Following months of protests and the telling of some hard truths about America, a Gallup poll found that worry over race relations in this country has risen dramatically.
Twenty-eight percent of Americans now have “a great deal” of concern about race relations, according to the poll conducted March 5-8. That's up from just 17 percent last March. Terrorism was the only issue that showed a larger increase.
Concern about race grew during a year when the cruel realities of police brutality and systemic racism were frequently highlighted. The deaths of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and Eric Garner in New York spurred the “Black Lives Matter” movement on social media and in nationwide protests. The day before Gallup launched the latest poll, the Justice Department released a devastating report highlighting systemic racial bias in Ferguson.
Still, only 4 percent of Americans now think race relations are the most pressing national issue, Gallup reported. Dissatisfaction with government has topped that list since December.
Yet the last three months have been marred by incidents of racial and ethnic tension:
- Three unarmed black men in three states were killed by police over four days in March.
- Tennessee lawmakers pushed a seemingly Islamophobic bill.
- Three Muslim students were shot dead, allegedly by a neighbor in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.
- Ku Klux Klan flyers were discovered in a Washington state neighborhood.
- A Tennessee House representative called for the creation of a “NAAWP.”
- People thought Will Smith’s new movie was "anti-white," apparently because it shows an interracial romance.
- Conservative commentator Dinesh D’Souza called President Barack Obama a "boy."
The share of Americans who believed race relations or racism was the nation’s top issue had briefly jumped to 13 percent in December 2014, according to Gallup. That was the highest since the 1992 Rodney King verdict and ensuing Los Angeles riots. The increased concern followed the death of 12-year-old Tamir Rice, who was killed by police in Cleveland, and the grand jury decisions not to indict the officers involved in the deaths of Brown and Garner.