Source Book For Social Psychology


Kimball Young 

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In the present chapter are presented materials treating largely of the Negro-White prejudices. There are also included by way of concrete personal documents, examples of White-American Indian prejudice, of anti-Jewish attitudes, and of religious prejudice.

While much has been written to prove marked differences between races, it is generally agreed today, among competent scholars, that while there may be slight differences between races, by far the greatest differences exist between sub-racial groups and between individuals of races. The range of individual variation far outruns any racial differences, as such. Then, too, the factors of numbers and of culture opportunity play a distinctive rôle in determining present cultural standing. For example, a large group has distinct advantages over a small one not only in sheer mass of numbers, but in the fact that it would possess, ordinarily, a wider range of variation with more persons of outstanding native capacity. Couple with this cultural contacts and one has the conditions for advancement. Nothing so retards cultural advancement as small numbers and isolation.

Boas reviews the present anthropological viewpoint concerning Negro as against white capacity. Wallis points out the peculiar difficulty in judging cultures of races different than our own. The third selection has been made from that wealth of materials contained in the published report of the Chicago Race Commission made following the race riots of 1919. Here we see the attitudes and stereotypes which exist in both white and Negro groups concerning each other. Both groups carry ideas, images and attitudes about the other which make for racial misunderstanding. These attitudes concern every aspect of life where the two races have come into contact.

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The following copy of a telegram from a southern governor illustrates a prevalent attitude among the older generation in the South In reply to a query from Chicago about the possibility of returning

some of the surplus Negro population from the North to the South. Governor Bilbo said:

Your telegram asking how many Negroes Mississippi can absorb receive—In reply I desire to state that we have all the room in the world for what we know as "n-i-g-g-e-r-s," but none whatever for "colored ladies and gentlemen." If these Negroes have been contaminated with Northern socialand political dreams of equality, we cannot use them, nor do we want them. The Negro who understands his proper relation to the white man in this country will be gladly received by the people of Mississippi, as we are very much in need of labor.[1]

Ratliff's narrative, in the form of a letter, describes the procedure in dealing with a Negro accused of murder of a white mar.. The picture is a plain, unvarnished tale revealing the attitudes of the dominant race toward the servile one. The definitions of the situation for the white men are well stabilized. In the mind of "Mr. Tom" as of Governor Bilbo there is only one manner of dealing with the obstreperous Negro.

Yet lynching is itself a social custom affording a certain emotional' release and satisfaction apart from any social control factors it may have. This is brought out by the short quotation from Tannenbaum.

In contrast to the negro-white friction which is so common in the United States is the interracial relations in other areas, such as Jamaica. The paper included here is from a resident of the island. who has had much opportunity to observe the bi-racial accommodations which have been worked out there.

Following these papers on the Negro, are three personal documents giving other phases of racial and religious prejudice. The first of these is from a life story of a girl of mixed Indian and white parentage. It reveals that even though the American Indian has not been in competition with the white men as has the Negro. there exists a good deal of mild prejudice against him. Once more we note how stereotypes and legends about the Indian come into

( 507) play in defining present relations. That is, the legends about the American Indian furnish a basis upon which to build a dislike of the individual Indian.

Moreover, we see something of the tremendous isolation which the person feels who stands between a group obviously less civilized than the white and the white group which will not admit one to full participation. It is hard to be a "man without a country" but it is also difficult to be a person without a solid cultural footing even  though one may have one's citizenship.

The selection from the autobiography of a young Jew does not show the violent prejudice which is sometimes encountered by persons of the Hebraic cultural background. It does indicate, however, the gradual development of race consciousness from a mild beginning. Again, in this instance, the felt isolation may be largely due to the restriction as it touches full participation in the American life about him.

The selection on religious prejudice gives the historical setting of a prejudice that although somewhat dissipated continues into the present. It reveals the long life of custom and mental pattern in spite of external changes in economic condition, in spite of the passing of many generations. Once more one may remark that to understand the social behavior of an individual or a group it is necessary to understand the culture patterns as well as the physiology of the individual organism and the interplay of person on person in the social interaction..

Excerpted Works


  1. Reprinted by permission from The Crisis January 1920. The quotation appeared originally in the Chicago Herald-Examiner.

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