The Black Youth Project, under the direction of Dr. Cathy Cohen of the University of Chicago, has unveiled the findings of a comprehensive survey of the experiences and attitudes of young African Americans.
The national survey questioned 1,590 Black, White and Hispanic young people, ages 15 to 25, on everything from pre-marital sex to their beliefs about the "color-blind" society.
"Religious leaders, social commentators and entertainers claim to understand Black youth," Cohen said. "This survey, however, shows young Black Americans to be more thoughtful and complex than they are usually assumed to be, with strong opinions about education, the political system, and the future of race and racism in America — opinions and perspectives we should understand if we want to promote effective policies that can really change the lives of young African Americans."
Among the key findings:
• Black youth are more likely than their White or Hispanic counterparts to practice safer sex. Seventy-seven percent of Black youth report using protection every time or almost every time during intercourse, compared to 66 percent of White youth and 64 percent of Hispanic youth.
• Nearly half of Black and Hispanic youth surveyed said abortion is always wrong, compared to 34 percent of White youth.
• Black youth are much more likely (55 percent) than either Hispanic (36 percent) or White youth (35 percent) to believe that homosexuality is always wrong.
On government and politics
• Black youth (66 percent) and Hispanic youth (62 percent) are more likely than White youth (50 percent) to believe that a few big interests run the government.
• Only about four in 10 young people (40 percent of Black youth, 38 percent of Hispanic youth and 42 percent of White youth) believe that people in their neighborhood are able to get the government to respond to their needs.
"Black youth are largely alienated from a political process where leaders seem more concerned with their own interests than with the needs of young Black people," Cohen said. "We should be talking about changing that process and those leaders, to ensure that young people are really included in the process and mobilized."
• Young Black people are much more likely than White or Hispanic youth to agree that Black people are systematically discriminated against in the United States.
• Black youth are twice as likely as White youth (68 percent versus 34 percent) to believe that race slows government efforts to address HIV/AIDS — a view shared by half of Hispanic youth.
• Sixty-one percent of Black youth agree, "It is hard for young Black people to get ahead because they face so much discrimination." Forty-six percent of Hispanic youth and 43 percent of White youth agree.
• More than half of Black youth (54 percent) feel that young Black people receive a poorer education than White youth. Less than one-third (31 percent) of White youth agree.
• Across races, most young people (79 percent of Black, 73 percent of Hispanic and 63 percent of White youth) agree that the police discriminate much more against Black youth.
• Still, nearly half of Black youth say they have only rarely or never personally been victims of racial discrimination — less than 20 percent of Black youth said they were discriminated against because of their race "very often or often," and 48 percent of Black youth report they are "rarely or never" discriminated against because of their race.