By Dr. Ken Broda-Bahm:
There's a quote most often associated with Martin Luther King: "The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” When applied to historical progress, these words generally connote the comforting message that "Things get better." Our recent history, however, seems dedicated to showing that if there's an arc, it isn't necessarily a smooth one, and sometimes that bend toward justice takes some jagged turns. For example, the completed administration of America's first African-American president did not soothe the country's troubled experience with race. Rather, it inflamed it. Perceptions of racism as a major problem grew throughout the Obama Presidency, and then exploded afterward.
According to a Pew Research survey of 1,893 adults conducted last month, the percentage reporting that racism is a "big problem" has increased by eight points within just the last two years. That growth has been almost entirely among Democrats, widening what has been an already-large gap between the parties. The gap is even greater between the races, with about half of whites and eight in ten blacks agreeing that racism is a big problem. But across the population, 58 percent agree, and that is up from 50 percent in 2015, and 41 percent in 1995. These social perceptions can drive reactions in litigation, not just in racial discrimination cases, but also in cases involving diverse parties and witnesses. In this post, I will take a quick look at the survey results and discuss a few implications.