Racial Divides?

April 11th, 2012

Inspired by Poll finds sharp racial divides over Martin case (Washington Post4/11/12 page A3).


“African Americans and whites have starkly different views about the circumstances surrounding the shooting of Trayvon Martin and the ‘Stand Your Ground’ law at the center of the controversy, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.” – Washington Post


“This is not about a black and white thing, this is about a right and wrong thing.” – Trayvon’s mom Sybrina Fulton speaking at the Million Hoodie March inNew York


Sharp racial divides? I think the opposite is true

When whites and blacks are separated by a percentage point or two.


Here’s Sybrina Fulton speaking at the Million Hoodie March inNew York (her comments begin at the 2”10 mark).


The Washington Post highlighted the “racial divide” supposedly shown by the recent Post-ABC poll on the Trayvon Martin killing. Actually, I was reassured by these figures: 1% of blacks thought Trayvon’s killing was “justified,” and 5% of whites. Both of those figures are well within the poll’s margin of error, and therefore have zero statistical significance.

Where blacks and whites did differ was on the unjustified/don’t know enough to say question. Blacks split 80/19 on that, while whites split 38/56. To their great credit, Trayvon’s parents have said from day one that their only goal was that George Zimmerman be tried. My personal view is consistent with theirs: The evidence is strong that the shooting was unjustified, but I agree that there has to be a trial to find out. I suspect that an overwhelming majority of both whites and blacks are probably in that same “probably unjustified but there needs to be a trial” group. It’s therefore not particularly important (nor is it necessarily indicative of racism) whether people are a little closer to the “unjustified” side of that spectrum, or a little closer to the “don’t know enough so let’s have a trial” side.

But if only 5% of whites were racist or biased or gun-crazy or ill-informed enough to believe based on what they know right now that Trayvon Martin’s killing was justified, that’s pretty good. And if whites and blacks have basically the same view, separated by only a few percentage points, that Trayvon’s killing cannot be dismissed as a “justified” one based on what we know now (i.e., that the police were wrong in doing just that), then that’s major social and racial progress.


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