Race and racism have a long and complicated history in the United States - from the institution of slavery to the civil rights movements of the 1960s and the efforts to right the wrongs of the past with programs such as affirmative action. A 2014 poll by The Pew Research Center found that 69% of the public, including majorities of both whites (75%) and blacks (64%), say that blacks and whites in this country get along “very well” or “pretty well.” Since 2009, the share of blacks with a positive view of relations between the races has fallen 12 points (from 76% to 64%) while remaining largely unchanged among whites (80% in 2009). There are much wider differences in how blacks and whites assess the way police departments do their jobs – both across the country and locally. 70% of blacks say that police departments around the country do a poor job in holding officers accountable for misconduct; an identical percentage say that they do a poor job of treating racial and ethnic groups equally. And 57% of African Americans think police departments do a poor job of using the right amount of force.
In the 1960s, African Americans, Hispanics/Latinos and Asian Americans from various ethnic groups began to share their experiences of oppression; indignation replaced fear about the ramifications of speaking out. Asian Americans on college campuses demanded a curriculum representative of their histories. Activists also sought to prevent gentrification from destroying Asian American neighborhoods. “The more we examined our collective histories, the more we began to find a rich and complex past. And we became outraged at the depths of the economic, racial and gender exploitation that had forced our families into roles as subservient cooks, servants or coolies, garment workers and prostitutes, and which also improperly labeled us as the ‘model minority’ comprised of ‘successful’ businessmen, merchants or professionals,” explained activist Gordon Lee in a 2003 Hyphen magazine piece called “The Forgotten Revolution.”