- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 1, 2007

CHICAGO (AP) — Decades after the civil rights movement’s greatest victories, black youths often see a world rife with discrimination, a survey says. And yet they remain optimistic about their chances for affecting social change.

Researchers at the University of Chicago, who released the study yesterday, say their findings also show that these youth are complex when it comes to issues such as sex education and hip-hop music.

Cathy Cohen, a political science professor at the University of Chicago and the report’s lead author, said the aim of the survey was to provide data that went beyond broad stereotypes.

It found, for instance, that although 58 percent of black youths say they listen to rap music every day, the majority of them also think the videos from that genre are too violent and often portray black women in an offensive way.

“I enjoy rap music — I love hip-hop. I love totally different types of music,” said Lauren Guy, a 24-year-old substitute teacher from Oak Park, Ill., who participated in the survey. “What I don’t like is how women are degraded in music and how violence is glorified.”

Nearly 1,600 black, Hispanic and white youths, ages 15 to 25, participated in the survey, which researchers called the Black Youth Project. The participants were from Chicago, Detroit, Milwaukee, St. Louis and Gary, Ind.

Their responses don’t always paint a rosy picture about minorities’ view of the country.

More than half of black and Hispanic respondents said they think government officials care very little about them, while 44 percent of white youths said the same. Slightly more than half of the black respondents also were the most likely to think that their education was, on average, poorer than that of white youths. About a third of the white youths agreed with that statement. And 61 percent of blacks surveyed said they feel held back by discrimination.

“It’s a red flag, prompting us to talk about what needs to happen in this country to bring about true equality for young people in general — and especially vulnerable young people,” Miss Cohen said, referring not just to black young people, but to everyone from low-income to homosexual youths.

Although they see many social problems in the world, the survey indicated that teenagers and young adults are optimistic about their chances of changing things for the better.

A large majority of youths in the survey think, for instance, that they can make a difference by participating in politics — with 79 percent of black and white youths and 77 percent of Hispanic youths saying they feel that way.

They also are using their spending power through “buycotts” — buying products because they like a company’s social or political values. A quarter of black youths said they had participated in a buycott in the past 12 months, while 23 percent of white youths and 20 percent of Hispanic youths said the same.

Initial interviews for the survey were completed from July to November 2005, with in-depth interviews carried out in 2006.

The survey, which was funded by the Ford Foundation, has a margin of error of two percentage points.

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