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Social & Policy Issues
Black Adults Disproportionately Experience Microaggressions
Social & Policy Issues

Black Adults Disproportionately Experience Microaggressions

by Camille Lloyd
Black Adults Disproportionately Experience Microaggressions

Story Highlights

  • 32% of Black adults say people have acted as if they were "better than you"
  • 25% say people have acted as if they thought "you were not smart"
  • About one in five report being treated with less courtesy, respect than others

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- More than any other racial group, Black Americans report experiencing negative treatment by others that falls under the broad category of microaggressions. About one in three Black adults (32%) say that, in the past year, people have acted as if they were "better than you," while one in four (25%) say people have acted as if "you were not smart."

  • Roughly one in five Black Americans say they have experienced people treating them with less courtesy (22%) and respect (20%) than others. Similar percentages of Black adults say people have acted as if they were dishonest (19%) or as if they were afraid of them (18%).

  • Fourteen percent of Black adults report that they have received worse service than other people at restaurants or stores. This compares with 4% of Asian adults, 4% of Hispanic adults and 2% of White adults who report having the same experiences.
Experiences With Microaggressions, by Racial Group
In your day-to-day life over the past 12 months, how often did any of the following things happen to you?
Black adults Hispanic adults Asian adults White adults
% Very often/Often % Very often/Often % Very often/Often % Very often/Often
People acted as if they were better than you 32 21 17 10
People acted as if they thought you were not smart 25 12 9 5
You were treated with less courtesy than other people 22 8 7 4
You were treated with less respect than other people 20 7 5 4
People acted as if they thought you were dishonest 19 4 4 1
People acted as if they were afraid of you 18 3 4 2
You received worse service than other people at restaurants or stores 14 4 4 2
Gallup Panel, June 23-July 6, 2020

The latest results are based on a June 23-July 6 survey conducted by web using the Gallup Panel, a probability-based panel of U.S. adults, in English. Learn more about the findings from this survey and others at the Gallup Center on Black Voices.

Across all microaggressions Gallup measured, Black Americans were much more likely than White, Hispanic and Asian Americans to report having these experiences. On most measures, Asian and Hispanic adults were slightly more likely than White adults to report these experiences with microaggressions.

Gallup also asked about overt aggressions experienced in the past year. Nine percent of Black adults report having been called a name or insulted, and 5% say they had been threatened or harassed. Two percent of Black Americans report having been the victim of physical violence, compared with less than 1% of each other racial group.

Being Feared, Mistrusted Even More Common for Black Men

On some measures, Black men and women report similar experiences with microaggressions -- including people treating them as if they are better than them, people acting as if they are not smart, being treated with less respect than others and receiving worse service than other customers at restaurants or stores.

Some experiences, however, are reported at higher rates by Black men than by Black women.

Black men (27%) are more than twice as likely as Black women (11%) to say people have acted as if they were afraid of them. Higher rates of Black men than women also report having been treated with less courtesy and having people act as if they are dishonest.

Experiences With Microaggressions, by Race and Gender
In your day-to-day life over the past 12 months, how often did any of the following things happen to you?
Black men Black women
% Very often/Often % Very often/Often
People acted as if they were better than you 33 32
People acted as if they were afraid of you 27 11
You were treated with less courtesy than other people 26 18
People acted as if they thought you were not smart 26 25
People acted as if they thought you were dishonest 23 14
You were treated with less respect than other people 21 18
You received worse service than other people at restaurants or stores 16 13
Gallup Panel, June 23-July 6, 2020

Gender differences on these three measures are not as pronounced among other racial groups.

Higher Reports of Microaggressions Among Young and Middle-Aged Black Adults

Young Black adults, aged 18 to 39, and middle-aged Black adults, aged 40 to 55, are more likely than older Black adults to report having been on the receiving end of almost all types of microaggressions in the past year. For example, young Black adults, aged 18 to 39, are three times as likely as older Black adults, aged 56 and older, to report having been treated with disrespect.

Four in 10 young (40%) and middle-aged Black adults (40%) say people have acted as if they were better than them, while older Black adults (16%) are less than half as likely to have reported that experience.

Experiences With Microaggressions/Abuse Among Black Americans, by Age Group
In your day-to-day life over the past 12 months, how often did any of the following things happen to you?
18-39 40-55 56+
% Very often/Often % Very often/Often % Very often/Often
People acted as if they were better than you 40 40 16
People acted as if they thought you were not smart 33 31 11
You were treated with less courtesy than other people 31 20 12
You were treated with less respect than other people 27 21 9
People acted as if they thought you were dishonest 20 28 10
People acted as if they were afraid of you 20 25 11
You received worse service than other people at restaurants or stores 16 17 11
You were called a name or insulted 12 10 5
You were threatened or harassed 6 7 3
You were hit, beaten, physically attacked or assaulted 1 5 0
Gallup Panel, June 23-July 6, 2020

While on most measures, Black adults aged 56 and older are less likely than younger Black adults to have these negative experiences, they are more likely than their same-aged peers in other racial groups to experience microaggressions.

Bottom Line

The flashpoints that spark national conversations on racism are often instances of violence, but for many Black Americans, their experiences with mistreatment and discrimination are much subtler and are woven into the routines of their normal, daily lives. Sizable percentages of Black people in the U.S. recall incidents in the past year when they felt they were treated as inferior, with reports of these experiences more prevalent among young Black adults.

Small percentages of other racial groups report having experienced someone being scared of them. Meanwhile, among Black adults, being feared is something that nearly one in five say they have experienced in the past year alone. This figure is even higher among younger Black adults. Microaggressions are reported at an even higher rate among Black men. Indeed, many of the victims of notable events of racism throughout U.S. history have had a similar profile: young, black and male.

These findings give greater context to larger conversations taking place about racism in the U.S. now, as the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officers has spurred wide-ranging conversations about how Black people are treated, not just by law enforcement but in general American life.

Follow the latest findings from the Gallup Center on Black Voices, Gallup's research initiative to study and highlight the experience of more than 40 million Black Americans.

Learn more about how the Gallup Panel works.


Gallup https://news.gallup.com/poll/315695/black-adults-disproportionately-experience-microaggressions.aspx
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