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Jax Daily Record Friday, Jan. 25, 201312:00 PM EST

JCCI: Whites, blacks share perception of racism

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by: David Chapman

For the first time in 27 years, the proportion of whites and black who think racism is a problem is virtually the same, according to a race relations progress report released today by Jacksonville Community Council Inc.

The item was determined as "progress made" in the latest edition of the annual report, which states 56 percent of white and 53 percent of black responders said "yes" when asked in 2012 if racism is a problem in Jacksonville.

In 2011, whites and blacks responded 41 percent and 69 percent, respectively.

That piece of information is one of the highlights of the report card that analyzes seven areas originally presented within JCCI's "Beyond the Talk: Improving Race Relations" study released in 2002. The areas are Jacksonville's perceptions and experiences of racism; education, employment and income; housing and neighborhoods; health; justice and the legal system; and civic engagement.

A review committee of Jacksonville residents identified the most important data for the report, but according to the report one of its first observations cited not enough data about the Hispanic community being a concern. The report stated "we will need more and better information about our Hispanic neighbors as we plan for our future."

As in years past, the committee identified areas of improvement and concerns and designated them with gold stars or red flags to show progress or decline.

Data for the report included information from the U.S. Census, Florida Department of Education and Jacksonville Sheriff's Office in addition to the annual surveys.

Some of the report's highlights, which can be found at jcci.org, include:

Perceptions and experiences of racism

The proportion of whites and blacks who think racism is a problem is relatively the same for the first time in 27 years and is seen as progress made, according to the report. Whites who responded "yes" when asked if they felt racism is a problem in Jacksonville increased 15 percentage points to 56 percent in 2012, up from 41 percent in 2011. This increase was tagged as needing improvement by the study. The same survey shows blacks responded "yes" to the same question 53 percent of the time, down 16 percentage points from 69 percent in 2011.

Also included in the section is a study asking if responders had experienced racism while at work, shopping or while renting or buying housing. Also labeled as "needs improvement" was the frequency of whites who reported racism while shopping, which increased from 7 percent in 2011 to 16 percent in 2012.

Education

High school graduation rates received a gold star rating in the 2012 report and were identified as a highlight of this year's report. Under "progress made," the opportunity gap between white and black graduation rates is 10 percentage points, down from 15 percentage points that separated them in the 2001-02 study.

Graduation rates of whites increased from 70.5 percent in 2010-11 to 72.7 percent in 2012, while rates for blacks increased from 54.8 percent to 62.3 percent during the same time. Native Americans also graduated at a higher level, from 66.7 percent to 72.2 percent.

Hispanics and Asian graduation rates were slightly down during the same time periods. Hispanic rates dropped from 65 percent to 63.8 percent and Asians dropped from 81.9 percent to 80.6 percent, which still led all populations.

Reading at grade level received a red flag. Studied at each grade level from third-10th, each population topped out in fourth grade — whites and Asians at 73 percent, blacks at 44 percent and Hispanics at 56 percent.

Employment and income

Unemployment rates and median household income were both tagged with red flags.

While the report states that slight improvements to black median household income and white unemployment decreases were positive, the gap between white and black unemployment rates increased to 11 percentage points and is the widest margin in eight years.

The unemployment rate for blacks rose 3.7 percentage points to 21 percent and rose for Hispanics 0.4 percentage points to 13.4 percent. The white unemployment rate dropped to 9.7 percent, down from 10.1 percent.

Median household income for whites decreased by $1,301 to $52,575 from $53,876 and decreased for Hispanic responders by $1,988 to $42,190, down from $44,178. Black median household income increased $189 to $32,584, up from $32,395.

Housing and neighborhoods

Black and white disparity in home ownership increased and was tagged as needing improvement, while the rate of Hispanic homeownership drew praise. Also deemed positives were the narrowing racial and ethnic gaps in renters paying too much for housing dropping.

Perceptions of neighborhood safety received a gold star.

Both white and black responders more favorably answered they felt safe walking alone in their neighborhood at night. The larger increase was from blacks, who had a 17.9 percentage point increase, up to 67.1 percent from 49.2 percent. Whites increased 3.6 percentage points to 69.9 percent.

Health

Rates of new HIV cases among whites, blacks and Hispanics increased, earning a red flag.

New cases per 100,000 residents increased the most for black responders, who saw 104.4 cases based on 2011 responses — up 20 cases from 84.4 in 2010.

New cases for whites increased 2.3, from 11.4 to 13.7 cases, while Hispanics' cases increased by 6.9, from 24.5 to 31.4.

"In Jacksonville, the rate of new HIV cases in the black population is six-and-a-half times the rate of the white population, and the rate among the black population is increasing," the report states.

Also receiving a red flag was the diabetes death rate, which also increased across the board and was led by Hispanics who had 28 additional deaths per 100,000 residents, up to 37.1 in 2011.

Justice and the legal system

Rates of misdemeanor and felony admissions decreased for blacks and whites, which drew praise along with the decreased percentage of youth among all races referred to the Department of Juvenile Justice.

Concurrently, blacks are overrepresented in admissions to Duval County Jail and though the total number of homicides is down, more white and Hispanic homicides happened in 2011, which the report stated needed improvement.

Civic engagement

There was no disparity between black and white voter registration and turnout rates, which drew praise, but the percentage of elected officials based on race drew mixed reaction.

The percentage of black elected officials is in line with the percentage of Jacksonville black population, which is seen as progress, but the lack of a single Hispanic or Asian elected official needs improvement, according to the report.

Of the 40 elected officials the study identified, 72 percent are white and 28 percent are black.

Also drawing concern was the perception of one's ability to influence government, with negative responses from whites, blacks and Hispanics all increasing in 2012.

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