An American Dilemma

W.E.B. DuBois once said, “The problem of the 20th century is the problem of the color line.” With many colleges and universities pondering the demise of their affirmative action and diversity programs, the question of race relations between black and white Americans continues to be a chief concern in the 21st century.

Conducted between March 23 and May 16, 2001, the Gallup Poll Social Audit: Black-White Relations in the United States, which included 2,004 randomly selected adult participants — 895 white and 1,003 black — showed that black and white Americans differ on various issues regarding affirmative action, racial profiling, and opportunities in education and housing. In response to a question about how blacks are treated in the United States, 38% of whites said the same as whites, whereas 51% said not very well. In contrast, only 9% of blacks believed they received equal treatment to whites, with 71% believing the treatment to be less than favorable.

Milton Little, executive vice president and COO of the National Urban League, believes as long as race continues to be a crucial factor of political and social dialogue in the U.S., polls like Gallup will always be significant. As the complexion of this country’s population becomes darker, Little believes people have to reach beyond racial boundaries and focus on issues that concern all Americans, such as strong, healthy families and safe communities. “That’s what people, regardless of race and ethnicity, want — safe and effective schools and to be able to live and work where they choose,” he says.

Although Little isn’t sure whether the race issue will be resolved in this country, or globally, in the next 100 years, he remains hopeful.