(Rock Hill, S.C.) — Recent data released from the Winthrop University polling lab shows there is still a divide in the beliefs of southern whites and blacks on a number of issues, despite some congruence.
The Winthrop Poll Southern Focus Survey, conducted by the Center for Public Opinion and Policy Research in December, sampled attitudes from people in 11 southern states on a number of racial issues.
The findings suggest that whites and blacks have different experiences living in the South.
For example, more than half of African Americans said they had experienced racial discrimination in the last year, while only 18 percent of whites reported they were discriminated against because of their race.
According to Scott Huffmon, Winthrop poll director, this research is intended to determine how much of a divide still exists between the races.
“We’re mainly just trying to get folks to understand that very often African Americans and whites, especially in the South, exist in different worlds,” said Huffmon.
“Whites often do not see the same things that blacks do while traversing the same space and have very different experiences. To the degree that we can get people to realize that, maybe a different conversation can take place.”
Generally, blacks and whites agreed that people of different races should be allowed to live wherever and marry whomever they wanted. They also agreed that all the races should be treated equally.
However, differences arose when respondents were asked whether whites or minorities were “under attack in this country.”
About 51 percent of whites and 89 percent of blacks said they felt minorities were “under attack” and 38 percent of whites and 11 percent of blacks said they thought whites were “under attack.”
Southerns who said they viewed the Confederate Flag favorably were more likely, about 48 percent, “to view whites as victims in today’s political environment,” according to Huffmon.
“We asked the question, do you feel like generations of slavery and discrimination do, or do not make it difficult for blacks to make it out of the lower class? That is one of those implicit racism questions that has been around since the 1990s,” said Huffmon.
The findings suggest that more than half of African Americans feel racial discrimination is the main reason blacks can’t get ahead, while over half of whites said African Americans are responsible for their own condition.
Angel Johnson, supervisor of the polling lab, worked making calls to help collect the data and she said it was challenging asking questions about how people felt about racial issues.
Johnson said she interviewed a number of whites who admitted they were prejudice and seemed proud of it, because they showed little empathy for minorities.
“Some people find being prejudice and racist is equitable to southern pride, so it was just really troubling,” said Johnson.
However, she said it seemed those views were mostly held by older whites, as opposed to younger people.
“I hope that we can help the older generation contextualize it and see how this history still hurts us today. Just by having that mindset can be so harmful in so many ways,” said Johnson.