WASHINGTON (CBS DC) – The shooting of an unarmed teenager in suburban St. Louis and the subsequent protests and police use of force has once again focused national attention on race in America.
A HuffPost/YouGov poll found 39 percent of whites thought the shooting was part of a larger pattern, while 35 percent said it was an isolated incident.
But among blacks the views are much more sharply defined, with 76 percent of black respondents saying the Ferguson incident was part of a broader pattern of violence against African Americans.
One important reason why whites have trouble understanding the problems faced by black Americans is because whites are socially isolated from African Americans, says Robert Jones with the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI).
In an article in The Atlantic, Jones argues that most whites surround themselves with other white people.
“(T)he chief obstacle to having an intelligent, or even intelligible, conversation across the racial divide is that on average white Americans live in communities that face far fewer problems and talk mostly to other white people,” he wrote.
Jones presents data from a 2013 PRRI study that breaks down the social networks of average white and black Americans.
That means that if an average white person has 100 friends, 91 of them would be white, according to the study. The rest break down to one black friend, on asian, one latino, one from another ethnic group and 3 of undetermined race.
75 percent of whites in the study had only white friends; no person of any other race were in their social circles.
The average black person has 83 black friends, with 8 white friends, 2 latino friends, zero asian friends, 3 mixed race, 1 other race and 4 friends whose race is unknown.
Jones says that white Americans are ignorant of the struggles of black Americans because most whites just don’t know enough black people.
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