The Public Interest

Blacks, whites, and “race politics”

Louis Henri Bolce III & Susan H. Gray

Winter 1979

ANYONE reading the newspapers or watching television today could hardly escape the conclusion that monolithic white and black populations remain irrevocably divided in their opinions. During one typical week last winter, stories clearly “racial” in focus, nearly all emphasizing racial polarization and the victimization of blacks, ran a close second to the coal strike in the competition for front-page coverage in The New York Times. Not only do blacks and whites appear to be split over almost everything, but ff one heeds those who are “telling it like it is,” this gulf seems to be widening. The New York Urban League, for example, concluded in its annual report for 1978, “Black/white relationships deteriorated considerably in New York City last year.” A similar study by the Chicago Urban League predicts the outbreak of violent black protests. Public-opinion analyst Gerald Pomper claims that “a broad racial division has developed in regard to most political attitudes.” And the lead sentence of The New York Times' recent analysis of racial progress since the Kerner Report warns that racial polarization still exists and that the “chances of healing the rift may be more dismal today than they were 10 years ago.”

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