The State of “Things” in America

A new syndicated study from EBONY/QuestionPro considers whether African-Americans today feel as hopeless as slaves heading to the New World during the transatlantic slave trade.

In Neil Gaiman’s television adaptation of American Gods, African deity Anansi (played by Orlando Jones) appears to a group of slaves heading to the New World on a Dutch ship. Dressed in a flashy modern suit, he explains to the chained and terrified group that what lies ahead for them and their descendants are centuries of pain, exploitation and oppression. The best the captured Africans can do is overthrow the Dutch slavers while on the open ocean, even if it will mean the destruction of the ship and their certain deaths. The slaves’ only hope, the deity stresses, is a heroic act of ultimate rebellion.

Fast-forward to 2019 in the (alleged) real world. Is hope as dead for Blacks in this country today as it was for the slaves in American Gods during colonial times?

The EBONY/QuestionPro survey was conducted the last week of December 2018. The respondents were 700 adult African-Americans across all economic and education demographics, with a 56-to44 percent female-male gender split. Findings include:

When it comes to economic issues, most African-Americans (56 percent) feel their household finances are the same as they were a year ago; 30 percent believe their economic situations will improve in the next year. As far as the overall American economy, almost half (40 percent) of participants believe it will get worse in 2019.

It’s the Economy, Stupid

As the era of President Donald Trump spread its sails, African-Americans are far less enthusiastic about their present conditions.

Most respondents feel Black communities are losing ground on these issues:

  • Addressing racial problems (58 percent)
  • Providing access to quality healthcare (50 percent)
  • Narrowing the gap between rich and poor (57 percent)
  • Reducing poverty, hunger, and the homelessness (51 percent)
  • Improving immigration policies (56 percent)

When it comes to overall race relations, the results are somewhat surprising, especially when one considers the recent rise of White nationalism and populism across the country. Not much more than half (58 percent) of respondents state that current race relations in the USA are bad/somewhat bad; 22 percent claim they are neither good nor bad; and 20 percent say they are somewhat good/very good.

As the adage goes, “It’s the economy, stupid.” According to the study, the top four priorities for African-Americans are:

  1. Tax cuts and tax reforms
  2. Race relations and civil rights
  3. The economy and jobs
  4. Immigration

According to another adage, “People vote their wallets and not their hearts.” This could mean mixed results in 2020 for Democrats, who have traditionally depended on a strong Black vote, if it proves to hold true.

Out with the Old, In with the New

Without a doubt, these are turbulent times for African-Americans. Then again, many may question when since our ancestors arrived on these shores there haven’t been turbulent times for African-Americans.

When asked about New Year’s resolutions, African-Americans seem to be highly committed. Only 40 percent of those surveyed say they kept one or more of their 2018 resolutions. With regard to personal improvement in 2019,  the top priorities of those surveyed are:

  1. Eat better
  2. Save money
  3. Exercise more
  4. Focus more on self-care (e.g., getting more sleep, reducing stress)

Focusing more on self-care may become a higher priority in 2019 if the economy and immigration reform falter, but under any cirumstances, here’s to a better diet!

“Keep Hope Alive!”

At the 1988 Democratic Convention, presidential candidate Jesse Jackson, Sr. said the following:

“You must not surrender. You may or may not get there, but just know that you're qualified and hold on and hold out. We must never surrender. America will get better and better. Keep hope alive!”

Today, according to the EBONY survey, a considerable number of African-Americans agree with that statement: Forty percent of respondents state they are optimistic when it comes to the future of the United States; only 34percent are pessimistic. Moreover, a robust 69 percent of survey respondents indicate they are somewhat satisfied/very satisfied with their overall quality of life.

Despite all our issues, hope, it seems, is alive and well.

About the Author:

Rudly Raphael is President of Research and Insight for QuestionPro. He has more than 15 years of experience in the market research industry, implementing primary and secondary research for a number of high profile clients. He’s a frequent blogger and has published a number of articles on various topics. Download the entire survey “2018 - A year in review for African Americans and predictions for 2019”.

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