Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. warned that the fight to end systemic racism is directly linked to the fate of democracy.
“When the architects of our Republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir,” he said at the 1963 March on Washington. “It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned.”
On Monday, writing for The Washington Post, political science professors Jesse Rhodes, Raymond La Raja, Tatishe Nteta, and Alexander Theodoridis revealed the results of a study that clearly lays out Dr. King was correct: voters who support racial inequality, or at least deny that it exists, tend to also hold anti-democratic views.
“In a survey of a nationally representative sample of 1,000 American adults fielded Dec. 14 to 20, we asked respondents about their views on racism in American society — specifically, whether they agreed that White people enjoy advantages based on skin color or that racial problems were isolated situations, and whether they were angry that racism exists (items from the FIRE scale, which stands for fear, institutionalized racism, and empathy),” wrote the authors. “We also asked about their perceptions of the legitimacy of the 2020 presidential election and their views on the events of Jan. 6.”
What they found was that these answers were heavily predictive of support for former President Donald Trump’s election coup plot, and the January 6 insurrectionists.
“Although 58 percent of Americans agree that White people have advantages, 15 percent said they were neutral, and 26 percent disagreed,” they wrote. “Among those who agreed that White people in the United States have advantages based on the color of their skin, 87 percent believed that Joe Biden’s victory was legitimate; among neutrals, 44 percent believed it was legitimate; and among those who disagreed, only 21 percent believed it was legitimate. Seventy percent of people who agreed that White people enjoy advantages considered the events of Jan. 6 to be an insurrection; 26 percent of neutrals described it that way; and only 10 percent who disagreed did so, while 80 percent of this last group called it a protest. And while 70 percent of those who agreed that White people enjoy advantages blamed Trump for the events of Jan. 6, only 34 percent of neutrals did, and a mere 9 percent of those who disagreed did.”
“These patterns reveal that the wounds that King identified exist still,” the authors concluded. “A majority of Americans acknowledge the reality of racial inequality in U.S. society today. However, as King would have predicted, those who deny the existence of racial inequality are also those who are most willing to reject the legitimacy of a democratic election and condone serious violations of democratic norms. For this reason, and as King argued, advancing racial equality and renewing U.S. democracy go hand in hand.”