Jan 20, 2020

As Richmond braces for hate, Americans say race relations are getting worse

Reproduced from Pew Research Center; Note: 6,637 respondents, ±1.7 percentage points margin of error; Chart: Axios Visuals

The city of Richmond, Va., is bracing for potential violence — another “Charlottesville,” in the worst-case scenario — as thousands are expected to converge on the state capitol Monday to protest gun restriction legislation.

Why it matters: On a day that is meant to celebrate what would have been the 91st birthday of civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr., the nation is grappling with emboldened white nationalist groups and racial tension. Surveys show a majority of Americans believe race relations are getting worse under President Trump.

Driving the news: Virginia state officials are on edge after learning that militia groups, including some extremists with white supremacist views, were planning a violent attack on Monday, an annual lobbying day for the public to express views at the state capitol. The event is expected to go on but under tight security, with an emergency weapons ban in place.

  • On Thursday, the FBI arrested three men planning to attend the Richmond rally who have ties to The Base, an anarchist white supremacist group whose aim is to create a white "ethno-state," the New York Times reports.
  • Gov. Ralph Northam (D) called a state of emergency last week out of concern for public safety, citing intelligence of threats of violence and "extremist rhetoric" similar to Charlottesville.
  • The FAA has instituted a ban on airspace over the capitol out of concern for aerial threats, including weaponized drones, the Washington Post reports. Organizers of the 2017 "Unite the Right" rally in Charlottesville say they plan to attend Richmond's event Monday, per the Post.

By the numbers: Most black Americans say the president is a racist, according to a Washington Post/Ipsos survey.

  • Nearly two-thirds of black Americans say it's a bad time to be black in America.
  • Just 2 in 10 black Americans say most white Americans appreciate what discrimination black Americans face.

What they're saying: “[The president] has taken hatred against people of color, in general, from the closet to the front porch,” said one black American, interviewed by the Washington Post.

But, but, but: Is the president really responsible for rising racial tension?

A majority of Americans say he is, according to a survey last year by non-partisan Pew Research Center. But the diverging views between blacks and whites and Democrats and Republicans make it seem as though they are living in different versions of America.

  • A strong majority of blacks (73%), Hispanics (69%) and Asians (65%) say Trump has made race relations worse, compared with about half of whites (49%), according to the Pew Research Center survey released in April 2019.
  • Majorities of blacks and Hispanics say that people are more likely to express racist or racially insensitive views since Trump was elected.
  • More than 8 out of 10 Democrats say the president has made race relations worse; just 1% say he’s improved relations.
  • More than a third of Republicans say Trump has made progress toward improving race relations. Just 20% say he’s made it worse.

Flashback: In 1965, a majority of Americans supported the Civil Rights Act and sided with protesters in Selma, Ala., but even then support was far from unanimous. After the brutal beatings of civil rights leaders and protesters in Selma, nearly all black Americans said they supported the protesters, but just 46% of white Americans did, according to a Harris poll at the time.

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