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A Majority of Americans Support Black Lives Matter, but Are Divided on the Policy Changes the Movement Has Championed

Illustration for article titled A Majority of Americans Support Black Lives Matter, but Are Divided on the Policy Changes the Movement Has Championed
Photo: Scott Olson (Getty Images)

Americans agree that racism in the criminal justice system is a problem. Where they’re still divided is how to address it—and how far to go.

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According to a Washington Post-ABC News poll published earlier this week, a record-high number of Americans acknowledge that Black people and other minorities are treated differently than white people in the criminal justice system. But a majority of those polled still oppose policies intended to transform law enforcement. The poll also finds similar divisions with regard to reparations and the removal of Confederate monuments.

In all these areas, there were substantial racial divides in how respondents answered.

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In total, 69 percent of Americans agree that Black people experience a different criminal justice system than white people do. This year marks the first year that a majority of white people (62 percent) agree with this assertion. The percentage of Black folks who express this opinion has also increased in the last six years. In 2014, the Post writes, 89 percent of Black respondents said Black people were not treated equally by the police; this year, that rate is 97 percent.

A majority of Americans also agree that killings of unarmed Black people “are a sign of broader problems in the treatment of Black people by police,” at 55 percent, but this number has decreased since last month, when 69 percent of Americans agreed with this statement. A majority of Americans—63 percent—also say they support Black Lives Matter.

But the greatest disagreement comes in how Americans actually want to tackle the problems of discriminatory policing and systemic racism. Two of the most transformative proposals, slashing police budgets and offering Black communities reparations, are still unpopular with a majority of Americans, though there are steep racial and generational divides in people’s responses.

Among all U.S. adults, 55 percent say they oppose cutting police funds and redistributing that money to social services. Black respondents were the only demographic group in the survey who supported the policy, at 50 percent. Only a third of white Americans said they wanted to cut police budgets, while Hispanic respondents were evenly split: 47 percent saying they supported divesting from the police, while another 48 percent saying they were against it.

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Still, this idea was largely a fringe one before the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minn., at the end of May. The same is true of reparations, which have been discussed for generations but are starting to see more approval among a greater share of Americans.

A majority of Americans (63 percent) still oppose the government giving money to Black Americans whose ancestors were enslaved. But the rate of people who do support reparations—31 percent—is a sizable increase from the 19 percent who favored it in a 1999 ABC News poll, the Washington Post writes.

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Currently, more than 80 percent of Black people favor reparations, compared to roughly 75 percent of white people who say the government should not pay them. A slight majority of Hispanic respondents, 56 percent, say they oppose government-funded reparations.

There were similar divisions with regard to removing Confederate statues, which honor figures who were either prolific slave owners, willing to die to preserve slavery, or both. More than three out of four Black people support their removal, while majorities of white and Hispanic respondents said they preferred to keep them.

Staff writer, The Root.

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DISCUSSION

Dr Emilio Lizardo

I think a lot of this is maybe a bad choice of words along with people having trouble separating their own experiences from everybody else’s.

I’m a biased, privileged, 52 year old white Male. My experiences with police have been generally positive. So while I know intellectually that isn’t true of non-privileged, non-white men, it still takes a bit of thinking to overcome my bias and go beyond thinking it is a few bad apples or the problem can be fixed with training.

But I also think “defund” or “abolish” are bad choices of words. It is easy to react negatively to that since...who do I call if I get robbed? Or if my car gets keyed? I can’t imagine a world with no authority authorized to keep law and order working out well because people suck. But I fully support reducing the police’s role, holding them accountable for their actions, and diverting the funds freed up to social programs designed to improve the lives of poor people and make the police less necessary or settling problems in a less confrontational matter which will decrease escalation.

I also think “reparations” is also a loaded term. Am I going to see my taxes increased so a check can be mailed to every black person? Because I don’t see that being succesful on reducing economic inequality or racial injustice long term. Would I like to see tax dollars diverted to encourage minority ownership and development in minority neighborhoods so they can catch up to white neighborhoods? Absolutely!

Finally, I think it is too easy for racists to corrupt these terms and generate resistance by convincing their stupid base that reparations mean they will be personally cutting a check to a black person, that person will use the money to buy drugs, and when that stoned black person rapes their daughter there will be no police to track down the offender.

TL:DR, all these are good ideas, but the names don’t do a good job of conveying those ideas.