Taeku Lee is the chair of the political science department at the University of California, Berkeley, and author of Mobilizing Public Opinion: Black Insurgency and Racial Attitudes in the Civil Rights Era and Why Americans Don't Join the Party: Race, Immigration, and the Failure (of Political Parties) to Engage the Electorate.
A young woman expresses her view of the racial situation in troubled Cairo, Ill., May 2, 1969. She was part of a demonstration against a black boycott of white merchants. (AP Photo/Fred Jewell)
In the past 70 years, there has been a tide shift in the publicly shared attitudes of white Americans toward African Americans. Some of the earliest public-opinion polls in the 1940s found that an overwhelming majority (about two-thirds) of whites were willing to support segregated schools. By the mid-1990s (the last time questions on school segregation were asked), only one out of every 25 whites held to the same view. Similarly, on interracial couples, polls from the late-1950s and early-1960s found nearly universal disapproval among white Americans; by the 1990s, only a small fraction of whites favored anti-miscegenation laws and a majority actively indicated their support of interracial marriages.