Black Americans Believe in Their Power to Create Change
The United States has erupted in protest against racial injustice and police brutality. Led by the Black Lives Matter movement, this response to these long-standing issues was ignited by the widespread sharing of a video in which George Floyd, a Black man in Minneapolis, died as a white police officer knelt on his neck for almost nine minutes. In the streets, protesters are coming together in outrage. Scores of Americans of all races have expressed solidarity, as well as a desire for racial equality. On social media, Black Americans and allies alike are raising awareness and organizing support by sharing educational resources, donation funds, and calls to action.
Last year, we conducted a study to understand how people around the world ages 13 to 53 feel about their personal power. More relevant than ever, we revisited those findings through the lens of Black Americans to understand how they view and access their power in the fight for change. Here is some of what we learned about their sentiments on this topic:
If Black Americans could impact any issue, it would be racism. When we asked Black Americans about the issues they would tackle first if they could choose any, civil rights/racism/racial equality was first on their list. They were 72% more likely than the total US population to select racism as a top issue. The other societal challenges that are most urgent to Black Americans are fear and hatred from people of other cultures (19% above the total population) and gun control (11% above).
Black Americans are more likely than the general population to participate in protests – and to believe in their power. Nearly 1 in 3 Black Americans surveyed said they have participated in rallies, marches, or protests – almost 20% above the general population. Just over half (53%) believe that people who are powerful organize or attend rallies and protests (13% above the total US population). Additionally, 57% of Black Americans feel a personal responsibility to get involved in important issues and 46% believe that their willingness to stand up for what’s right is a source of their personal power.
They have faith in their power to make a difference. Two-thirds of Black Americans (67%) believe they can change or influence things that they care about. Over half (54%) feel their generation has more ability to affect change than other generations (10% more likely than the total US population). They are also more likely to be actively engaged in social and cultural issues that are important to them (56% vs. 52% of the total population). Almost three-quarters believe that changes that matter take time and the collective effort of many people.
Even more than others, Black Americans use social media for information and self-expression. When asked what power will look like in the future, Black Americans’ top two responses were technology and social influence. This bears out in their above-average use of social media. They are more likely to get news and information from social media (61% vs. 56% of the total population), with more of a propensity to get informed through influencers (44% vs. 40%) and using Instagram (27% vs. 21%). Compared with the total US population, Black Americans are 26% more likely to use hashtags for social issues that are important to them; 19% more likely to create videos, music or art that expresses their ideas or opinions; 13% more likely to share memes about things that are going on in the world; and 9% more likely to believe that social media gives them a voice on issues they care about.