What White People Are Getting Wrong About Ferguson

New poll shows Americans’ reactions to the violence are divided along racial and political lines.

Jodie Gummow, AlterNet

A man walks his child past a line of police during the ongoing protests in Ferguson. (Scott Olson / Getty)

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Reprinted with permission from AlterNet.

The majority of whites (47 percent) held the view that race is getting more attention than it deserves.

As the violence in Ferguson, Missouri continues to escalate over the shooting of unarmed teen Michael Brown, a Pew survey has revealed a clear racial divide among Americans on whether they believe the incident raises important racial issues.

The Pew Research Center poll conducted on August 14 to 17 among 1,000 adults found that while 80 percent of black Americans say the incident raises important issues about race, only 37 percent of whites agreed. The majority of whites (47 percent) held the view that race is getting more attention than it deserves.

Sharp racial differences between blacks and whites were also apparent in opinions about whether local police went too far in their response to the Ferguson shooting with 65 percent of blacks saying that police had gone too far” compared with only 33 percent of white adults. On the contrary, 32 percent of whites said the police response had been about right” whereas only 20 percent of African Americans agreed.

The findings also extended to politics, revealing an expected divide between Republicans and Democrats. Not surprisingly, 61 percent of those who identified as GOP said race is getting too much attention while 68 percent of Democrats held the view that the case highlights important issues surrounding race.

As for upcoming investigations, 52 percent of whites said they had a great deal” or a fair amount” of confidence in investigations into the shooting, while only 18 percent of black people were confident in a fair inquiry. Three-quarters of blacks have little or no confidence in the investigations and 45 percent have no confidence at all.

On Monday, President Obama announced that the Justice Department would complete an independent civil rights investigation of the shooting with Attorney General Eric Holder expected to fly Ferguson this week to oversee the investigation.

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Jodie Gummow is a senior fellow and staff writer at AlterNet.
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