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High-School Students Say Racial Incidents Common

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A majority of high-school students have witnessed or heard about racial incidents with violent overtones, and nearly half would either join in or approve of the action, according to a recent poll by Louis Harris and Associates.

More than half of the 1,865 10th-to 12th-graders surveyed by the polling firm had knowledge of violent racial incidents; about one-fifth said such incidents happened "very often," and 36 percent said they happened "once in a while."

If confronted with friends who were "stirring up trouble over some racial or religious group," 30 percent said if they agreed, they would join in, and 17 percent said they might agree with the action and that the victimized group "deserves what it gets."

However, 30 percent of those surveyed said they were prepared to intervene or condemn such activity.

The nationwide poll, "Youth Attitudes on Racism," was conducted in September for the Reebok Foundation and Northeastern University's Center for the Study of Sport in Society.

"It's horrifying that one out of every two kids" would condone a racial incident, said Richard Lapchick, director of the Center for the Study of Sport in Society. The poll shows "violence is an acceptable response," he said.

But, students also showed a strong awareness of discrimination and human-rights violations worldwide. Seventy-six percent of the stu4dents agreed that everyone has the right "to live in an environment free of violence."

While he was "heartened" by those results," Mr. Lapchick said, "We're talking about a very confused generation of people."

In the survey, boys were more likely than girls to join in racial troublemaking, Hispanics weremore likely to do so than African-Americans or whites, and children from high-income families seemed more disposed to it than those from low-income households.

The poll also found that black high-school athletes have unrealistically optimistic expectations of playing professional sports, with 43 percent aiming for the professional level; only 16 percent of their white classmates had that aim. Overall, 19 percent of students said they thought they could play professional sports, and 41 percent said they were good enough to play in college.

But in fact, the study notes, only about 1 in 10,000 high-school athletes will ever play professional sports.

Mr. Lapchick said it was the influence of parents, coaches, and others that leads many black athletes to expect that kind of future. But he called it "gross" to tell any adolescent that he can make it in professional sports.

The survey also revealed that:

One in four students reported that they had been the target of a racist or ethnic act.

African-Americans and Hispanics, at 70 and 67 percent, respectively, were much more likely than whites, at 54 percent, to have heard or seen such incidents.

Slightly more than half of the students would tell their parents about a racial incident, but only 25 percent would tell a teacher or other school official.

Sixty percent of students would like to learn more about the culture and history of their own racial groups, and 50 percent have an interest in learning more about other racial and ethnic groups.

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