions – evangelical Protestant churches, mainline Protestant churches and historically black Protestant churches. More than three-in-four African-American Protestants (and 59% of African-Americans overall) belong to historically black Protestant denominations, such as the National Baptist Convention or the African Methodist Episcopal Church. In fact, 40% of all African-Americans identify with Baptist denominations within the historically black tradition. By several measures, including importance of religion in life, attendance at religious services and frequency of prayer, the historically black Protestant group is among the most religiously observant traditions. In fact, on these and other measures of religious practices and beliefs, members of historically black Protestant churches tend to resemble members of evangelical Protestant churches, another highly religious group. Outside of the historically black tradition, an additional 15% of African-Americans are members of evangelical denominations, such as the Southern Baptist Convention or Assemblies of God, and 4% are members of mainline denominations, such as the Disciples of Christ. Overall, the membership of historically black Protestant denominations is 92% black, while African-Americans make up relatively small portions of the membership of evangelical (6%) and mainline (2%) churches. Slightly more than one-in-ten African-Americans (12%) report being unaffiliated with any particular religion. Although the unaffiliated make up a smaller proportion of the African-American community (12%) than of the adult population overall (16%), the unaffiliated still constitute the third largest “religious” tradition within the black community. However, very few African-Americans (1%) describe themselves as atheist or agnostic. Instead, most unaffiliated African-Americans (11% of African-Americans overall) simply describe their religion as “nothing in particular.” Indeed, among the African-American unaffiliated population, a significant majority (72%) says religion is at least somewhat important in their lives. pewforum.org
  12. While the U.S. is generally considered a highly religious nation, African-Americans are markedly more religious on a variety of measures than the U.S. population as a whole, including level of affiliation with a religion, attendance at religious services, frequency of prayer and religion’s importance in life. Compared with other racial and ethnic groups, African-Americans are among the most likely to report a formal religious affiliation, with fully 87% of African-Americans describing themselves as belonging to one religious group or another, according to the U.S. Religious Landscape Survey, conducted in 2007 by the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life. Latinos also report affiliating with a religion at a similarly high rate of 85%; among the public overall, 83% are affiliated with a religion. The Landscape Survey also finds that nearly eight-in-ten African-Americans (79%) say religion is very important in their lives, compared with 56% among all U.S. adults. In fact, even a large majority (72%) of African-Americans who are unaffiliated with any particular faith say religion plays at least a somewhat important role in their lives; nearly half (45%) of unaffiliated African-Americans say religion is very important in their lives, roughly three times the percentage who says this among the religiously unaffiliated population overall (16%). Indeed, on this measure, unaffiliated African-Americans more closely resemble the overall population of Catholics (56% say religion is very important) and mainline Protestants (52%). Additionally, several measures illustrate the distinctiveness of the black community when it comes to religious practices and beliefs. More than half of African-Americans (53%) report attending religious services at least once a week, more than three-in-four (76%) say they pray on at least a daily basis and nearly nine-in-ten (88%) indicate they are absolutely certain that God exists. On each of these measures, African-Americans stand out as the most religiously committed racial or ethnic group in the nation. Even those African-Americans who are unaffiliated with any religious group pray nearly as often as the overall population of mainline Protestants (48% of unaffiliated African-Americans pray daily vs. 53% of all mainline Protestants). And unaffiliated African-Americans are about as likely to believe in God with absolute certainty (70%) as are mainline Protestants (73%) and Catholics (72%) overall. The Landscape Survey also shows that the link between religion and some social and political attitudes in the African-American community is very similar to that seen among the population overall. For instance, just as in the general public, African-Americans who are more religiously observant (as defined by frequency of worship service attendance and the importance of religion in their lives) are more likely to oppose abortion and homosexuality and more likely to report higher levels of conservative ideology. It is important to emphasize, however, that differences on political and social issues across religious groups within the African-American community tend to be smaller than among the population overall. Compared with other groups, African-Americans express a high degree of comfort with religion’s role in politics. In fact, a summer 2008 survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press and the Pew Forum shows that African-Americans tend to closely resemble white evangelical Protestants on that score, with roughly six-in-ten among both groups saying that churches should express their views on social and political topics, and roughly half saying that there has been too little expression of faith and prayer by political leaders. Fewer members of other religious groups express these views. At the same time, most African-Americans, like white evangelicals and other groups, support certain restrictions on the mingling of politics and religious institutions, with nearly six-in-ten (58%) saying that churches and other houses of worship should refrain from endorsing political candidates. On a variety of other questions, including political party identification and opinions about the proper role of government in providing services to the citizenry and assistance to the poor, there are few differences in the views of African-Americans across religious groups. Perhaps most strikingly, the partisan leanings of African-Americans from every religious background tilt heavily in the Democratic direction. pewforum.org
  13. America is once again a nation of immigrants, as a long series of recent newspaper stories and policy analyses remind us. Since 1990 the Los Angeles metropolitan region has gained almost a million residents, the New York region almost 400,000, and the Chicago region 360,000–almost all from immigration or births to recent immigrants. Most of the nation’s fastest-growing cities are in the West and Southwest, and their growth is attributable to immigration. More than half of the residents of New York City are immigrants or children of immigrants. How will these demographic changes affect racial politics? Projections show that the proportion of Americans who are neither white nor black will continue to increase, dramatically so in some regions. By 2030, whites will become a smaller proportion of the total population of the nation as a whole, and their absolute numbers will begin to decrease. The black population, now just over 13 percent, will grow, but slowly. The number of Latinos, however, will more than double, from 24 million in 1990 to almost 60 million in 2030 (absent a complete change in immigration laws). The proportion of Asians will also double. A few states will be especially transformed. By 2030 Florida’s population is projected to double; by then its white population, now about seven times as large as either the black or Latino population, will be only three or four times as large. And today, of 30 million Californians, 56 percent are white, 26 percent Latino, 10 percent Asian, and 7 percent black. By 2020, when California’s population could grow by as much as 20 million (10 million of them new immigrants), only 35 percent of its residents are projected to be white; 40 percent will be Latino, 17 percent Asian, and 8 percent black. These demographic changes may have less dramatic effects on U.S. racial politics than one might expect. For example, the proportion of voters who are white is much higher than the proportion of the population that is white in states such as California and Florida, and that disproportion is likely to continue for some decades. Second, some cities, states, and even whole regions will remain largely unaffected by demographic change. Thus racial and ethnic politics below the national level will be quite variable, and even in the national government racial and ethnic politics will be diluted and constrained compared with the politics in states particularly affected by immigration. Third, most Latino and Asian immigrants are eager to learn English, to become Americans, and to be less insulated in ethnic communities, so their basic political framework may not differ much from that of native-born Americans. Finally, there are no clear racial or ethnic differences on many political and policy issues; the fault lines lie elsewhere. For example, in the 1995 Washington Post survey mentioned earlier, whites, blacks, Latinos, and Asians showed similar levels of support for congressional action to limit tax breaks for business (under 40 percent), balance the budget (over 75 percent), reform Medicare (about 55 percent), and cut personal income taxes (about 50 percent). Somewhat more variation existed in support for reforming the welfare system (around 75 percent support) and limiting affirmative action (around a third). The only issue that seriously divided survey participants was increased limits on abortion: 24 percent support among Asian Americans, 50 percent support among Latinos, and 35 percent and 32 percent support among whites and blacks respectively. Other surveys show similar levels of inter-ethnic support for proposals to reduce crime, balance the federal budget, or improve public schooling. But when political disputes and policy choices are posed, as they frequently are, along lines that allow for competition among racial or ethnic groups, the picture looks quite different. African Americans are overwhelmingly likely (82 percent) to describe their own group as the one that “faces the most discrimination in America today.” Three in five Asian Americans agree that blacks face the most discrimination, as do half of whites. But Latinos split evenly (42 percent to 40 percent) over whether to award African Americans or themselves this dubious honor. The same pattern appears in more specific questions about discrimination. Blacks are consistently more likely to see bias against their own race than against others in treatment by police, portrayals in the media, the criminal justice system, promotion to management positions, and the ability to get mortgages and credit loans. Latinos are split between blacks and their own group on all these questions, whereas whites see roughly as much discrimination against all three of the nonwhite groups and Asians vary across the issues. Perhaps the most telling indicator of the coming complexity in racial and ethnic politics is a 1994 National Conference survey asking representatives of the four major ethnic groups which other groups share the most and the least in common with their own group. According to the survey, whites feel most in common with blacks, who feel little in common with whites. Blacks feel most in common with Latinos, who feel least in common with them. Latinos feel most in common with whites, who feel little in common with them. Asian Americans feel most in common with whites, who feel least in common with them. Each group is running after another that is fleeing from it. If these results hold up in political activity, then American racial and ethnic politics in the 21st century are going to be interesting, to say the least. Attitudes toward particular policy issues show even more clearly the instability of racial and ethnic coalitions. Latinos support strong forms of affirmative action more than do whites and Asians, but sometimes less than do blacks. In a 1995 survey, whites were much more likely to agree strongly than were blacks, Asians, and Latinos that Congress should “limit affirmative action.” But the converse belief–that Congress should not limit affirmative action–received considerable support only from African Americans. Across a variety of surveys, blacks are always the most likely to support affirmative action for blacks; blacks and Latinos concur frequently on weaker though still majority support for affirmative action for Latinos, and all groups concur in lack of strong support for affirmative action for Asians. Exit polls on California”s Proposition 209 banning affirmative action found that 60 percent of white voters, 43 percent of Asian voters, and just over one-quarter of black and Latino voters supported the ban. What might seem a potential coalition between blacks and Latinos is likely to break down, however–as might the antagonism between blacks and whites–if the issue shifts from affirmative action to immigration policy. The data are too sparse to be certain of any conclusion, especially for Asian Americans, but Latinos and probably Asians are more supportive of policies to encourage immigration and offer aid to immigrants than are African Americans and whites. A recent national poll by the Princeton Survey Research Associates suggests why African Americans and whites resemble each other and differ from Latinos in their preferences for immigration policy: without exception they perceive the effects of immigration–on such things as crime, employment, culture, politics, and the quality of schools–to be less favorable than do Latinos. brookings.edu
  14. It is virtually unprecedented for a newly successful group of Americans to grow more and more alienated from the mainstream polity as it attains more and more material success. One exception, David Mayhew notes, is South Carolina’s plantation owners in the 1840s and 1850s. That frustrated group led a secessionist movement; what might embittered and resource-rich African Americans do? At this point the analogy breaks down: the secessionists’ actions had no justification, whereas middle-class blacks have excellent reason to be intensely frustrated with the persistent, if subtle, racial barriers they constantly meet. If more and more successful African Americans become more and more convinced of what Orlando Patterson calls “the homeostatic…principle of the…system of racial domination”–racism is squelched in one place, only to arise with renewed force in another–racial interactions in the political arena will be fraught with tension and antagonism over the next few decades. In that case, ironically, it may be working-class blacks’ continued faith in the great national suggestion that lends stability to Americans’ racial encounters. If most poor and working-class African Americans continue to care more about education, jobs, safe communities, and decent homes than about racial discrimination and antagonism per se, they may provide a counterbalance in the social arena to the political and cultural rage of the black middle class. But if these patterns should be reversed–thus returning us to the patterns of the 1960s–quite different political implications and questions would follow. For example, it is possible that the United States is approaching a benign “tipping point,” when enough blacks occupy prominent positions that whites no longer resist their success and blacks feel that American society sometimes accommodates them instead of always the reverse. That point is closer than it ever has been in our history, simply because never before have there been enough successful blacks for whites to have to accommodate them. In that case, the wealth disparities between the races will decline as black executives accumulate capital. The need for affirmative action will decline as black students SAT scores come to resemble those of whites with similar incomes. The need for majority-minority electoral districts will decline as whites discover that a black representative could represent them. But what of the other half of a reversion to the pattern of 1960s beliefs, when poor blacks mistrusted whites and well-off blacks, and saw little reason to believe that conventional political institutions were on their side? If that view were to return in full force, among people now characterized by widespread ownership of fiirearms and isolation in communities with terrible schools and few job opportunities, there could indeed be a fire next time. One can envision, of course, two other patterns–both wealthy and poor African Americans lose all faith, or both wealthy and poor African Americans regain their faith that the American creed can be put into practice. The corresponding political implications are not hard to discern. My point is that the current circumstances of African Americans are unusual and probably not stable. Political engagement and policy choices over the next few decades will determine whether affluent African Americans come to feel that their nation will allow them to enjoy the full social and psychological benefits of their material success, as well as whether poor African Americans give up on a nation that has turned its back on them. Racial politics today are too complicated to allow any trend, whether toward or away from equality and comity, to predominate. Political leaders’ choices, and citizens’ responses, are up for grabs. brookings.edu
  15. The course of American racial and ethnic politics over the next few decades will depend not only on dynamics within the African-American community, but also on relations between African Americans and other racial or ethnic groups. Both are hard to predict. The key question within the black community involves the unfolding relationship between material success and attachment to the American polity. The imponderable in ethnic relations is how the increasing complexity of ethnic and racial coalitions and of ethnicity-related policy issues will affect African-American political behavior. What makes prediction so difficult is not that there are no clear patterns in both areas. There are. But the current patterns are highly politically charged and therefore highly volatile and contingent on a lot of people s choices. MATERIAL SUCCESS AND POLITICAL ATTACHMENT Today the United States has a thriving, if somewhat tenuous, black middle class. By conventional measures of income, education, or occupation at least a third of African Americans can be described as middle class, as compared with about half of whites. That is an astonishing–probably historically unprecedented–change from the early 1960s, when blacks enjoyed the “perverse equality” of almost uniform poverty in which even the best-off blacks could seldom pass on their status to their children. Conversely, the depth of poverty among the poorest blacks is matched only by the length of its duration. Thus, today there is greater disparity between the top fifth and the bottom fifth of African Americans, with regard to income, education, victimization by violence, occupational status, and participation in electoral politics, than between the top and bottom fifths of white Americans. An observer from Mars might suppose that the black middle class would be highly gratified by its recent and dramatic rise in status and that persistently poor blacks would be frustrated and embittered by their unchanging or even worsening fate. But today’s middle-class African Americans express a “rage,” to quote one popular writer, that has, paradoxically, grown along with their material holdings. In the 1950s and 1960s, African Americans who were well-off frequently saw less racial discrimination, both generally and in their own lives, than did those who were poor. Poor and poorly educated blacks were more likely than affluent or well-educated blacks to agree that “whites want to keep blacks down” rather than to help them or simply to leave them alone. But by the 1980s blacks with low status were perceiving less white hostility than were their higher-status counterparts. Recent evidence confirms affluent African Americans’ greater mistrust of white society. More college-educated blacks than black high school dropouts believe that it is true or might be true that “the government deliberately investigates black elected officials in order to discredit them,” that “the government deliberately makes sure that drugs are easily available in poor black neighborhoods in order to harm black people,” and that “the virus which causes AIDS was deliberately created in a laboratory in order to infect black people.” In a 1995 Washington Post survey, when asked whether “discrimination is the major reason for the economic and social ills blacks face,” 84 percent of middle-class blacks, as against 66 percent of working-class and poor blacks, agreed. Ironically, today most poor and working-class African Americans remain committed to what Gunnar Myrdal called “the great national suggestion” of the American Creed. That is a change; in the 1960s, more well-off than poor blacks agreed that “things are getting better…for Negroes in this country.” But, defying logic and history, since the 1980s poor African Americans have been much more optimistic about the eventual success of the next generation of their race than have wealthy African Americans. They are more likely to agree that motivation and hard work produce success, and they are often touchingly gratified by their own or their children s progress. Assume for the moment that these two patterns, of “succeeding more and enjoying it less” for affluent African Americans, and “remaining under the spell of the great national suggestion” for poor African Americans, persist and grow even stronger. That suggests several questions for political actors. brookings.edu
  16. The generation of lawmakers who came to Capitol Hill after the civil rights movement created a legislative groundswell. The civil rights acts of the 1960s and court-ordered redistricting opened new avenues of political participation for millions of African Americans. Consequently, many more black politicians were elected to office at the state and federal levels. One-hundred twenty-seven of the 162 African Americans who had served in congressional history through January 2019—more than 78 percent—were seated in Congress after 1970.17 Many of these Members were elected from southern states that had not been represented by black Members and Senators in seven decades or more, including Representative Andrew Young of Georgia, Barbara Jordan of Texas, and Harold Ford Sr. of Tennessee. During the 1992 elections alone, the total black membership in Congress grew by one-third and Carol Moseley Braun of Illinois was elected as the first black woman and the first African-American Democrat to serve in the U.S. Senate. With the ranks of African Americans growing in Congress, the time for formal organization and coordination of black legislative efforts had arrived. In early 1971, 13 African-American Members of Congress, led by Charles C. Diggs Jr of Michigan, formed the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) to address “permanent interests” that were important to African Americans, to advance black Members within the institution, and to push legislation, sometimes with potent results. Among the CBC’s notable legislative achievements were the passage of the Humphrey–Hawkins Act of 1978 to promote full employment and a balanced budget; the creation in 1983 of a federal holiday commemorating the birthday of Martin Luther King Jr.; and legislation in 1986 that imposed the first sanctions against South Africa’s all-white government for its practice of apartheid. Within Congress, the CBC used its influence as a growing unit within the Democratic Caucus to push party leaders to appoint black Members to better committees and more leadership positions. “Blacks never could rely on somebody in Congress to speak out on racial questions; they can with the caucus,” declared Representative Louis Stokes of Ohio, a cofounder of the CBC.18 This generation of African-American Members had more experience in public office before coming to the Hill, particularly in state legislatures. In Congress, black Members held positions on a full cross-section of panels, including the most coveted committees, such as Appropriations, Ways and Means, and Rules. In doing so, they were involved in legislative issues that affected every facet of American life. Most African-American Members represented electorally safe districts, and many enjoyed long careers that allowed them to accrue seniority to move into leadership positions. Twenty-one black Members chaired congressional standing and select committees between 1971 and the opening of the 116th Congress (2019–2021).19 And for the first time, black Members rose into the ranks of party leadership, including Bill Gray, Democratic Majority Whip from 1989 to 1991; J. C. Watts of Oklahoma, Republican Conference Chair from 1999 to 2003; James Clyburn of South Carolina, Vice-Chair of the Democratic Caucus from 2003 to 2006, Chair of the Democratic Caucus from 2006 to 2007, Democratic Majority Whip from 2007 to 2011 and again in 2019, and Assistant Democratic Leader from 2011 to 2018; and Hakeem Jeffries of New York, Chair of the Democratic Caucus at the opening of the 116th Congress. Nevertheless, African-American Members continued to face new challenges. By the opening of the 116th Congress, the 54 black Members and three black Senators represented constituencies whose unique geography and special interests expanded their legislative agendas. Additionally, gender diversity also has shaped the bloc of black Members of Congress. After Shirley Chisholm was first elected in 1968, another 46 African-American women were elected to Congress—making them a uniquely influential component of the story of black Americans in Congress.20 Finally, although leadership positions afforded African Americans a more powerful institutional voice and greater legislative leverage, they exposed latent conflicts between party imperatives and perceived black interests. Footnotes 17Statistics as of January 3, 2019. 18Quoted in Robert Singh, The Congressional Black Caucus: Racial Politics in the U.S. Congress (Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 1998): 105. 19Office of the Historian, U.S. House of Representatives, “Black Americans Who Have Chaired Standing Committees in the House, 1949 to Present.” 20Office of the Historian, U.S. House of Representatives, “Women of Color in Congress.” history.house.gov
  17. In 1870 the arrival on Capitol Hill of the first African-American Senator, Hiram Revels of Mississippi, and the first African-American Representative, Joseph Rainey of South Carolina, ranks among the great paradoxes in American history: Just a decade earlier, southern slave owners held those same seats in Congress. Moreover, the U.S. Capitol, where these newest Members of Congress came to work—the center of legislative government, conceived by its creators as the “Temple of Liberty”—had been constructed by enslaved laborers.1 This book chronicles the participation of African Americans in the federal legislature and their struggle to attain full civil rights in the nearly 150 years since Revels and Rainey took their seats. The institution of Congress, and the careers of black Members who have served in both its chambers, have undergone extensive changes since 1870.2 But while researching and writing this book, we encountered several recurring themes that led us to ask the following questions: What were the legislative priorities of black Members? What were the experiences of African Americans as they integrated the institution? How did they react to the political culture of Capitol Hill, and how did they overcome institutional racism? How did they search for, and ultimately attain, the means to exercise power? Lastly, how did the experiences of these individuals compare to those of other newly enfranchised Americans? Shared Experiences of Black Americans in Congress In striking aspects, the history of black Americans in Congress mirrors that of other groups that were new to the political system. Throughout African-American history in Congress, Members viewed themselves as “surrogate” representatives for the black community nationwide rather than just within the borders of their individual districts or states.3 African-American Members who won election during the 19th century, such as Robert Elliott of South Carolina and George White of North Carolina, first embodied these roles and served as models for 20th-century black Members, such as Oscar De Priest of Illinois, Adam Clayton Powell Jr. of New York, and Shirley Chisholm of New York. Surrogate representation was not limited to black Members of Congress. For instance, nearly half a century after black legislators entered Congress, women Members, too, grappled with the added burdens of surrogate representation. In 1917 women throughout the country looked to the first woman to serve in Congress, Representative Jeannette Rankin of Montana, for legislative support. Indeed, Rankin received so many letters she was forced to hire additional assistants to handle the workload. Hispanic-American Members and, later, Asian-Pacific American Members also had somewhat similar experiences speaking on behalf of a constituency that transcended their districts.4 As they entered Congress, the experiences of 20th-century African-American pioneers were similar in other respects to those of women, other minority groups, and indeed Members of Congress from all races and backgrounds, particularly on the question of which legislative style each individual chose to pursue. Would they conform to institutional norms to integrate themselves and rise to positions of influence? Or would they directly challenge those norms and appeal to public opinion?5 Known and admired by black Americans nationally, Representative De Priest and those who followed him were often sought out by individuals across the country, many of whom expected unfailing receptiveness to the long-neglected needs of the black community. In late 1934, the Atlanta Daily World memorialized De Priest, who lost re-election in his Chicago-centered district to Arthur W. Mitchell, the first black Democrat to serve in Congress. De Priest, the editors wrote, lifted his “voice in defense of those forgotten people he represented” in Chicago and nationally. Lionizing De Priest as a “gallant statesman and fearless defender” of black Americans everywhere, the editors expressed frustration with Mitchell, who explicitly noted during a speech to an Atlanta church congregation that he did not intend to represent “black interests” per se. Mitchell, the editors noted, “dashed the hopes of every Negro who sat within hearing of his voice, most of whom looked to him as their personal representative in the federal government.”6 Collectively, African Americans in Congress overcame barriers by persevering through a century of segregation, disenfranchisement, discrimination, and outright prohibition from Capitol Hill.7 After winning the right to participate in the American experiment of self-government, African Americans were systematically and ruthlessly excluded from it: From 1901 to 1929, there were no black officeholders in the federal legislature. While seeking to advance within Congress and adapt to its folkways, each generation of black Members confronted racial prejudice (both overt and subtle), exclusion, and marginalization. Moreover, because there were so few African-American legislators at any one time, they were unable to form a potent voting bloc in order to influence legislation. Black Members of Congress also contended with increased expectations from the public and heightened scrutiny by the media. They cultivated legislative strategies that were common on Capitol Hill but took on an added dimension in their mission to confront institutional racism and represent the interests of the larger black community. Some 20th-century Members, such as Representatives Chisholm and Powell, became symbols for African-American civil rights by circumventing prescribed congressional channels and appealing directly to the public and media. Others pursued an institutionalist strategy: Adhering to the prevailing traditions and workways of the House and Senate, they hoped to shape policies by attaining positions of influence on the inside.8 Representative William Levi Dawson of Illinois, Powell’s contemporary, and others like him, such as Augustus (Gus) Hawkins of California and William H. (Bill) Gray III of Pennsylvania, favored the methodical, legislative style, diligently immersing themselves in committee work and policy minutiae.9 Footnotes 1See William C. Allen with a foreword by Richard Baker and Kenneth Kato, History of Slave Laborers in the Construction of the United States Capitol (Washington, DC: Architect of the Capitol, 2005), a report commissioned by the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate Slave Labor Task Force. For a detailed analysis of Congress’s management and, often, avoidance of central questions related to the practice of slavery from 1789 to 1860, see Don E. Fehrenbacher, The Slaveholding Republic: An Account of the United States Government’s Relations to Slavery (New York: Oxford University Press, 2001). 2The closing date for this e-book edition, Black Americans in Congress, 1870–2019, was January 3, 2019. 3Jane Mansbridge, “Should Blacks Represent Blacks and Women Represent Women? A Contingent ‘Yes,’ Journal of Politics 61 (1999): 628–657. See also Carol Swain, Black Faces, Black Interests: The Representation of African Americans in Congress (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1993): 3–19. 4Office of History and Preservation, U.S. House of Representatives, Women in Congress, 1917–2006 (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 2007): 26; Office of the Historian, U.S. House of Representatives, Hispanic Americans in Congress, 1822–2012 (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 2013); Office of the Historian, U.S. House of Representatives, Asian and Pacific Islander Americans in Congress, 1900–2017 (Washington, DC: Government Publishing Office, 2017). 5Charlayne Hunter, “Shirley Chisholm: Willing to Speak Out,” 22 May 1970, New York Times: 31. For additional perspective, see William L. Clay, Bill Clay: A Political Voice at the Grass Roots (St. Louis: Missouri Historical Society Press, 2004): 7. 6“The Battle Royal in the Old First Illinois,” 9 November 1934, Atlanta Daily World: 4; “Congressman Mitchell,” 11 November 1934, Atlanta Daily World: 4; and “Congressman Mitchell Speaks,” 13 March 1935, Atlanta Daily World: 6. 7See Office of History and Preservation, Women in Congress, 1917–2006: 1–5. 8For a discussion on legislative styles, see James L. Payne, “Show Horses and Work Horses in the United States House of Representatives,” Polity 12 (Spring 1980): 428–456; see also James Q. Wilson, “Two Negro Politicians: An Interpretation,” Midwest Journal of Political Science 5 (1960): 349–369. 9For descriptions of these legislative styles in both chambers of Congress, see Payne, “Show Horses and Work Horses in the United States House of Representatives,” and Donald R. Matthews, U.S. Senators and Their World (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1960), especially the chapter “Folkways of the U.S. Senate.” history.house.gov
  18. For decades, Democrats have stood with the African American community in the struggle for equality and the enduring struggle to perfect our nation itself. Common values and concerns such as family, jobs, and education unite Democrats everywhere. Democrats across the country continue to work tirelessly to fight back against bigotry and discrimination, and to advance the issues that matter most to African Americans, from civil rights to economic opportunity. The economic crisis had an especially brutal impact on communities of color that were already struggling long before the financial crisis hit. Democrats laid a new foundation for long-term economic growth that helps every American, not just those at the top. We are working to save jobs, create new jobs and new opportunities for small businesses, reinvest in our schools, close the educational achievement gap, make college more affordable, and expand opportunities for African Americans and for all Americans. Democrats are committed to ending the epidemic of senseless gun violence in our communities and reforming the broken criminal justice system that tears families apart. We are fighting against environmental injustices that have allowed low-income children to be exposed to lead and African American children to suffer asthma at twice the rate of white children. We are fighting voting restrictions as Republican legislatures around the country enact laws to keep minority voices away from the ballot box. Democrats are proud to stand and declare that Black Lives Matter. democrats.org
  19. At first blush, black voters appear to be an almost monolithically Democratic bloc. In 2016, black Americans cast 24 percent of Democratic primary votes — the largest share ever. And in the general election, 89 percent of black voters supported Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. That’s one of the reasons why South Carolina’s primary on Feb. 29 is seen as a bellwether for the Democratic field — if a candidate can’t win a state where a majority of Democratic primary voters are black, what does that mean for his or her candidacy going forward? But black voters aren’t the monolith exit polls make them out to be. Pew Research Center found that a quarter of black Democrats identify as conservative, and 43 percent identify as moderate. So how to square that circle? How can a big chunk of black voters be unwavering Democrats who differ ideologically from the party? We spent years investigating that question for our new book, “Steadfast Democrats.” We found that black voters are so loyal to the Democratic party in part because of social pressure from other black voters. Rather than throw the whole book at you, we’re going to highlight a couple pieces of evidence that show how that dynamic works. Our first piece of evidence came from survey data collected by the 2012 American National Election Study (ANES). In that survey, interviewers asked respondents face to face which party they identify with. We then looked at the race of the interviewer and the race of the respondents to see if black respondents generally answered differently depending on who asked the question. We concluded black respondents were more likely to report they were a Democrat when they were with a black interviewer (96.4 percent) than a nonblack interviewer (83.9 percent) or an online survey (85 percent). Black interviewers weren’t randomly assigned to respondents, so it’s possible that the respondents interviewed by black interviewers differed from those interviewed by nonblack interviewers. For instance, black interviewers were more common in the South. However, the effect of having a black interviewer does not diminish when controlling for a host of pretreatment variables, including being in the South. We ran a separate study around the 2012 presidential election to test the same theory. We wanted to determine the likelihood that black individuals would defect from the norm (supporting Democratic candidates) when offered money. In the study, 106 black students at a midwest college were randomly assigned to one of three groups. Each was given $10 by an interviewer and told the money could be donated to Mitt Romney or Barack Obama. Subjects were informed that they were not obligated to donate the money and that they could decide to keep it. But if they chose to give it to a candidate, $10 would be donated for every $1 they allocated. (This was just a ruse — the money was not actually donated.) They were also told that they should make their decision once they entered a separate room, away from the interviewer, where there would be one contribution box for Romney and another for Obama. But not all the students were in the room alone. One group of students was, but two other groups were paired with an actor pretending to be another participant. In each scenario, the actor was instructed to walk into the room and immediately say out loud that he or she was donating all the money to Obama, then make the donation. One group paired participants with a white actor; in the other, the actor was black. People in the first group — the loners — kept most of the money, donating on average $3.74 to the Obama campaign. In the group with the white actor, individuals donated $4.45 to the Obama campaign. This amount was not statistically different from the scenario in which no actor was present. But in the third group, with the black actor, the average Obama contribution increased to $6.85 — a significant increase relative to the group where no actor was present. Only two subjects donated to Romney, so there was not enough data to perform the same analysis. In other words, black participants were less likely to pocket the money when another black person said he or she would be donating to Obama. The participant felt pressure to comply with the expectation of behavior by someone similar to them. As you see the results from South Carolina and other states with a percentage of black Democrats, keep that dynamic in mind. The values of the Democratic party appeal to many black voters, but their steadfast loyalty to the party goes beyond common interest. Social pressure is what cements that relationship between the black electorate and the Democratic party. fivethirtyeight.com
  20. Why? “It’s not like everybody has the same amount of choice” Lawrence put his reasoning for why black men might be more supportive of Trump succinctly: “Because they’re men. On this aspect alone, race has nothing to do with it.” And it’s true: There’s a big gender gap in support for Trump that’s observable across racial categories, with women of all races 19 points less favorable towards the president than men. But again, 52 percent of white women voted for Trump in 2016, as did 25 percent of Latino women, compared to 4 percent of black women. Jane Junn, a professor of political science and gender and sexuality studies at USC, told me the reason for the black gender gap was simple: “African American women understand that they have nowhere to go other than Democratic candidates,” even if they’ve got to “hold their nose” to do so. She told me, “There is no uncertainty about where the Republican Party stands relative to the Democratic Party on gender issues, on women’s equality issues, nor is there much misunderstanding about where the Democratic Party stands relative to the Republican Party in terms of race.” She added that while black men, being men, stood to gain from the “reinforcement of patriarchal structures” that is encouraged, in her view, by the GOP, black women did not. “It’s not like everybody has the same amount of choice,” she said. “A white man can really choose [to vote for] anybody he wants. He can decide what his ideology is. He can decide what his positions on issues are. But for women of color, they don’t really have anywhere to go. They have the same right to vote for Trump, but they’re never going there because he still explicitly represents and positions himself against many of the things that women of color will benefit from.” Shelley Wynter, a radio host in Atlanta who told me he began supporting Trump in September 2015 and has “been on the train ever since,” told me that the black gender gap is “not only with the presidency.” “There’s also a gap in a lot of things, particularly in the black community,” he said. There’s “the gap that exists with the whole Me Too movement, there’s a gap that exists in the whole world of accusations proving guilt. There’s a tremendous gap among males and females around many issues, and I think Trump’s just one of those issues.” He added that in his view, the Democratic Party had enjoyed a “lock” on the votes of black women for decades, so “the gap [between black women and men] was already there in turnout and now you see it vis-à-vis a specific person.” And Wynter referenced allegations of sexual misconduct leveled against Trump — “Let’s just add to the fact that there’s been a narrative surrounding Trump about women and the treatment of women. That exists also; that causes it also.” Nina Turner, a former Ohio state senator and national co-chair of Sen. Bernie Sanders’s 2020 campaign, told me, “Black women aren’t interested in Trump for the same reason that all black people aren’t interested in Trump — his policies and rhetoric are openly hostile to our interests.” Nadia E. Brown said during our conversation that in general, black Americans are “socially conservative but fiscally liberal,” and for black women, fiscal policies that impact health care or raising children are ones they deal with on a daily basis. Even if socially conservative ideologies are “what people hold in their hearts and practice in their homes,” she argued that many black women see themselves as having a “linked fate,” a common outcome with other black women, and might be unwilling to vote for policies that could harm others in their communities. Brown argued that black women tend to be “community caretakers,” and their politics is shaped by the view that “even if I’m a financially well-to-do person, I’m still thinking about others in my community.” According to polling conducted by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, 80 percent of black mothers are the primary earner in their family, while also taking on caregiving duties and enduring a greater likelihood of encountering poverty than every racial group except Native American women. She said that “black men don’t have that same set of ethos,” using the example of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, who portrayed his sister as helplessly dependent on welfare when in fact she had worked two jobs while Thomas was in law school and only began using welfare benefits when she stopped working to care for an elderly aunt recovering from a stroke. For some black men, Brown said, “they don’t see the sacrifices others are making for them as sacrifices.” It’s important to recognize the incredible diversity within and among black women. Prior to the 1970s, black women were reliable Republican voters, and polling data can often obscure black women who do, in fact, vote for Republican presidential candidates, including President Trump. But the vast majority don’t. And while the Trump campaign is focused on black voters (a majority of whom believe Trump’s actions are “very bad” for black Americans), that focus is primarily on black men. Black women are believed to be, in some sense, a “lost cause” for Republicans. And that’s a bad thing, particularly for black women themselves, who are often treated as “saviors” who will ride to the rescue of liberal voters once again. Their needs, their priorities, and their values taken for granted, again. vox.com
  21. “Trump is a genuinely ‘aspirational’ figure for some African American men” This gender divide, as unstudied as it may be, is still obvious. And the Trump reelection campaign seems to be leaning into it. They are focused on appealing to black voters in 2020, hoping to surpass the 8 percent marker set by Trump in 2016. The campaign is planning to open field offices aimed at attracting black voters in 15 cities, including five in Florida. Even Trump’s State of the Union address was interpreted by some conservative outlets as a bid for black votes. Trump campaign senior adviser Katrina Pierson told me that the campaign’s focus on the economy and purported support for criminal justice reform would win over black voters. “Black Voices for Trump will engage black communities to share President Trump’s record of success and promises kept during his first term in office,” Pierson said in a statement. “Black unemployment has hit an all-time low thanks to his policies, he has dedicated more money to Historically Black Colleges and Universities than any previous president, and he has advanced criminal justice reform more than any of his predecessors, giving thousands of incarcerated people a second chance.” (It’s worth noting that according to polling conducted by Axios, only 22 percent of black Americans think their personal financial situation has improved since 2017, and Trump and members of his administration alike have praised practices that disproportionately hurt minority communities like stop and frisk and lambasted activists for police reform.) But hidden within that full-throated effort to win over black voters is a notable recognition that such attempts are aimed largely at black men, as black women are viewed as largely unattainable votes for Republican presidential candidates. To be clear, black men vote for Democratic presidential candidates by wide margins, and dislike Trump by wide margins. But in a race likely to be determined by small margins, every vote — and every decision to vote for a different candidate — matters, particularly when 78 percent of college-educated black men voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016 while 91 percent of college-educated black women did the same. In a piece for the conservative outlet the Federalist titled “Why Trump’s gains with black voters could swing the 2020 election,” policy analyst Stewart J. Lawrence noted: I emailed Lawrence, who told me he’d like to see “focus group research and/or in-depth interviews with African American women to form a real opinion” on why black women don’t vote for Republican presidential candidates. But he did offer his thoughts on why black men might be more supportive of the president. “Trump is a genuinely ‘aspirational’ figure for some African American men — in fact, quite a few, higher than has been reported, I think,” he said. “I did quite a few informal interviews before the 2016 election and [was] surprised to see how far this went — but perhaps less surprising against a female Democratic candidate.” “Trump’s business success, his ‘gangsta’ personal style, and his close association with black male celebrities as well as some of his policies (America First, staying out of foreign wars and investing at home) [have] created a real affinity.” Rashawn Ray, an associate professor of sociology at the University of Maryland who has written extensively on how black men vote, told me, “Black men, particularly the 16 percent of college-educated black men who voted for Trump in 2016, are driven by their views about the economy, business growth, and religion. Some black men think that more progressive Democratic candidates are too liberal and they might simply not trust other candidates.” He added that those men weren’t impacted by the “same concerns” as a majority of black women. In a piece for the Atlantic in 2016, Johnson and Leah Rigueur, an assistant professor of public policy at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, wrote that black Trump supporters are like to be “likely to be a working-class or lower-middle-class black man, over the age of 35, and interested in alternative approaches to addressing what ails black America,” adding, “these voters tend to be more receptive to core messages of self-determination, financial success as a function of hard work, and personal responsibility, especially when conveyed in a plainspoken, hypermasculine manner.” Brown agreed when we spoke, telling me, “My take on this is that there are things in the GOP ideology that black men find appealing. The conservative ethos of pulling yourself up by your bootstraps, asserting patriarchy and male dominance, all of these kinds of traditional gender values, some black men find [them] very appealing.” And Karen Finney, a CNN political commentator and political consultant said, “It may be that the disparity relates to an effort to appeal to — for lack of a better word — machismo, portraying Trump as a tough guy, which may resonate more with some black men and not black women who may worry more about the divisiveness.” I spoke to Ugonna Eze, a conservative black law student at the University of Chicago who plans to vote for Trump in 2020. “While I don’t appreciate some of his tweets or rhetoric,” he told me, “I think the president correctly assessed the challenges posed by China’s economic misbehavior, America’s protracted engagements in the Middle East, and the problems that came with lax enforcement of our immigration laws.” But black women are, as a group, highly entrepreneurial, making up one of the fastest-growing segments of new business owners in America. And black women, despite “less traditional” views on gender roles compared to black men and white women and men, are not uniformly liberal. Meaning that logically, the appeal of the “conservative ethos” would apply to black women as well as black men, leading them to vote for conservative candidates or, alternatively, not vote at all. But it doesn’t. Not only do black women vote overwhelmingly for Democratic presidential candidates, they are also one of the most consistent voting groups in the nation, voting at higher rates than any other group in 2012 and casting their ballots in numbers 6 points above the national average in 2018. vox.com
  22. As a general rule, black Americans do not support Donald Trump. According to a recent Wall Street Journal/NBC poll, Trump enjoys just a 14 percent approval with black Americans, while roughly eight in 10 black voters say they’re “uncomfortable” with his 2020 run for reelection. In a poll of roughly 800 black registered voters conducted by BlackPAC, Trump had a -59 percent net job approval rating. But within those numbers is another story — a stark gender divide. Roughly 24 percent of black men polled by WSJ/NBC approve of Trump’s efforts while in office (72 percent of black men disapprove), but that number plummets to 6 percent when black women are asked the same question. Exit polling from the 2016 election shows that while 13 percent of black men voted for Donald Trump, just 4 percent of black women did (in Pennsylvania, that number dropped to 1 percent). For comparison’s sake, a majority of white men and white women voted for Trump, as did 32 percent of Latino men and 25 percent of Latino women. And this “black gender gap” isn’t new. Exit polls for 2008 and 2012 show that more black women voted for Barack Obama than did black men. In fact, the last time more than 10 percent of black women voted for a Republican presidential candidate was 1996, when 14 percent of black women voted for Bob Dole (to compare, 22 percent of black men did the same). So why is the gender divide between black women and black men so stark when it comes to presidential politics? It’s a complex question, one that Nadia E. Brown, an associate professor of political science at Purdue University and co-editor of Distinct Identities: Minority Women in US Politics, told me has been largely under-studied. Instead, she said scholars had tended to respond with mild curiosity: “It’s more of a, ‘Hmm, how interesting.’” The “black gender gap” in presidential politics will play a role in determining the race for the White House in 2020. Yet the reasoning for the gap — and moreover, why black women vote the way they do — remains largely unexamined. vox.com
  23. After 250 years of social segregation and discrimination, current health data confirm that African Americans are the least healthy ethnic group in the USA. Although the resources and policies to eliminate disparities exist in the USA, there has been inadequate long-term commitment to successful strategies and to the funding necessary to achieve health equity. African Americans have not been in the fiscal nor political positions to assure the successful implementation of long-term efforts; the health of African Americans has not been a priority for decision makers. Usually, the black community is not present when strategies and programs addressing their poor health status are designed and prioritized, and planners have limited understanding of the social mores and history of the African American community. The administration of health and social organizations serving black communities is rarely in the hands of those with this knowledge and commitment. Current mortality disparities are evident in cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes, and infant mortality. These causes of death may be the most visible health problems for African Americans, but they do not tell the whole story. Mental illness is the second largest cause of morbidity in African Americans, and violence in the form of homicide is the greatest cause of preventable death. High levels of poverty, lack of education, and excess incarceration further compound the poor health status of African Americans. The USA is in the midst of a surge in training health professionals, but, for many reasons, the institutions (HBCUs) created to educate African Americans have not made much impact on advancing the health of African Americans. African Americans are under-represented in all of the professions responsible for the provision of intimate physical, mental, and social care. All health providers should be required to obtain regular training and refreshing in the provision of equitable care; this includes providers of color. Training of young people of color in the health professions should be viewed as an urgent national objective requiring the rebuilding of many of social development and community health programs of the past which have been virtually extinguished by lack of funds. Outreach to young people of color encouraging them to pursue health careers should be given a much higher priority. The role of HBCUs in the preparation of young populations for health careers must be strengthened. It is evident that focusing on health risks alone is not conducive to redressing health disparities among African Americans, given that structural factors primarily underlie their poorer health outcomes and shorter lifespans. Tackling the social determinants of health, from poverty to the built environment, racial discrimination, violence, and incarceration, is likely to elicit greater effects on black health than risk reduction programs. Even though the ACA has expanded access to African Americans, medical care for people with unhealthy lifestyles and social and cultural barriers to access will have limited effects on reducing health disparities of African Americans in the USA. biomedcentral.com
  24. This section presents the key messages the authors would like to convey regarding social determinants of health and health disparities, health needs, and healthcare policy and services, to improve the health of African Americans in the USA Given all that has been detailed, it is obvious that there is much to be done if we are ever to achieve health equity or eliminate health disparities in the USA and assure good health to the African American population. A goal of Healthy People 2010 was the “elimination” of health disparities. It was not achieved for African American people. The current picture is clear; the greatest health disparity between the total US population and any ethnic group is found in African Americans. As stated in the introduction, racism may be the most important phenomenon underlying black health disparities, exerting its ominous effects through institutionalized, systematic stigma and exclusion. As we have shown, health disparities for blacks are racial disparities; social and gender disparities are interwoven and magnified to render blacks the least healthy of all groups. Historically structured racist practices and institutions are further reproduced by white-majority policymakers, decision makers, administrators, educators, and healthcare providers. Addressing “health disparities,” “cultural competence,” and “racial bias” at the individual level through healthcare services misses the social, institutional, and organizational levels underlying health disparities among blacks. At the individual level, this focus is translated into insufficient allocation of resources to black communities and populations. Poverty, low education, unemployment, violence, insecurity, and environmental exposures contribute to poor reproductive health and birth outcomes among black women. These factors affect the woman and her family at multiple levels: low access to healthy foods, inadequate access to preventive and antenatal healthcare, intimate partner violence, distrust of the justice and police system, unhealthy behaviors, substance abuse, and stress. A greater proportion of black children are born and live in this social, environmental, and culturally deprived environment; thus, they grow and develop unequally—socially, psychologically, and healthwise, throughout the lifespan. Research into minority and black health issues has been found to be both insufficient and biased. The systemic nature of racism as a cause of health disparities must be counteracted by equally systemic measures, through social programs, economic investment, criminal system reform, decreased segregation in positions of institutional power, more inclusive research and appropriate funding of public agencies, healthcare institutions, and HBCUs. Further implementation and expansion of the Affordable Care Act should result in improved health outcomes for black populations. Of course, addressing the wide ranging consequences of poverty is a social problem that all those working for health equity must attempt to redress. Although there has been significant progress in assuring healthcare for the poor with the ACA and other programs, health institutions must not pretend that adequate healthcare is available to all. The care that is provided to all must be of the highest quality, not only technically but ethically. Physicians and public health professionals, black and otherwise, must stand for racial and social justice. Proactive efforts must be taken throughout health systems to eliminate the conscious and unconscious differences in the quality of care currently provided in all aspects of medical practice. These efforts must be directed at the practice of all health providers and the functioning of all systems. Public health should take the lead in advocating for and providing the expertise to assure that inadequacies in physical and social environments do not harm African American populations. In the physical environment, priorities include informing at-risk populations of the impacts of their unhealthy environments, assurance of good housing and transportation, and documenting the location and impact of toxic waste; these interventions should be approached through cross-sector collaborations. The health of persons under the control of judicial and incarceration systems may be one of the highest priorities in the social arena. A concentrated effort to educate and train justice system administrators and staff in the basic principles of health care is necessary, and the provision of health services should be overseen by an unbiased body which is independent of the justice system. It has been demonstrated that healthcare systems based outside prison walls can provide excellent healthcare to inmates and eliminate the barriers which prevent returning convicts from receiving appropriate care upon release. Many strategies such as advocating for the appropriate location of supermarkets and farmers’ markets and promoting of inner city community gardens can have a significantly positive impact on the health of African Americans. Addressing the problems of nutrition and food deserts should be high priorities. Diabetes, CVD, and obesity will be directly affected, while many other major health problems in the African American community will be impacted. Many other disparities contribute to the poor health status of African Americans. Depending on how “cause of death” is determined and how it is calculated, diabetes is often in the top 10 causes of morbidity and mortality for African Americans. The same can be said for substance abuse, lung cancer, and stroke. African Americans are over-represented when the top 10 causes of Years of Potential Life Lost are documented. Mental illness is a major problem, but much work needs to be done to develop an accurate and useful picture of the overall disparity. Access to preventive, curative, and rehabilitative care must be assured to all persons including African Americans. Access is a lifelong need. Care for the potentially pregnant women is crucial and may have long-term consequences for her and her offspring. Comprehensive care for the infant, child, and adolescent is the key to their lifelong health and also their ability to function as productive and creative people. Adults often must be reminded that there are standards for healthcare from which they will benefit, and, as the population ages, access to appropriate and comprehensive care must be assured for elderly African Americans. In order to assure care of the highest quality, proactive efforts must be taken throughout health systems to eliminate the conscious and unconscious differences in quality of care provided. These efforts must be directed at the practice of all health providers and all systems. Today, the differences are integral to virtually all health practice. Education at all levels may be the most important role of health professionals. It is our responsibility to translate our knowledge of health into the language and culture of the client we are serving. Minorities are more likely to seek care from healthcare professionals of their own ethnicity. Communities are more than willing to collaborate with providers in taking on this task. The development of health policy is most often the responsibility of those with no health expertise, with little representation of the black population. Without the education of health professionals who are knowledgeable of the culture of African American communities and committed to their well-being, the future of policy development is bleak. HBCUs have played a major role in a variety of fields in the 150 years of their existence and are not being appropriately utilized in the training of black health professionals. Also, the policies of health practice and health institutions that serve African Americans are most often determined by public and private sector leaders who have no health training. It is the responsibility of trained health professionals to provide the information needed to make appropriate health policy decisions and to evaluate their implementation. In addition to these factors, communities, providers, and individuals must all understand that politics is a key factor in the ongoing battle to eliminate the disparities in health outcomes in the USA that are based on racial differences. biomedcentral.com
  25. Health workforce An educated and informed black population will use health care services more effectively. Forty percent of African Americans have limited reading skills. Health literacy is one’s ability to obtain, process, and understand basic health information and services. This skill is necessary to make appropriate health decisions. Good health literacy requires the reading, analysis, and decision-making skills to make appropriate health decisions. Lack of health literacy skills is considered a cause of health disparities, and disparities by both race and educational status when health literacy are taken into account. People with poor health literacy have problems communicating with their health providers, reading instructions on medicines, and completing medical and insurance forms. In 2012, blacks were 13.6 % of the “working age population” but were not 13 % of any of the major health professions. In the present, only 5.3 % of active physicians are black, and that is true for 10 % of nurses. Oral health remains a major issue for African Americans, but only 3 % of dentists are black. As we look more broadly at clinical providers, we see that only 5.2 % of advanced practice registered nurse (APRN), 8 % of physician assistants (PA), and ~5 % of pharmacists are black. Expanding the view even further, only 4 % of occupational therapists and speech therapists are African American. Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) have been a major educational resource for African Americans since the end of slavery almost 150 years ago. The primary mission of HBCUs is to educate black Americans. There are currently 100 HBCUs, and about 30 % of the BA degrees awarded to African Americans annually are produced by the 89 4-year HBCUs. In 2010–2011, blacks earned 85 % of the 33,000 bachelor’s degrees conferred by HBCUs and 73% of the master’s degrees. From another perspective, HBCUs awarded 35 % of the bachelor’s degrees to blacks in the USA in 1976–1977. This figure dropped to 16 % in 2010–2011. Facing the increasing need for health professionals, there has been a significant expansion of health training programs across the USA. It is stunning to see that health programs in HBCUs have not shared in this growth. In 2007, only 5 % of full-time faculty members at higher education institutions were black. In 2011, non-black students made up 19 % of enrollment at HBCUs. In 2013, only 60 % of nurses trained in HBCUs were African American. biomedcentral.com
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