Survey finds racism, discrimination alive in GR


GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Racism in America has perhaps been on the most debated topics in our nation recently.

A survey by the Grand Valley State University’s Johnson Center released Thursday took a closer look at racism and discrimination in Grand Rapids.

“If you’re a person of color in Grand Rapids, you experience discrimination based on the color of your skin on a significant level in this town,” said Jerry Johnson, the director of the Community Research Institute at GVSU.

GVSU’s VoiceGR survey found 11 percent of respondents said “racism is very much an issue” in Grand Rapids. Another 33 percent said it was somewhat of an issue. About a third said they had been discriminated against in the past year.

>>Online: The complete survey results

“Fifty-two percent of African Americans said they had experienced discrimination because of their race in the last year and it was like 18 percent for white folk. And usually when it’s Caucasians that are experiencing discrimination, it’s usually around gender, disability, sexual orientation and those kinds of things,” Johnson said.

Both Johnson and Briana Urena-Ravelo, the co-founder of the Grand Rapids chapter of Black Lives Matter, say the numbers of race-based discrimination may even be higher in reality.

“I think it says that we live in a segregated community where there could be people, could be living side-by-side, and one group of people report that they love the area where they live and other people aren’t so happy. So I wonder why that might be and where the discord is,” Urena-Ravelo said.

Johnson said the numbers aren’t anything new and that achievement gaps across the board from education to health to income between whites and people of color is well-documented.

“We’re trying to bring some numbers to that and make those public so we can begin to have a community conversation about these things instead of just nodding our heads and pretending like we all understand and nothing gets done,” Johnson said.

“There was a national discussion about police brutality and racism and that was happening and we knew we also had those problems happening here. That study if anything just affirms a lot of what we already know about segregation and inequality and disparity in this city,” Urena-Ravelo said.

More than 3,000 people took the survey, which has been conducted annually since 2001. This is the second year the question of racism and discrimination was asked. The ethnicity of those surveyed is reflective of the city’s overall population.

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