Most of us believe we could be target of discrimination

Hate doesn’t discriminate, most Americans say. In fact, majorities of many ethnic, identity and racial groups nationwide believe that discrimination exists against their own faction, across many areas of people’s daily lives, according to a poll released on October 24 by National Public Radio, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

Among those who were asked to respond to the recent survey, entitled, “You, me, and Them: Experiencing Discrimination in America,” were adults who identified as white, black, Latinos, Asian-American, Native American or LGBTQ. The researchers asked a wide range of questions about how and where subjects perceive discrimination—from the workplace to the doctor’s office.

The national statistically representative survey of 3,453 adults, conducted this year from January 26 through April 9.

Interestingly enough, 55% of white American respondents told pollsters that they believe they experience discrimination—higher than the 50% or more of black American respondents who say they have personally felt the effects of racial discrimination.

Specifically, among the 802 African-American respondents, 50% or more say they have experienced discrimination when interacting with police (50%), when applying to jobs (56%), and when it comes to being paid equally or considered for promotion (57%).

What’s more, a majority of African-Americans have personally experienced racial slurs (51%) and 40% say people have acted afraid of them because of their race. Nearly one-third (31%) say they have avoided calling the police, and 22% say they have avoided medical care, even when in need, both for fear of discrimination.

The perceptions of discrimination are not primarily based in actions by institutions, as some might expect. “Most African-Americans believe that discrimination is due to the attitudes of individuals that they interact with,” said Robert Blendon, the poll’s director and professor of policy and political analysis at the Harvard Chan School. “A smaller share believes it’s actually government or institutional policies.”

“If someone is avoiding seeking medical care out of fear of discrimination, they’re at risk of going undiagnosed for serious conditions,” commented Dr. Richard Besser, president and CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. “We know that repeated stress from discrimination and racism can actually make some of those conditions more likely in the first place and shorten lives.”

Where people live can make a big difference, too. The researchers found that 64% of blacks live in non-majority-black areas. For these respondents, perceptions of local discrimination, opportunity, police, and government and community environment were generally better when compared with majority-black areas, sometimes by wide margins.

Research contact: help.npr.org