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U sociologists (from left to right) Doug Hartmann, Penny Edgell, and Joseph Gerteis lead the American Mosaic Project's look at race and religion in America.
Fear and tolerance in America
American Mosaic Project looks at race and religion in America
By Jamie Proulx
From M, summer 2004
Three University of Minnesota sociology professors--Penny Edgell, Joseph Gerteis, and Doug Hartmann--have begun the three-year American Mosaic Project to look at race and religion in America.
The project recently completed a national survey which questioned people about their views on race, religion, tolerance, and prejudice. Below is a sample of interesting findings:
- The debate surrounding racial inequality is alive and well. Surprisingly, more than half (53 percent) of African Americans reported that they see discrimination decreasing, while white participants cited more often than blacks that it's actually increasing. White Americans acknowledge issues of black inequality, but a little more than half connect that with any sort of white privilege, while 83 percent of the black participants named white privilege as the issue.
- Antisemitism is not driven by religious intolerance, but by competition. It's not a Jewish person's belief that threatens others; it's his or her success. For example, 12 percent of the respondents thought Jewish people held too much power, but when researchers looked only at participants living in areas of high unemployment, that number went up to 17 percent.
- When questioned about their views on other religious groups, no other group was seen as more dangerous or threatening than atheists, with 54 percent citing them on the survey.
- In general, people value racial or cultural diversity (more than 70 percent of the participants), but only 30 percent actually have diversity, or seek out diverse relationships, in their lives.
Also, religious beliefs strongly influenced people's attitudes about diversity and inequality.
- Almost 50 percent of white conservative Christians would disapprove if their child wanted to marry an African American, while only 22 percent of other Americans would disapprove.
- White conservative Christians are also less tolerant of other racial and religious minorities. More white conservative Christians than other Americans would disapprove of their child marrying a Hispanic (34 percent vs. 14 percent), an Asian American (34 percent vs. 14 percent), or a Jewish American (18 percent vs. 10 percent).
The second phase of the project will include extensive fieldwork that will bring the team to Minneapolis, Boston, Los Angeles, and Atlanta.
The Edelstein Family Foundation of Minneapolis sponsors the American Mosaic Project. The Edelsteins, brothers Jacob and David and sister Ruth, are U alumni and experienced discrimination and intolerance as Jews in the 1920s. For more information on this research, visit www.soc.umn.edu/amp.