Centuries have been marked by strained relations among races. Despite efforts to move past the past, signs of racial dissension persist at nearly every juncture. While many Caucasians do not see the problem as severe as it is represented, African-Americans angrily reply that the lighter-skinned race has not had to endure such prejudice and therefore cannot begin to identify with the situation.
Frank Newport, Vice President of the Gallup Poll Organization, says that Caucasian Americans do not see racism as a significant problem and therefore do not believe that government intervention is necessary (Anonymous, 1997; 04A). Conversely, Asians, Hispanics, and other minorities in the United States often feel that they are treated unfairly because of their race. President Clinton and several organizations, including the National Multicultural Institute, which focuses on reconciling ethnicity and difference with the idea of one American nation (Green, 1998; PG), are working hard to mend racial tension with a comprehensive program designed to bring all races together. Will it work, or will minorities view it as nothing more than a Band-Aid covering a much larger issue? While concepts like affirmative action have their place in society, they will not alter an individual’s perception of one race or another.
In the past, children’s racial viewpoints have routinely been shaped by their parents’ perceptions. This is precisely how racial prejudice is passed down from generation to generation. However, today’s teens appear to be breaking free of the antiquated procession by voicing their own opinions about race relations. While racial hate crimes continue to run rampant, the newer generation tends to believe there is less interracial tension than their parents do (Farley, 1997). What has instigated this considerably lax attitude among the younger generation is not quite clear. Yet, a TIME/CNN poll has discovered that the adolescent population is far more forgiving of racial prejudices than their adult counterparts.
Of 1,282 adults and 601 teenagers aged 12 to 17, the younger group demonstrated considerable racial tolerance compared to the older respondents (Farley, 1997). Children and young adults will not adopt negative views of other races if they are not placed in an environment that encourages such thoughts. However, with deep-seated hatred bred into many generations, it has become difficult for some prejudiced intentions not to trickle down the family line. Yet, the TIME/CNN poll was instrumental in establishing that many adolescents of all races have successfully moved beyond their parents’ views of race” (Farley, 1997; 88+). To kids with an open mind, race is no more important to them on a social or personal level. However, it should not be overlooked that these same respondents were still able to recognize that racism is one of America’s biggest problems today.
Even so, over one-third said the problem, though it exists, is insignificant (Farley, 1997; 88+). Eighty-nine percent of the African-American adolescents who responded said the problem was small or did not exist at all as it relates to their own lives. The Caucasian respondents, both young and old, considered racism a more dominant issue (Farley, 1997; 88+) than the African-American adolescent respondents. What does that say about the varying impressions of race relations? Depending on which race is viewing the issue, it appears the seriousness of the problem could be considerably damaging or an insignificant obstacle.
Still, optimism is high that the younger generation deems race relations to be in good standing. This may be a sign of hope” (Farley, 1997; 88+) or nothing more than “youthful naivete” (88+). Regardless, it demonstrates a long-awaited shift in the social climate relating to race relations and their consequences. Sociologist Joe R. Feagin says the answer may lie with both options.
His interpretation of the lack of adolescent racism is that reality has not fully set in for those who have not yet experienced the real world. You have to be out looking for jobs and housing to know how much discrimination is out there” (Farley, 1997; 88+). Feagin contends that those who have a better grasp of racial reality are those who are over the age of nineteen. The reasoning behind this is that comparatively few African-American teenage respondents said they had been victimized by discrimination; contrarily, half of the African-American adults admitted they had (Farley, 1997). Experts are.