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Racial Divide Reflected In Tampa Bay Economic Survey

Says "State of the region: Racial Sentiment Survey, October 21, 2020."

Area residents have a more positive view of race relations within the region than they do within the U.S. as a whole, the poll says, but there are still drastic disparities between the Black and white experience.

A survey of Tampa Bay area residents reflects a significant disparity in beliefs toward racial differences, including the lingering effects of the country’s slavery history on the social and economic standing of African Americans.

The poll of 450 residents, conducted by the Tampa Bay Partnership, found that 90% of Black people agreed that slavery still had an impact, but only 46% of whites thought so.

The survey, released Oct. 21, was conducted by the Tampa Bay Partnership, a coalition of regional business leaders, and it included respondents from Hernando, Pasco, Pinellas, and Hillsborough.

According to the partnership's Dave Sobush, the slavery disparity ties into another finding: 90% of Black residents said they view their race as an important part of their identity, while 39% of white residents said it's not.

"There's a general ability of white residents of Tampa Bay, at least through the results of this community, to not view the world through a lens of race or ethnicity,” said Sobush. “Whereas for Black and African Americans and likely for other persons of color, it's somewhat impossible to do that."

Both Black and white residents largely agreed that white supremacist and hate groups pose a threat to America.

Another question focused on actions residents would support to reduce racism and discrimination, like procuring opportunities for Black business owners, improving racial equity in public schools, and implementing affirmative action policies to improve employment and educational opportunities for Black residents in the region. There was widespread agreement with 70% of respondents supporting that action.

"Where we saw some wide divergence in policy initiatives was specifically around the question of redirecting funding from police to education and other community services," Sobush said.

Among Black responders, 82% were in favor, and 38% of white residents.

The Tampa Bay Partnership also released a regional equity report before this survey in August.

The partnership is trying to understand the economic effects of the disparate outcomes in terms of home ownership, educational attainment and wages, Sobush said.

“What is that equity dividend? How much more competitive and robust would our economy be for everyone if the economy indeed worked for everyone?” he said.

“The equity dividend will help us understand what can be achieved by reducing the inequities we see and by ameliorating any of the negative impacts of systemic and institutional racism that we've seen over the years. … The partnership and our leaders will do a part of the work, but these reports and this information are important for anybody who wants to understand how they can impact the issue.”

My main role for WUSF is to report on climate change and the environment, while taking part in NPR’s High-Impact Climate Change Team. I’m also a participant of the Florida Climate Change Reporting Network.