Discrimination persists – Diversity initiative launched

Many Americans experience regular discrimination at stores, work, restaurants and other places of entertainment, a new study says.

To help reduce prejudicial treatment, the National Conference for Community and Justice and the Bank of America Foundation are launching a $1 million partnership to create diversity leadership initiatives in six cities where both organizations operate. 

The new survey, commissioned by the National Conference, finds that 42 percent of blacks experienced at least one episode of discrimination in the previous month, and 12 percent experienced two or more.

While only 8 percent of Asians believe that their race experiences a great deal of discrimination, 31 percent reported personally suffering unfair treatment.

Among Hispanics, 16 percent experienced discrimination at least once, as did 13 percent of whites.

Some results were less gloomy: People have more contact than ever, for example, with others of different racial and ethnic groups.

Since 1993, interracial contact has grown from 69 percent to 82 percent among blacks and from 51 percent to 66 percent among Hispanics.  Interracial contact also increased for whites and Asians, although more moderately.

Among whites, 87 percent have had contact with other races, up from 81 percent in 1993.

Among Asians, 52 percent had contact with other races, up from 49 percent in 1999.

That increased contact is likely to decrease prejudice over time, said Sanford Cloud, Jr., president and CEO of the National Conference.

Not all respondents, however, were eager for contact with members of other races.

Nearly 50 years after the U.S. Supreme Court decided in Brown v. Board of Education that segregated schools were unconstitutional, 36 percent of respondents still believe that, “It’s OK to have a country where the races are basically separate from each other, as long as they have equal opportunity.”

The survey also finds that people are least familiar with other religious groups.

Only 24 percent of the respondents said they have contact with a Muslim, while 36 percent said they did not know enough to form an opinion about Muslims.

The margin of sampling variance in the phone survey, conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates, is about plus or minus four percentage points.

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