African Americans Experience Racism Differently Across Gender, Education Levels

Most Black Americans say they have experienced racial discrimination. African American men and those with some college experience, however, are more likely to face racial prejudice in certain situations, according to a new Pew Research Center survey.

Approximately 81 percent of African Americans with some college experience say they’ve been discriminated against because of their race and 17 percent report regularly experiencing racism. By comparison, 69 percent of survey takers with a high school education or less say they have encountered racial prejudice, and only nine percent report frequent encounters with racism.

Moreover, African Americans who have attended college report experiencing certain racist behaviors more often than Black people with less education. These behaviors include encountering people who act suspicious around them, being treated as if they are less intelligent, and being exposed to racial slurs or jokes.

The belief that race negatively affects their ability to succeed is also more prevalent among African Americans who have attended college — 57 percent of this group holds this view, compared to 47 percent of respondents who never went to college.

These disparities are consistent with other recent studies, according to the Pew Center. A 2017 NPR poll, for example, found that African American degree holders were more likely to be exposed to racist language than those who didn’t go to college.

Researchers offer a couple of different hypotheses for why this may be the case. Some argue that Black people with college degrees tend to work in white-majority environments, which increases their exposure to racial bias. Others suggest that attending college may give African Americans more opportunities to discuss and explore the issue of racism, making them more aware of its subtle forms and therefore more likely to label certain experiences as racist.

According to the Pew Center survey, experiences of discrimination also vary by gender, especially when it comes to law enforcement. The number of Black men who report being racially profiled by police officers is nearly double that of women — 59 percent versus 31 percent, respectively. African American men were also more likely to say that people have acted suspicious around them and have made racial slurs or jokes in their presence.

Some experiences are equally prevalent among both genders. Similar numbers of male and female respondents say they have been treated unfairly in the workplace and have feared for their safety.

Some factors, such as age and skin tone, are not associated with different experiences of discrimination, according to the study.