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A Window On The Wall

An Analysis of an Internet Study
of African American Perspectives

By Amir Abdur-Rashid
Jacksonville, Florida

Amir Abdur-RashidAmir Abdur-Rashid is a freelance writer living in Jacksonville, Florida. He writes a column there for the newspaper the Folio Weekly. Amir Abdur-Rashid can reached at

Misunderstanding has always been the paint characterizing the "color line," both in Jacksonville and elsewhere. The children of Africa and Europe, their lots cast together in America, simply don't see eye to eye on a majority of issues. A communications barrier exists, a barrier I like to call The Wall of Consciousness.

The Wall is a product of two cultures largely quarantined from each other, even as they interweave throughout the American saga. It's a communications barrier which manifests itself on every level of our society; the school yard, the church pew, the job site the ballot booth. It's the kind of division that supports the birth of extremists among us, which is more and more apparent with each new militia group that springs up from out of nowhere..

Quite simply, if you don't know someone personally, you might be inclined to believe the lying words of any clown who claims to know about that person, especially if that person's tale is entertaining. This is the well from which hate groups draw their strength. This is what keeps the Wall standing.

An electronic poll conducted on African Americans with Internet access provides a unique opportunity for white Americans to look across that wall and assess the black perspective on a variety of current issues. The poll was conducted by Black on Black Communications (BOBC) out of Philadelphia and 744 people responded, 94 percent of whom said they plan to vote in the next general election. BOBC said the poll has a 2 percent error margin.

Respondents seem to reflect a general pattern of blacks drifting away from traditional Democratic allegiances. However those voters aren't making a beeline for the Republican party, either. More than one in four respondents identified themselves as independents, while a mere five percent professed Republican loyalties.

But Ross Perot would be well-advised not to count those potential third-party votes yet. The National African American Leadership Summit, which convened one month after the Million Man March, has scheduled a black political convention to be held in August. This event could go a long way toward determining who gets the support of African American leadership in the upcoming general election. Look for President Clinton to win by forfeit. The Republicans still haven't even bothered to field a team in that contest.

Not so long ago the Democrats seemed to have an unshakable grip on the African American vote, but the BOBC poll reports that 84 percent of the respondents now feel that the donkey party takes the black vote for granted. Forty three-percent even view the Democrats as hostile to the interests of African Americans, while 90 percent feel the same way about the Republicans.

Still, the winds of ideology are shifting ever so slightly. While only 33 percent consider themselves liberal, more than half of those polled label themselves as moderates. Only ten percent are comfortable wearing the increasingly ambiguous conservative mantle.

Nine out of ten believe the United States needs affirmative action in one form or another, but only 10 percent cited affirmative action the most import issue to African American voters. No -- that honor belongs to public school education, with 24 percent of the respondents saying that quality education was their pet peeve, while the crime problem was second at 15 percent. Those who felt the biggest issue facing the nation is race relations numbered only 11 percent.

The last is noteworthy because it demonstrates that more African Americans are buying into the concepts of self-empowerment. Although disparities in American society are acknowledged, blacks have accepted the fact that education is a more powerful tool for change than anything the government may try to implement.

On the issue of crime, 92 percent of the respondents feel it is more effective to focus on crime prevention than to focus on law enforcement and 94 percent feel drug war efforts would be better spent on the trafficking level than at the street level.

While Colin Powell may be a hot item with the power brokers in Washington, African Americans identify themselves more closely with the views of NAACP leader and former congressman Kweise Mfume, according to the poll. Mfume edged out the retired general 28 percent to Powell's 25 percent. Jesse Jackson and Louis Farrakhan were third and fourth, respectively, at 13 percent and ten percent.

Some of the poll's information may have been expected and some of it may raise eyebrows. In either case, well done to BOBC for hanging a window on the Wall.

Published in In Motion Magazine June 2, 1996.

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