Why do many Americans fail to see the gap between rich and poor between whites and blacks in the United States
In the past year and quarter, the pandemic Has served as an obvious reminder How unequal the United States is still. But this is not a “reminder” for everyone. Black Americans and other Americans of color have not forgotten that American society is unequal.
Especially for black Americans, the surrounding statistics The inequality of COVID-19 It’s a digital stand-in for a bigger problem. It permeates every aspect of life-everything from existence Access to a life-saving vaccine to Risk of being killed by the police.
The reality is that apartheid still exists in our country.Its isolation method limits our chances to learn about each other’s life experiences, even if our laws do not formally isolate our country Like they used toThis means that some people live in a world where they rarely encounter situations that cause harm to others every day; others cannot get rid of these conditions.
You can explore the University of Virginia’s Race bitmap, Which obtains data from the 2010 U.S. Census and maps where people live across the country. Take southeastern Michigan as an example, where I was a graduate student. You can see the clear geographical separation between mainly black, white, Asian, and Hispanic communities.
Of course, this model is not unique to Michigan: it is all over the country. Now as a professor, when I go to other universities to talk about my research on inequality, I usually attach a map of the place I am visiting to show the audience how this process is performed in their own city or town.
Why is this important?Where we live not only affects us Access to resourcesAnd us Meet, interact and become friends. And because our communities are so isolated, our social networks are also isolated—approximately Three-quarters of white Americans No non-white friends, According to a survey conducted by PRRI in 2014.The nature of apartheid in the United States means we can only see in the end And understand the experience of our own group, which makes it difficult to understand the lives of people outside of our own group.
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This explains to a certain extent why Americans are so difficult to understand How unequal Our country is, and, Racialization The nature of this inequalityFor example, if you ask Americans about the racial wealth gap, you will find that they seriously underestimate these gaps; according to a 2019 paper by a group of psychologists, Americans believe that the gap between black and white 40% to 80% smaller than actual.
These data are consistent with Americans’ misunderstanding of the nation’s racial progress-they have seen much more racial progress Than it actually happenedWhat needs to be clear is that our country has certainly made some progress in racial equality since its founding.But this progress cannot be denied There is still a huge gap between ethnic groups.
These types of misunderstandings are consequential.Failure to understand the nature of racial inequality may lead to Difficult to produce effective solutions To the problem it causes.
With the launch of the COVID-19 vaccine, we have seen this.When the data starts to show Race differences in vaccination rates, The Americans blamed “Vaccine hesitation“The main reason for suggesting that black Americans are not vaccinated as quickly as white Americans is that black Americans have a negative attitude towards vaccines or The lingering mistrust of Tuskegee syphilis research, In Researchers deny that black men receive treatment for syphilis, so they can track the natural progression of the disease.
As Dr. Rhea Boyd pointed outHowever, a closer look at the data shows that when black Americans have a chance, they tend to get vaccinated, which means Solve the larger access structure problem Can greatly reduce ethnic differences in vaccination. However, ignoring and blaming the misfortune of marginalized communities is not a new phenomenon.Black Americans are also ignored During the smallpox epidemic in the 1860s.
In the past year, white Americans have had the opportunity to learn more about these racial dynamics in our country-dynamics that should be covered in American history classes. But usually not. This is an opportunity to learn more about the potential conditions for continuing to divide our country in order to Take more action Unite it.
some Bought a book with Say they learned. But the question is whether these lessons will persist.Although George Floyd’s killing by the police triggered massive global protests Many white people participatedOnly a year later, supporting the life of blacks is also a life movement Has dissipated; Some white Americans even less Supporting black life is more important than Freud’s death.
In addition, some companies that have made promises of racial equality in the past year have acted contrary to their promises.For example, after saying that they stood for six months With the black community, Google fired Timnit Gebru, They hired her to make their artificial intelligence more ethical and inclusive, and is one of the few black women in her field.
Of course, Google is not alone in contradiction.A kind A recent study A diverse survey of the technology industry found that companies that issued a statement of solidarity after the death of George Floyd had, on average, 20% fewer black employees than companies that did not make a statement.In other words, at least some people and organizations say that black lives are important, even if their own actions or Organizational culture reinforces racial inequality.
When I first started to study these issues, I thought we could “train” to eliminate the prejudice of racial inequality.I’m not the only one who thinks this way; the company spends USD 8 billion per year for diversity training The program that tries to do this.But it turns out More challenging than it sounds; For example, interventions to change implicit bias will quickly fade-according to a paper, About 24 hours later.
To better understand why this happens and why there are so many people Still misunderstanding different results, I reviewed and synthesized research across social sciences to write an academic paper on why Americans misunderstand inequality and what this means for efforts to resolve inequality. In short, I find that the prejudices that cause us to see certain things over others do not exist in a vacuum. They come from the same apartheid community and institution. When the diversity training is over, we will immediately return to these communities and institutions.Our environment and institutions Reinforce our prejudices. So if our social structure Don’t fundamentally change, It’s hard Change their inner person.
Our social structure makes it truly It’s hard to see a bigger, unequal picture As individuals, we can reach a consensus on the nature of racial inequality and the efforts to resolve this issue.The same group of psychologists I mentioned earlier actually tried to correct the misunderstanding of racial economic inequality among white Americans Two recent studiesThey found that, ironically, reminding white Americans of racial differences actually made them view the past as more Race fairer than those who have not been reminded; reminders of long-term differences have not changed their misunderstanding of the present-despite the efforts of researchers, participants still believe that our country has achieved more than it actually is. Race progress.
What can we do to close these well-documented racial gaps, but Some Americans don’t believe? In some respects, this issue is similar to climate change.Climate change is A deep political issue, But its existence does not depend on whether people believe it or not- There is a lot of evidence that this is trueThe same is true of racial inequality in the United States: there is ample evidence of its performance in the United States education, health, Criminal justice, Employment And many other domains.There are also some experts dedicated to studying how Structure, Culture and political American society (re)generates inequality and ways to disrupt these cycles.
Therefore, if we want to break the long-standing pattern of racial inequality, as a country, our best course of action may be to rely on it Evidence and expertise Rather than trying to make people believe that there is a difference, because it is always difficult for people to see inequality if they do not harm their own lives.