Millennial Attitudes Toward Racism

A recent study shows that millennials’ well-intended attitudes on bias, including racism, may actually perpetuate racism.

This spring, MTV partnered with David Binder Research to survey 3,000 14-24 year-olds on their attitudes regarding bias.  The research was originally covered by Slate and another article ran this week in Business Insider describing the results, which paint a complicated picture of young adults’ attitudes toward bias and racial prejudice.

89% of those surveyed believe that everyone should be treated the same no matter their race, but 67% believe America is still a deeply divided place, although it is better than it was for previous generations.  Despite being raised in households that believed in equal treatment, they are uncomfortable discussing bias, with 79% worried about creating conflict by addressing bias and making a situation worse without immediate foreseeable benefit.

People of color have experienced exclusion from media representation, and have been treated differently in school or the workplace because of their color, at a much higher rate than their white peers.  However, 65% of people of color and 74% white participants believe it’s never fair to give preferential treatment to one race over another, “regardless of historical inequalities.”  The beliefs represented here show an idealistic worldview that wishes for a society where colorblindness is a feasible option. And perhaps, in individual relationships, an element of colorblindness is beneficial.  Unfortunately, the history of this country, and the policies and systems that were created based on prejudice, have resulted in a system that allows racial segregation and biased attitudes to continue.  If left unaddressed, these systems will continue to reinforce the prejudice that younger generations so deeply want to disappear, but are not sure how to address.

This recent study published by the Opportunity Collaborative explains that structural racism is a barrier to employment for job seekers in the Baltimore region.  Structural racism “operates underneath and across society, permeating history, culture and institutions through established law.”  This means that if left unchecked, these policies will dictate a course that will perpetuate racism.  For example, housing and lending laws in the 1950s and 60s limited where black residents were permitted to live (practices such as redlining or blockbusting).  Racist hiring practices further limited their job opportunities.  These 50+ year old practices have lasting effects that are still felt in communities in Baltimore, which are still largely segregated by race and income.  Though it is technically illegal to discriminate based on race or income, the poor infrastructure that results from a low-income area leads to under-performing schools and a lack of transportation and employment options.  These conditions then can become incorrectly associated with the group in question, thereby continuing the cycle, and limiting opportunities for current and future residents.

The concentration of minorities and low-income individuals in the same area is largely due to biased housing policies, illegal steering by real estate agents, and lack of job opportunities and transportation, creating a network of barriers.  These barriers are nearly impossible to overcome, even if an individual is incredibly bright and hard-working.  The well-meaning attitudes of the up-and-coming generation and their commitment to diversity will serve communities well, but they must also learn to have difficult discussions and address systems of injustice that are embedded in our society.

Clearly, this is a daunting task. Fortunately, CPHA has a more than 70 year legacy of engaging neighborhoods and facilitating dialogue around race and how it affects communities.  If you do not know where to start, contact us, and we can present to your community association, or help you think through ideas. Take a look at the types of services we offer. Also, the Opportunity Collaborative is currently working on how we can move forward in the Baltimore region, acknowledging the realities of racial segregation in housing and racial disparities in employment outcomes, and bringing people together to create a better Baltimore for all of us.

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Elise Bruner

Elise Bruner

This article was written by Elise Bruner and edited by Steve Holt. Click here to meet our writing team.
Elise Bruner

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