Not that we needed to hear it. USA Today has the details on new study commissioned by black-owned radio station Radio One. 

The digital divide between blacks and whites is fast disappearing. The hip-hop generation, often portrayed as rebellious, has tremendous respect for its elders. Prejudice persists, but most blacks are optimistic about their future.

Those are among the findings of one of the largest surveys ever taken of black Americans and to be released Friday.

But the real question is, are we “grateful”? Moving on.

• Blacks are nearly evenly divided about what they prefer to be called — 42% favor “black” and 44% favor “African American.”

• 88% of respondents — and 84% of teenagers — have tremendous respect for the opinions and desires of their elders.

• 24% say they had experienced bigotry personally within the past three months, and 82% believe it is “important for parents to prepare their children for prejudice.”

• Many still deeply mistrust police, courts, government and mainstream media.

• 60% say “things are getting better for me,” while more than half are positive about the future of the black community.

The survey was “first and foremost for us to understand ourselves,” Hughes says. “Many things are going to be such eye-openers.”

I want to highlight the result regarding the Hip-hop generation and reverence for our elders, because the argument is often made that issues of poverty, drugs and violence are simply the result of the deterioration of a traditional social hierarchy. Certainly some of that is true, but it’s also true that there are systemic problems that go beyond issues of family and social norms, and the cycle feeds itself.

One of the most startling is the rate at which the digital divide has been closed. Ten years ago less than a quarter of black folks were online, now the divide between black and white in terms of internet usage is negligible.

68% of those surveyed use the Internet. By contrast, a study by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press found that, as of December, 70% of all Americans ages 18 and older — and 72% of non-Hispanic whites — were online.
That’s…fantastic. NYU Sociology professor Ann Morning notes that there’s no disconnect between acknowledgment of current struggles and optimism for the future.

The optimism it found, even as those polled acknowledged continuing racial inequities and personal struggles, is not necessarily a contradiction, says Ann Morning, a New York University sociology professor.

“People can be confident about the future because they’re confident in their own abilities to meet obstacles … or think things are going in the right direction,” she says. “The only thing that’s surprising really is that as a nation we’ve been so resistant to recognizing diversity within the black community. … As the nation becomes more diverse, we have to pay attention to blacks as actors in this bigger mosaic.”

Of course, part of the problem in our political climate is any acknowledgment of dissatisfaction with the state of things is immediately attacked as “un-American” or ungrateful by the mainstream media, an ultimately self-conscious attempt to avoid dealing with very real problems even as things get better.  

That exposes the underlying contradiction of our conversation on race, people want to take credit for things improving even as they silence those who work towards a better world by identifying what we still have left to do. While black opinion is varied, the range of acceptable black opinion in our political discourse seems to range in between “thank you white Jesus” and “black folks need to get jobs and stop listening to Hip-hop.”
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