Majority of Black Americans fear for their lives in the U.S. 

May 22, 2022 - 19:0

As anger and grief mount one week after the massacre in the U.S. city of Buffalo; 75 percent of black Americans say they are worried that they or someone they love will be physically attacked because of their race. 

The mass shooting by a sole gunman targeted a black neighborhood at a Buffalo supermarket killing ten people and injuring three others in what authorities described as a “racially motivated attack”, despite the massacre being labeled as an act of terrorism in other parts of the world. 

According to a new joint poll by the Washington Post and Ipsos, three-quarters of Black Americans across the country have voiced concern and worry that they or someone they love will be physically attacked on the basis of their skin color. 

The new research also reveals other disturbing issues including seventy percent of Black Americans who believe half or more than half of all white Americans hold white supremacist beliefs in comparison to just 19 percent who said fewer than half of white Americans do.

Two-thirds of the respondents believe white supremacy is a bigger problem today than five years ago. In comparison, 28 percent said the size of the problem is the same. 

The black Americans questioned were also asked to share their feelings following the Buffalo shooting and the suspect allegedly embracing the racist “great replacement theory.”

Seventy percent said the shooting made them feel sad, while 62 percent also said they felt angry. More than said they felt troubled, 34 percent said they felt afraid, 21 percent said they felt shocked and only eight percent replied they were surprised. 

The terrorists behind the 2019 Christchurch mosque attack in New Zealand and the El Paso shooting in Texas in the same year also mentioned the “great replacement theory”. It has also been the subject of discussion by some right-wing lawmakers in the U.S. who have used it for political purposes. 

The “great replacement theory” originates from a book called Le Grand Replacement written in 2011 by French white nationalist Renaud Camus. The racist far-right literature lays out the conspiracy theory that non-white people are “replacing” white people in Europe and the U.S.

Experts say those who believe in this theory claim it is being carried out by their respective governments who are “either deliberately importing non-white people or are powerless to stop them from entering.”

The racist rhetoric doesn’t take into consideration that the U.S. and it’s European allies have been invading countries across the world sparking a refugee crisis or the fact that African Americans and Black Europeans were shipped into the two continents as slaves. 

The problem of hate on the basis of race in U.S. culture has been around for centuries. It’s not something that sprung up overnight with the influx of asylum seekers or the election of former U.S. President Donald Trump.

In May, a much-anticipated study identified the sites of 53 boarding schools where Native American children were forcibly taken from their parents and endured torture as well as more than 50 "marked or unmarked burial sites" with more than 500 student deaths 1819 and 1969.

As the search for more sites continues experts say the findings were the tip of the iceberg. 

Speaking to The Washington Post, the House Majority Whip says lawmakers need to acknowledge the problem of hate crimes first in order to introduce legislation to tackle the problem. 

James Clyburn says you can only legislate a response to hate if “you first admit that the problem exists.”

“You never know what it is. It could be a severe enough punishment to be a deterrent. But if you don’t ever admit that it’s there, you can’t legislate it. No problem can be solved until you first admit that the problem exists. And we still refuse to admit that we have a race problem in this country. And it’s been there for over 400 years,” he said.

Clyburn, who was part of the U.S. civil rights movement strongly denounced that the country had become used to the tragedy of hate crime. 

“It seems as if they were just supposed to happen then you go and wait for the next one to happen. And they’re going to keep happening. But look at where we are (in) the country. It seems to be it’s coming from all sides. You wonder whether or not people just decided that the pursuit of a more perfect union has come to an end,” he said.

For example, the poll of Black Americans reveals the majority are saddened and angered by the attacks, but only eight percent said they are “surprised.” 

Even before the Buffalo massacre, earlier research showed that Black people viewed racism as posing one of their greatest threats. After the mass shooting, only ten percent think racism will improve during their lifetimes and a 53 percent majority think it will get worse.

Authorities say the Buffalo shooter had published 180 pages of racist rhetoric before the massacre, detailing his plans to kill Black people and describing himself as a white supremacist and a terrorist. Of the 13 people shot, eleven were Black. 

Teeyada Cannon, a Buffalo resident told the Washington Post that the problem is not just still there but getting worse saying despite the guilty verdict last year of Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin for the murder of George Floyd, she has lost hope that Black people were safe from attack, either by police or other Americans.

The poll did indeed find that Black Americans overall see the Buffalo massacre not as a rare attack but part of broader racism in the country. 

Seven in ten Black Americans think at least half of White Americans have white supremacist beliefs when asked: Just your best guess, how many White people in America hold white supremacist beliefs, that is believing that White people are superior to people of other races?

Black Americans cited a mixture of factors that cause white Americans to commit hate crimes. 63 percent say access to guns contributes a “great deal” to people committing hate crimes, while 57 percent say “personal family and upbringing” are to blame. 

More than half, 52 percent, say social media contributes a great deal to hate crimes, 47 percent cite “blaming Black people for their problems,” 46 percent cite political leaders, and 45 percent blame not enough teaching of tolerance in schools.

More shockingly fears of racially motivated attacks by White Americans came first among Black Americans in the poll ahead of racial discrimination two years after Floyd was killed in Minneapolis. 

Despite a video of the incident going viral and sending millions across the country and world to the streets in protest, chanting “Black Lives Matter.” 

Many newly elected officials across the U.S. spoke out about the need for police reform and sweeping changes to combat racism. However, 
the poll finds 80 percent of Black people believe the police in their neighborhoods treat Black people less fairly than White people. 

The optimism of any changes following the reaction to Floyd’s murder that police treatment of Black Americans would improve, and that whites’ concerns about discrimination against Blacks would grow, has faded away.

According to research, at the height of the Black Lives Matter protests one month after Floyd’s murder, 54 percent of Black Americans expected the police to treat Black Americans more fairly in the coming years. 

Today, only 19 percent of black Americans believe it actually did, while 38 percent say police treatment has improved “a little” and 41 percent say it has not improved “at all.”

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