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Survey: Across Tampa Bay, Black and white residents see deep racial disparity

The Tampa Bay Partnership survey found stark differences on topics like discrimination, Black Lives Matter and defunding the police.

Four in five Black Tampa Bay residents say they’ve experienced racial discrimination. Only one in five white residents say the same.

When they see a police officer, only 7 percent of Black Tampa Bay residents say they feel safer, compared to 51 percent of whites. Sixty percent of Black residents say they feel less safe.

More than two-thirds of Black Tampa Bay residents — twice the percentage of whites — say they strongly support the Black Lives Matter movement. Conversely, a third of white locals say they strongly oppose the movement — and nearly half say this summer’s protests make them less likely to support it.

And 90 percent of Blacks in Tampa Bay say the institution of slavery has negatively impacted their lives, and they deserve financial reparations. Fewer than half of whites believe slavery still has negative consequences, and less than than a third support reparations.

The stark disparity between how whites and Blacks in Tampa Bay see the region, and America as a whole, comes from a new survey by the Tampa Bay Partnership, a coalition of business leaders focused on fostering economic development.

“It’s the same community,” said lead pollster Joseph St. Germain, "but two different worlds.”

It’s the partnership’s second survey focused on race since the May death of George Floyd, which sparked Black Lives Matter protests around the world. The first, from August, found that Black Tampa Bay residents are much more likely to live in poverty, become unemployed and fall behind at work or school.

Related: Tampa Bay study shows deep inequities between Black, white residents

The studies are part of a “fact-finding stage” for the partnership, said partnership president Rick Homans, designed “to try to quantify the issue as much as possible before we identify a path forward.”

The Oct. 2-5 survey, conducted among a demographically representative sample of 450 residents of Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco and Hernando Counties, broke out responses from Black and white residents “because that’s largely where the conversation has been,” St. Germain said.

Black and white residents did agree on some things. A majority of both said race relations in America were generally bad and getting worse — but also that race relations in Tampa Bay were generally good. Both groups largely agreed that elected governments should better reflect the racial makeup of their constituencies; white supremacist and hate groups pose a threat to society; and systemic discrimination plays a role in Black people struggling to make progress.

But on some topics, there was a significant gap in Black and white responses.

Twenty-five percent of all respondents said being Black hurt a lot when it came to getting ahead in the community. But when broken out by race, the disparity was clearer — 43 percent of Black residents said being Black hurt a lot, compared to just 18 percent of whites.

Seventy-five percent of Black residents thought it’s become more commonplace in America for people to express racially insensitive comments in recent years, compared to 36 percent of white residents.

Seven in 10 white residents support legislation that would withhold state funding from cities that defund police departments, compared to compared to four in 10 Black residents. While a majority of both Black and white residents described this summer’s Black Lives Matter protests as mostly peaceful, 36 percent of White residents described them “violent and harmful to our communities," compared to just 11 percent of Black residents.

When it came to systemic and institutional racism, Black respondents said they’re treated more unfairly than whites in almost every aspect of life: Getting a job, getting a mortgage, voting in an election, dealing with police and the criminal justice system, and going to shops and restaurants. One notable example: 78 percent of Black residents say Black people are more likely to be treated unfairly when seeking medical treatment, compared to 33 percent of whites.

“It appears there is a stark difference between what’s realized in the Black community, and what’s the general consensus in the overall community,” said Tim Schar, the Tampa market president for Truist Bank, and co-chair of the partnership’s racial equity task force. “We need to be listening to that.”

According to the survey, local residents tend to trust local leaders more than state and national figures on matters related to race. Tampa Mayor Jane Castor and St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman scored higher than Gov. Ron DeSantis and President Donald Trump, although all four scored higher than the Florida state legislature and U.S. Congress.

Fifty-three percent of Tampa Bay residents, and 71 percent of Black residents, said they trust Joe Biden to improve race relations in America, compared to 26 percent and 5 percent, respectively, who trust Trump more.

The Tampa Bay Partnership is using the survey in part to help local leaders learn ways to benefit minorities in the business community, whether through hiring initiatives or ways to better fund minority-owned businesses.

One local example: The Tampa Bay Chamber this week announced that AT&T had agreed to fund 2021 memberships for eight Black-owned businesses and nonprofits.

“They stepped up, and other companies are saying that they’re going to,” said Tampa Bay Chamber president and CEO Bob Rohrlack. “We’re hoping we’re going to see an increase of this support, so we can help diversify membership, and just continue to work to diversify this organization.”

The Tampa Bay Partnership will discuss the report and its takeaways at a free virtual forum on Zoom at noon Nov. 5. Register at tampabay.org.

“I think it’s very easy to live our lives every day thinking that everything else is okay, and not truly understand that people around us are hurting and afraid to speak out, or afraid to have a voice,” said Brian Butler, president and CEO of Vistra communications, and co-chair of the partnership’s racial equity task force. “It’s really important that now we have a chance to better understand that, that we be very deliberate about the actions we take in moving forward."

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