BY DAVE KORZINSKI
Research Associate, Angus Reid Institute
On January 11, just five days before Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Democratic Congressman and civil rights leader John Lewis testified against Senator Jeff Sessions’ nomination to the role of Attorney General (AG). Lewis’ testimony – like many others against Sessions’ appointment – displayed that racial tensions in the U.S. are hardly resolved.
There has been plenty of controversy surrounding Sessions’ nomination by president-elect Donald Trump, based on what objectors perceive as a questionable history of handling race relations during his time as Alabama AG. Perhaps nothing better exemplified the gap in opinion on Sessions than the testimony of Lewis, whose passionate speech drew both praise and condemnation from either side of the political divide. Lewis, who in the same week said in an interview that Trump is “not a legitimate president” based on revelations of Russian hacking in the election, drew the ire of the president-elect with his comments.
Trump claimed on Twitter that Lewis is “all talk” and “no action” when it comes to improving his community. Many on social media took this as an invitation to share stories and photos of Lewis being beaten during a 1965 march for civil rights in Selma, Alabama.
These high-profile clashes have parallels in American public opinion. As the Angus Reid Institute found in our September profile of the American voter, while there are similarities across the political aisle on a number of issues, there are also massive disagreements on certain policies.
There is indeed, a fundamental divide in the United States on a number of issues dealing with race and diversity. ARI asked more than 2,000 Americans about the cause of – and ultimate responsibility for – the problems that African Americans face. U.S. respondents are split almost evenly over whether the responsibility rests in large part upon people in those communities, themselves (54 per cent), or on the fundamental role that racism plays in the lives of black Americans (46 per cent).
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