Both black and white residents of Columbia give the town high marks for smooth relations between the races and rate it a better place to live from this standpoint than the communities where they lived in the past, according to survey results released last week.
The study, financed by a $4,000 grant from the Maryland Committee for Humanities and Public Policy, was conducted in March among residents of Harper's Choice, one of Columbia's seven villages.
Whites are more satisfied with the status of interracial attitudes than are blacks, according to the survey. The results also showed a disparity in cultural and leisure-time preferences, as well as some tension between adults and teenagers of different races, especially between white-adults and black teenagers.
On the other hand, the study revealed that Harper's Choice residents feel their own interracial relationships, including those with teenagers, are better than black-white relationships generally.
Harper's Choice is the second oldest and the third largest of Columbia's villages. It includes what is generally considered the town's most prestigious and affluent neighborhood, Hobbit's Glen. It also includes four subsidized low-income housing developments totaling 242 aprtments and townhouses, more than in any other village. Fifty-five per cent of residents of the subsidized housing are black.
Of persons answering the survey, 80 per cent were white and 20 per cent were black, about the same racial proportion as Columbia on the whole.
The race-income breakdown for black and white respondents was about equal up to $22,000 a year and between $31,000 and $40,000. More blacks than whites, 23 per cent compared to 14 per cent, reported annual earnings of more than $40,000. Whites predominated in the $23,000 to $30,000 category, 27 per cent to 12 per cent.
Although a majority of both races answered affirmatively, more blacks than whites surveyed indicated willingness to "attend activites" aimed at increasing knowledge and understanding of persons of different races, income levels and religions.
Of the 2,650 questionnaires distibuted to Harper's Choice residents, 20, or 8 per cent, were returned.
David A. Olson, the village board member who proposed and headed up the race relations project, which also included evening seminars on culture, family and teenagers, said he interpreted the survey findings as showing that differences in income levels are more of a problem in Columbia than race.
Olson, who is white, said attendance at the evening seminars was about equal for blacks and whites but that only on resident of subsidized housing came to the meetings.
When he proposed the race relations study "we were having a lot of problems with teens," Olson said. "There were a lot of fears and rumors and I had the feeling the board wasn't addressing itself to people's concerns. The two major roles of the board had traditionally been architectural matters and the Columbia Association budget, but there were a lot of things it really didn't know about its own neighborhoods."
Jean W. Toomer, who has done other analyses of black life in Columbia, was hired by the Harper's Choice board to conduct the survey part of its race relations project. Toomer, a black resident of Harper's Choice, said she disagreed in part with Olson's conclusion that income differences are more of a problem than racial differences.
"Part of the problem is socio-economic," she conceded, "but another part is the lack of real black-white understanding, with discussion of differences." Noting that more whites than black reported satisfaction with the racial situation in Columbia, Toomer said, "Whites call it integrated living. I call it open housing."
When asked "How well do you and/or your family get along with blacks in Columbia? in Harper's Choice?," 89 per cent of whites answered either "very well" or "well" for their associations with blacks in Columbia. Eighty-six per cent said the same for their contacts with blacks in the village.
Blacks reported a 78 per cent positive reaction about their associations with whites, both throughout the city and in Harper's Choice.
The survey showed that adults of both races believe that black and white teenagers do not get along especially well. Only 35 per cent of blacks and 22 per cent of whites answered positively when asked their impressions of teen relationships in Columbia.
Blacks perceived teenage relations in the village as being slightly worse than in the city as a while; whites thought it a little better. Thirty-one per cent of blacks and 28 per cent of whites said they thought teens got along well in the village.
More black than white adults said they had positive relations with teenagers of another race, both in the city and in the village. Fifty-four per cent of blacks said they get along "very well" or "well" with white teens in Columbia and 62 per cent said the same of white teens in the village. Responses for white adult-black teen relations were 40 per cent positive for teens throughout Columbia, 45 per cent positive for teens in the village.
When asked to check their top 10 choices for cultural activities, blacks and whites agreed on five: first-run movies, arts and crafts exhibits, lakeside events, musical theater and ethnic fairs.
The report states that, with few exceptions, cultural preferences seemed to be connected more than race than with income levels.