EDITOR’S NOTE: The results of the poll referred to in this article were in fact reported on the front page of the Feb. 20 editions of the Washington Post. Mr. Williams regrets the oversight to the Post, and maintains the study’s findings deserved more prominent coverage in other media outlets.
This week The Washington Post released a stunning poll. But the news did not make its front page. Don’t look for The New York Times to make a splash with the news, either. The big papers are never going to use a lot of ink to tell a story about black and Latino people taking a can-do, optimistic, empowered view of life in America.
The latest evidence of this media bias is the silence surrounding a poll showing blacks and Latinos are twice as likely, 24 percent to 12 percent, to say they are very or somewhat satisfied with the nation’s economy than white people. And the poll found blacks are far more optimistic than whites that the economic recovery will grow stronger by another wide margin, 32 percent to 19 percent.
The poll done by The Washington Post, the Kaiser Family Foundation and Harvard University was buried in The Post’s Sunday business section, and was reported Tuesday on The Root, a website owned by The Post and targeted at a minority audience.
“Looking toward the future, blacks showed remarkable optimism,” wrote Frank McCoy, who reported on the poll for The Root. Specifically, more blacks and Latinos [62 percent and 51 percent respectively] than whites [36 percent] expressed optimism when asked if their family finances are getting better.
Now keep in mind that the unemployment rate for black Americans is 15.7 percent and Hispanics are not far behind at 11.9 percent. White unemployment, by comparison, is a relatively modest 8 percent. The poll also found that more whites, 60 percent, than blacks or Latinos, 51 percent and 47 percent respectively, are very or somewhat satisfied with their personal finances.
So what we are seeing here from minority America is no Pollyanna pretense that America is past its economic upset. What is revealed in these poll numbers is that racial minorities, with less wealth and fewer jobs, are showing bullish confidence in the economy. They believe better days are around the corner.
The failure to report in a big way on the fighting spirit, the economic sunshine coming from minority America, is in keeping with big media’s inability to report on good news when it comes to life among people of color.
Last year the respected Pew Research Center for the People and the Press found that 65 percent of whites and 56 percent of blacks agreed that the standards of living for blacks and whites has narrowed over the last decade even as the income gap between the races slightly widened.
The Pew poll also found that 39 percent of blacks felt the overall economic, racial and political situation in the U.S. for black people is better than it was five years ago, and 53 percent said they expect life to be even better in the future.
The most amazing finding in the Pew poll, taken when the recession still had a fierce grip on everyone, was that more than half of black America, 52 percent, said fellow blacks who do not get ahead in the American economy have only themselves to blame. Only a third of black Americans told the poll that racism is keeping poor black people from doing well. And large majorities of blacks and whites – 60 percent and 70 percent respectively – said they “believe values held by blacks and whites have become more similar in the last decade.”
It is incredibly good news to discover that the moment has come when Americans across racial lines are saying publicly that the deep racial divide born of slavery, legal segregation, black anger and white guilt is fading as people of all races agree on common values. And as the latest poll from The Post shows, minorities are looking for the economy to take off and reward strong values and their optimism.
If there is a story about black poverty, police brutality or a drug-related shooting spree in a Hispanic neighborhood, the big papers will feature it with Page One coverage. Those stories fit old racial stereotypes. And lots of old line civil rights groups and liberal cocktail party people will applaud those papers for any story about racial minorities’ complaints about life in America or stories confirming that life is bad, unjust and oppressive for people of color.
But when there is good news on race relations and refreshing evidence of blacks and Latinos leading the way by showing faith in America’s future, the big media is just not that into it.
That patronizing attitude amounts to prejudice. It is condescending and says more about the old racial attitudes holding back the big, white press than any racism holding back blacks and Latinos in modern America.
Juan Williams serves as a Fox News political analyst, a regular panelist on Fox Broadcasting's Sunday morning public affairs program, "Fox News Sunday," as well as the weekday political newscast, "Special Report with Bret Baier," and as a regular substitute host for "The O'Reilly Factor."