This analysis provides an overview of the central themes emerging from public opinion research regarding understandings of black male achievement, awareness of racial disparities, and the causes of and responsibility for addressing them. In addition, the review includes short discussions of four issues of particular interest to advocates — jobs and the economy, education, criminal justice, and fatherhood.

Much has been written on these topics, yet many questions remain to be investigated. This review is far from comprehensive. Rather, it is designed to offer communicators a synthesis of key ideas that exist in public understanding, which can either derail or move the conversation forward. These key ideas need to be taken into account in any message strategy.

This strategic overview takes research findings that on the surface seem contradictory and divisive, and offers a perspective that makes sense of the underlying dynamics. How can people both recognize that disparities exist, and still oppose efforts designed to address these disparities? How can people believe that discrimination is widespread, yet think it has nothing to do with limiting opportunity?

Note that the analysis is just one piece of a larger effort. It is intended to provide communicators with a strategic overview of key public attitudes, and to inform future stages of the project — and it is those later stages that will focus more on action steps going forward.