August 5, 2015; Washington Post, “The Fix”

A new Washington Post poll suggests that the recent attention focused on racial disparities in the United States has resulted in a marked change in public opinion, particularly since the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson.

In the WaPo poll, 60 percent of respondents said that the nation needs to continue making changes to give blacks and whites equal rights. That’s in contrast to a year ago, when only 46 percent felt that way according to a 2014 Pew Research Center poll that asked the same question.

This should indicate to all of us, in the same way that changing public opinion on LGBTQ issues did, that there may now be an opening to have the conversations and take the steps needed to address systemic racism in this country.

In the Post’s poll, the 14-point growth in support for changes comes from across the demographic and political spectrum. Majority opinion flipped among whites, with 53 percent now saying more changes are needed compared with 39 percent in 2014. Blacks are even more resolute than last year, with 90 percent saying changes are needed, rising 11 points from 2014. Among Hispanics, the share saying changes are needed to ensure equality for blacks rose 15 points, from 54 to 69 percent.

A New York Times/CBS News poll done in July also found increasing numbers of respondents who say race relations in the United States are in bad shape, particularly where the criminal justice system is concerned. But in a fascinating contrast, a Gallup poll shows that African Americans do not themselves think much has changed.

Those involved in organizing on this issue—the Black Lives Matter movement in particular—are owed kudos for making this long awaited moment of heightened consciousness; it’s up to all of us to make sure that it matters.—Ruth McCambridge