Black Teens in the US Are Taking Action for Equality
In the US, Black Lives Matter protests have taken place nationwide since the police killing of George Floyd in late May. Many of these uprisings have been organized by Black teens. What issues are most important to them and how are they looking to make a difference?
ViacomCBS, in partnership with the Cultural Marketing Council, recently conducted research to dig into the values and political sentiments of Black teens. This survey was fielded before the Covid-19 pandemic as well as the death of George Floyd and ensuing protests. Here is what we learned from this research about Black American teens:
Racial injustice and police violence have long been key issues.
Nearly 8 in 10 Black teens said they believe Black people face a higher level of inequality than other groups in the US. When asked what political issues are most important to them, racism and police shootings topped the list. This was in stark contrast to white teens’ top priorities – teen suicide and the cost of education. Among the Black teens surveyed, 7% said they or someone close to them had been directly impacted by police shootings.
They see social and racial equality as distinctly American values and want them to be upheld.
Black teens in the US see ‘freedom of speech’ and ‘equal opportunity for all’ as tied for the most definitive American values (41%). When envisioning the future, they want a culture that prioritizes the importance of family (93%), the importance of self-respect and receiving respect from others (93%), and the pursuit of social justice and racial equality (90%).
Their trust is low in American institutions.
On a trustworthiness scale of 1-10 (10 being totally trustworthy), Black teens rated the police a 4.45 on average, compared to 6.75 for white teens. Black teens were also less likely than white teens to trust the armed forces/military (6.21 vs 7.32), politicians (3.47 vs 4.11) and the President (3.08 vs. 5.54), meaning these institutions have work to do to build trust with the Black community. In the current climate, it’s likely this distrust is even higher. Some institutions, brands, and businesses are starting to reckon with their role in systemic racism and join the call for change.
Black teens are engaged with current political movements and want to make positive change.
While most teens in the US are attuned to activism, 70% of Black teens said they are interested in current political movements (e.g., Black Lives Matter, gun violence prevention, Me Too), compared to only 64% of white teens. Nearly all Black teens (98%) involved in a current political movement said they had taken action beyond donations – 59% looked up information about protests, rallies, and events; 58% used social media to express their interest; and 38% took part in an online or social media group that shares their interests. The movements most important to Black teens were Black Lives Matter/ending violence and systemic racism (56% vs. 17% for white teens) and gun violence prevention (37% vs. 22% for white teens).
They plan to vote as they become eligible.
Almost all Black teens (94%) said they plan to register to vote when they turn 18, in line with white teens. Among those who plan to register, 75% said they’ll vote in all or almost all elections, while another 21% said they’ll vote when they feel strongly about a candidate or cause. Politically, Black teens lean left, with 46% identifying as liberal, 27% as moderate, and 27% as conservative. This high level of stated interest in voting could have implications for the 2020 presidential election, as well as for local and state elections in the coming months and years. It’s likely the US will experience cultural and political changes as protest, civic engagement, and activism among teens overall and Black teens in particular continues.