Have We Come a Long Way Since 2020?

In the summer of 2020, the energy sweeping the country surrounding racial injustice was like nothing I’d ever seen. For several weeks (with work largely at a standstill), I divided most of my time between marching in the streets and staying glued to CNN.

This seemed like an unprecedented moment in the United States. But… was it really?

To get a better handle on how Americans were feeling about matters ranging from COVID to racial equity, Southpaw partnered with Gazelle Global and Zebra Strategies  to conduct several nationwide surveys.

One thing that jumped out to me at that time was a strong sense of optimism among Black Americans. In June 2020…

 •  Fully two-thirds (66%) of Blacks agreed that “some good might come of the recent protests and discussions around race” (compared to just 53% of whites).

 •  Blacks (57%) were also far more likely than whites (49%) to agree that “White people and corporations are reacting in a much different way than they have in the past.”

 •  One in three Black Americans said that “This is so familiar, but yet it feels utterly different.”

Two years later, have we seen any truly substantive change? Journalists and activists have noted “low-hanging fruit of symbolic transformation” in the removal of racist statues and iconography and the establishment of Juneteenth as a national holiday. But real plans for transformational action seems elusive.

Robert A. Brown, who teaches Mass Media & Social Justice at Morehouse College in Atlanta, put it this way, in an opinion piece for NPR: “There is a growing discontent in the African American community with symbolic gestures that are presented as progress without any accompanying economic or structural change.”

To see how attitudes have – or haven’t – shifted since those charged months back in 2020, Southpaw went back out early this month to collect some more data.

 •  As of June 2022, 49% of Black and 48% of white Americans (down from 66% and 53% respectively in 2020) feel that some good has come of the recent discussions and protests around race. 

And for many Black Americans, the “different response” of corporations was short-lived:

 •  In 2022, 45% of Black (and 29% of white) Americans agree that “corporations have not done enough to combat racism and nothing has changed in the past two years.”

 •  Another 32% of Black (and 27% of white) Americans feel that “corporations have made great achievements toward racial justice in the past two years, but they still have a lot of work to do.”

In line with the research we’ve been conducting, one of Southpaw Insights’ clients, an F100 financial services company, announced in 2020 that they would be taking action to substantively strengthen their Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) efforts. Two years later, they wanted to know: “Is the work we’re doing making a real difference in the eyes of our employees?”, “Have we done enough?” and “What more can we do to make our workplace truly inclusive?” You can read about the work we’ve done on their behalf here.

If your organization has DEI initiatives that you’d like to evaluate, we’d love to talk to you! Contact us here.

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