Social Attitudes 

The Negro and the Immigrant

Herbert Adolphus Miller
Professor of Sociology, Ohio State University

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COMPARISON of these two groups may be made from two points of view-the outside and the inside. The outside includes facts, more or less statistical, and the attitudes which prevail towards the Negro and the immigrant. The inside consists of the attitudes which the members of the groups have built up towards themselves and towards outsiders. For the purpose of orientation we may briefly consider some of the elements in the first aspect of the situation, but we shall be chiefly concerned with the psychological activity within the groups themselves, for there only is the ultimate measure of the problem.

It is an interesting fact that the numbers of Negroes and foreign born in the United States are approximately equal 12 to 15 millions, though the descendants of contemporary and former foreign born increase their total greatly.

Both groups live in relatively isolated communities; both depreciate real estate values when they move into hitherto native white areas; both have similarly poor housing conditions, are in the lower economic levels, doing largely unskilled labor; both have high death rates, and a disproportion of criminals as compared to the rest of the population, though the Negroes greatly outdistance the immigrants; both are at a disadvantage in the courts; both are looked down upon by the rest of the population.

In spite of the racial divergence of the Negroes, there has been much blood mixture of native whites with them, as well as with the immigrant. The difference in color makes one fundamental difference between the two groups because, if everything else were equal, an immigrant may escape his grouping, even in the first generation, and a Negro cannot.

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Many statistical studies have already been made of both groups and many are still to be made, but the ultimate solution of whatever problems are involved depends on attitudes, assuming, as we may, that the inherent differences of all peoples are incomparably less than the social differences.

Popular opinion feels more resemblances than it generally is aware of in the immigrant and the Negro. It is often misled by its prejudice against the Negro into ignoring the fact that its other prejudices are exactly the same in kind. Both groups are widely accepted as being mentally inferior, and this is substantiated through rationalization of the Nordic idea. The army tests and other intelligence testing is called upon to prove the contention, and is used to the limit by many otherwise eminent men who have, in various ways, proved themselves to be pseudo-scientists in this field.

All Negroes are thought of as a unit, and in the same way immigrants are classed as one, although there is a wide differentiation in both by whatever criterion we measure them. The Ku Klux Klan symbolizes the fear that both may threaten American tradition and institutions. There is social disapproval of intermarriage, though, of course, it is greater towards the Negroes, but differs only in degree from that regarding Jews.

There is no occasion at this time to analyze prejudice, but it is a psychological phenomenon which depends vastly less on its object than on status and tradition. The immigrant and the Negro find themselves in very similar positions in regard to status and tradition. Whatever may be the ultimate bases for the attitudes towards these two groups, at present, it may be characterized as predominantly the result of prejudice. That makes it no less a social force but calls for a new approach to its consideration. It can easily be shown that the prejudice against these two groups arises, not from the inherent nature of the groups, but from social relations and artificial values.

Turning now to the groups themselves we find that we are not dealing with homogeneous aggregations of people, but with very widely differentiated social organizations which may only be called groups, because the stimulations which the individuals composing them receive make them react in such sim-

(330) -ilar ways that they demonstrate both their common psychological nature, and develop a consciousness of unity.

The most marked difference between the Negro and the immigrant is that of background, and among the immigrants themselves these differences cover pretty nearly the whole range of human experience. The Negroes are much more nearly a unit in this respect, although the variations even here are very wide.

Among the immigrants the particular heritage may be classed as political and religious. In economic class they have not differed so much from the Negro, because the European peasant condition from which they have come is very elemental, although more stereotyped than that of the Negro. The immigrants in many cases have belonged to the class or nationality which has occupied a despised position. In the case of the Poles, for example, they were peasants where an aristocracy existed and of a nationality exploited by both Germans and Russians. The Jews have had the longest experience with prejudice of any people in history, and their social organization and individual attitudes are largely adaptations to survival and self-respect under the handicaps.

The Negro experience is so short that most of his technique of adjustment to prejudice differs from that of the Jew very markedly, and yet there are many resemblances as will be indicated in this discussion.

I have elsewhere given the name "oppression psychosis" to the common types of reaction to an oppression experience. It involves methods of compensation and appears both in individual attitudes and social institutions. However, by pathologically exaggerating the apartness of the groups these attitudes serve to accentuate a vicious circle. That is, "Jewish characteristics" increase anti-Semitism, which in turn increases the characteristics.

However much difference there may be between subsidiary divisions among immigrants and Negroes the fact that they are not accepted as part of the general dominant society appears in all of them in similar reactions. In the case of the immigrants many of their characteristics are hold-overs from oppression experience in the land of origin, but they also bring various culture heritages which set them apart. In the post-

(331) -war period, the discussion of restriction, and the basis of selection on the ground that the Nordics are superior, perpetuates and, to some degree, increases their symptoms. For the Negro, the very success of his struggle upward emphasizes the discrimination, and he is likely to develop very rapidly a technique similar to that of the Jews.

In the matter of segregation the conditions are much alike for both groups. Segregation is in part normal, in part the result of social pressure, and in part pathological. It is normal for people who have much in common to live together. To prevent it, as has been advocated by some "Americanizers," would be inhuman. We have no legal segregation even for Negroes corresponding to the medieval European ghetto of the Jews, but public opinion and real estate dealers exert pressure which in a degree brings the same result.

The segregated district is a haven of safety both physical and mental for those who are not wanted outside, but when it is made difficult to get outside, resentment develops and various efforts are made to circumvent the restriction. There is no difference in this matter for Negroes and immigrants. It applies to Italians, Poles, Bohemians, and the like, as well as to Jews.

Since they do live in communities they build up a relatively self-sufficient community life, although all of them go outside to earn their living.

The most comprehensive institution with all such groups is religion. With the immigrants the organic character of religion is older and more highly developed, knowing how to meet more situations than with the Negro. It is often in marked contrast to the religion of the people who ruled them in Europe, as the Irish from the English; the Poles, from the Orthodox Russians and Protestant Germans; the Czechs, from the Catholic Austrians; and the Jews, from all Christians. The clergy have often been leaders of national and class movements. More than anything else, however, the church and synagogue are places where the communicants feel at home and get spiritual comfort to compensate them for their social disabilities.

While most immigrants are not Protestants, the Negroes practically all are, and, though they took their religion from

(332) their white masters, they now have complete control of nearly all of their ecclesiastical organizations, and some, who are becoming conscious of the white origin of their religion, are revolting as the Czechs did from Catholicism. So far, however, the church is the most dominant force for integrating the Negro that now exists. This is due not only to the fact that it brings the people together, but also to the fact that most Negro ministers emphasize the facts of race discrimination and appeal to racial self-respect. If there proves to be a loss of religious fervor on the theological side, I anticipate that the constituency of the Negro churches will be held in line by an increase of attention to questions of racial injustice. In other words, for both the immigrant and the Negro interest in religion and the character of religious institutions are greatly enhanced by the social situation in which they find themselves.

To meet the lack of solidarity with the whole of society both the Negroes and immigrants have developed many mutual benefit societies. It is interesting to note how similar these are. The Chinese, Poles, Jews, Italians, and Germans were faced with the fact that they must take care of themselves, and they organized by the tens of thousands quasi-fraternal organizations with sickness and death benefits. Among the more simple Negroes for whom there was less change of habitat, the first organizations were simply for the "Burial of the Dead," but now they have a multitude of fraternal and insurance associations.

Cultural interests among both immigrants and Negroes are pursued in part for themselves and in part as a defense in their inferior position. There are many differences of tradition in each group and subdivision, but the cultural direction is followed which will have an influence on the outsider. The Greeks play up their historical connection with democracy, the Poles have more pride in Paderewski than an appreciation of his music, and the Italians are in a similar way in regard to Caruso; the Jews cultivate their religious heritage, and do not forget that the Christians were dependent on them for the origin of their religion and every Jew gets vicarious comfort from their eminent musicians, writers, scientists, and philanthropists.

As Negroes are emerging to eminence we have exactly the

( 333) same phenomena with them. Booker Washington led as much by being accepted as eminent as by his actual ideas. Roland Hayes gives all Negroes a feeling of pride. When a Negro newspaper has a headline saying "Our Jennie gets a Ph.D.," the "our" applies to the whole race.

The very fact that these groups are set off by themselves makes them very eager for representatives who have penetrated what may be called the universal. Pride is unquestionably one of the most constructive forces in group culture, and apparently must be gone through before the individuals whom it represents can take a place in the general culture, but on the other hand, it also tends to perpetuate the group isolation.

The newspaper is another institution of Negro and immigrant in which there is a close parallelism. An unpublished study has been made showing the similarity of financing, average editorial equipment, type of news, etc., but the important principle for us is that the papers exist in large part by their propaganda for their groups, and in this there is little difference between the immigrant and Negro press. The newspaper in both cases is one of the best agencies for leading their readers out into a wider world at the same time that it holds them within their grouping.

There is ordinarily little community of feeling between the Negro and the immigrant, but if occasion arise they may join forces. Some years ago in Columbus, Ohio, a dairy company advertised in The Fiery Cross. Although there was no organized movement, Negroes, Jews, and Catholics began to cancel their orders, and in a few months the company was put completely out of business. The Ku Klux Klan did a good deal towards showing them their common interests, though since they are generally in economic competition there is more often a complete lack of understanding between them.

The part played by leaders who often become agitators is very similar. Booker Washington was likened to Moses leading his people out of bondage. The arguments of DuBois and Paderewski often sound as though they were pleading the same cause.

Radicals have not developed to such a degree among Negroes as among immigrants, because radicalism in the immigrant had already begun in the home country, but the same sort of

( 334) thing is beginning to appear among the Negroes. The periodical, The Messenger, was started by a few intellectual Negroes as a left wing organ, and all the radical movements have a very sympathetic, if not aggressive attitude, on the race question. A few Negroes, as a few immigrants, feel great affinity to the communist movement. In neither group are the numbers likely to become immediately large, but there are signs of protest against economic and social limitations.

Since the reorganization of Europe many of the nationalistic demands of the immigrants have been answered, but those that are dissatisfied, as the Ukrainians in Poland, the Magyars in Czechoslovakia, and the Bulgarians in Jugo-Slavia are still agitating in America. The best parallelism, however, is between the Zionist and Garvey movements. The Zionists, of course, are vastly more efficient but the motive behind the two movements is identical. There is an historic homeland, the possession of which will enhance self-respect and offer a means of escape. Probably most of the followers of these movements have no thought themselves of leaving America. Garvey himself has been deported, but his Universal Negro Improvement Association still has a good deal of vitality. It is customary at meetings of immigrants to sing at the beginning or end, with everyone standing, the national anthem of the home country. Now the Negroes have the Negro national anthem, written by James Weldon Johnson, which is sung at Negro meetings with the audience standing. It does not contravene American nationalism, but it stimulates race pride and solidarity.

One of the most difficult psychological problems facing an individual arises when he undertakes to leave his group. In the cases of the immigrant and the Negro, the outward conditions are easier for the immigrant, but often the subjective problem is equally hard for him, because of the wrench in breaking with cultural connections, and because of the pressure of public opinion within the group. If an immigrant moves out of the community into a region where the natives do not want him, he will be supported because he is fighting the cause of his own people. The same is true of the Negro. If he refuses to identify himself with the racial movements he is condemned. When a white Negro "passes" he is never betrayed because that is such a good joke of the white people, but if one

(335) of any color identifies himself too closely with white people, trying to live in both worlds, he is spoken of with opprobrium.

A way of escape for the immigrant is often the changing of his name. This may be merely by translating his name. Thus Paderewski would become Peterson, or Belinky, White. He may find by experience that his name is an economic handicap. I had a German student whose name began with Z. He applied for a job and did not get it, so he tried the same place again giving a common American name and was at once given a position. He came from a family with no nationalistic feeling, and so there was no family objection to his changing his name when he graduated from college. But if he had belonged to one of the more nationalistic groups he would have been expected to endure the handicap for the sake of carrying the group along with him.

More difficult than these experiences, however, is the state of mind engendered by standing on the margin between two groups. The habits and mores are disorganized, and the person is often very much adrift. There have been numerous literary discussions of this by Jews, of which perhaps the most notable is The Island Within by Lewisohn.

When the whole group is in an environment in which there is a wholesale tendency of this sort we have genuine demoralization. This has been illustrated many times in connection with the immigrant. The social control exercised over the immigrant by the church, law, and public opinion is much more uniform than that over the Negro, who, except for his relation to a white upper class, has had much more varied relations. Both, however, now find themselves in a new environment, in which many of the old controls are no longer valid. In the case of the Negroes who have migrated north we have in this matter identical conditions with the foreigners. One of the best measures of this is to be found in the courts. In Europe most of the peasants never came into conflict with the law. The Jews, in particular, have had ages of moral self-control. In Africa, and on fit, Helena Island off South Carolina, where there has been an unmixed Negro population for generations there is no crime in the ordinary sense, but in our American cities Negroes and immigrants constitute the majority of the law breakers.


It has popularly been supposed that the Negro is inherently more criminal than the white, but the Chief of Police in Columbus, Ohio, which had an old Negro population and many Negro migrants, analyzed the arrests, and discovered that among native Negroes the proportion of arrests was no higher than among native whites, but that the migrants had a great disproportion. The cause, then, must be found in the conditions of adjustment. He appointed a Negro policeman to be a social worker whose aim is to help make the adjustment. The result in three years has been a remarkable reduction of Negro arrests. I understand that in Berkeley, California, as a result of a suggestion from the Columbus experiment, the police department has detailed men from the various nationalities to act in this matter with the same results.

Among the children we have a special problem. In one city where there are many immigrants the girls who come to the juvenile court almost all are from immigrant families. The difficulty in dealing with them comes from the fact that there are no standards to which to appeal. If they had continued to live in their parents' village the question of morals and mating would have been taken care of by the mores and the priest, but here neither has standing, and both are likely to be repudiated if an appeal is to be made to them. One of the reasons is that they repudiate the idea of not being Americans. The Italian boy who would not be disciplined by his father because, as he said, "I won't let any damned foreigner lick me," was typical of the break that is being made between the old world and the new. Less study has been made of the demoralization of Negro children, but the social maladjustments seem to be of a similar sort. There is greater difficulty for the Negro children because they are subject to greater self-consciousness in their associations with other children. They tend to become resentful and when they grow up their employers say that "they do not know their place," but this is exactly the way employers of immigrants talk about their immigrant labor.

In the matter of birth rates there is a striking difference between the two groups that has not been adequately explained. The immigrant belongs, in general, to the same lower economic class as the Negro and continues to have the highest birth rate of any part of the American population. This may be in part

(337) due to the fact that they are so largely Roman Catholics; it is more likely due to the standards of living. The Negro, on the other hand, in no city, has a birth rate equal to the death rate. Their death rate is excessive both for infants and adults, and probably means that there has not been as much selection yet as among the immigrants who are the survivors of a long period of bad housing even in the peasant districts. There is also a larger proportion of working mothers outside the home among the Negroes. The chief reason, however, is probably psychological. Under the condition of slavery a high birth rate worked to the advantage of the owner, and now there is a reaction against it, at least this is the evidence that I have been able to get from some families. Among the more race conscious there is an element of hopelessness as to the future of the children, which is very different from that among the immigrants, who may have the highest hopes for what their children may become under the conditions of America. There seems to be a very widespread knowledge of methods of birth control among Negroes, and a familiarity with drugs which will produce sterility.

While, in general, both the immigrant and the Negro constitute a horizontal group on the lower level as compared to the native white population, they are vertical groups when considered by themselves, with numerous horizontal lines. This is a necessary beginning of their participation in the general community life. Among the immigrants there are those who had position by birth, and there are those who get on well, making their own positions. These try to live in better neighborhoods, and are consequently subject to criticism by their fellows. In every immigrant group no one gets ahead without raising the suspicions of his community that he has been crooked. This seems to be the inevitable result of oppression, because under it anyone who secures an advantage probably has in some way sold himself to his masters, which he does only for his own advantage, when the whole group is in need. I have heard Masaryk, Paderewski, and Michael Pupin accused of the most nefarious and impossible crimes, and the success of lesser leaders is regarded with jealousy rather than pride. It is true that the constituency is easy to exploit, and exploitation is often carried to the limit. In both of these respects the situation with

(338) these two groups is identical. One of the most difficult problems in dealing with the Negroes is to find someone to work with whom the rest will accept, and the better his success the more they will repudiate him.

Most European immigrants come here with a respect for learning, though many of them do not look for it for themselves, nevertheless in constantly increasing numbers they are sending their children to high school and college. The Jews have long had an almost exaggerated interest in higher education, having discovered that it was a way of escape equal to the accumulation of wealth. This has led to the mistaken notion that the Jews are naturally more intelligent than other elements of the population. It is merely one of the techniques of adjustment to the social limitations under which they have lived. In Europe they have found that the proportion of Jews who were admitted to the universities was limited, and this made them more eager to enter, and the strenuous efforts necessary to overcome the barriers raised against them has given them a disproportion of eminent scholars. They have found, even in America, exactly the same difficulties. By some means or other their numbers are kept down in many of the places they are most anxious to enter, and when they are in they find prejudice and discrimination. They have, however, refused to found Jewish universities, preferring to suffer all the hardships rather than to be forced to admit their separateness. They are forced to make their own social life, and have fraternities and many other organizations which are quite apart from the other life of the university. They are often accused of being aggressive on the campus, but this is another technique which all Jews have had to practice in order to survive in a hostile society.

The Negro can be compared to the Jew in many ways, but, whereas the Jew is old in the experience of discrimination, the Negro has just become aware of it, and many of the traits of the Jews are only incipient in the Negro. He came out of slavery with the knowledge that education had been forbidden, and, therefore, it was a desirable thing for him to have, but at first he had no standards, so that any symbols of education were accepted, especially if they led away from practical labor. We are now entering a new era in which enough Negroes have

( 339) been well educated so that standards are being set up. Educated Negroes have been given a limited recognition, a few have been able to compete on equal terms with white scholars. This has been a tremendous stimulus to attend college. In the last ten years the numbers have increased by leaps and bounds, and they want to go to the best places, so that Harvard has had exactly the same kind of problem in trying to keep the number of Negroes down that it had with the Jews.

The Negroes have not yet developed the self-confidence in college that the Jews have. The reputation of being superior in scholarship makes many a dull Jew expect high grades, and the fear that he may be discriminated against often makes him over-persistent in seeking grades. The Negro feels that he is discriminated against in the matter of grades, but while he talks about it in his group he is not aggressive about it in the class room. There are rumors, however, that he is sometimes exhibiting the same exaggerated compensation as the Jew in his demand for his "rights." Since he also is denied many of the social privileges, he has formed his fraternities just as the Jew and is building up a self-sufficient social life. In general college life, however, he will make great sacrifices of comfort for the sake of warding off any danger of segregation. I have known friends to buy separately tickets to a college concert, and to sit isolated and unhappy in the audience for fear that if they should begin buying seats together the custom would develop of selling seats to Negroes in the same section. When it was suggested to Negro students that it would be a great advantage to them to have a social center similar to that of the Jews, they repudiated it, although they had great need of such an opportunity, but they feared that some of the common privileges of the university would then be denied them. The Jews have tried it out and know what privileges they cannot expect and make up the deficiency themselves. The Negroes are still experimenting. They are probably right in thinking that their color will be a bar such as the others do not have, and they will not yield until they discover the farthest limit to which they may go.

The matter of intermarriage so far as the Negroes are concerned is perhaps not an issue, but the objection to it is probably increasing more rapidly among them than among the

( 340) whites. This is a defensive compensation just as it is among the Jews. Nevertheless, Abie's Irish Rose has been the most successful play in history, and some literary or dramatic parallel is likely to develop in connection with the Negro, beginning with light-colored.

The easiest level on which to emerge into the common life is that of art. The Poles who were denied political and economic opportunities turned to it with great effectiveness. Paderewski is the outstanding example, but many other Poles have devoted themselves to music, painting, and literature and secured recognition. The Jews have excelled in every form of art and especially the dramatic forms. The Negroes seem to have similar capacity and are now beginning to produce in both higher and elemental forms. Their folk music like that of the European peasants is accepted for its own worth, and both have been taken as a basis out of which to build the highest types of musical expression. This furnishes an occasion both for pride and further endeavor. Roland Hayes is able to hold his own with the world's best white singers, and will be the forerunner of many outstanding Negro musicians.

The elemental forms of life offer the best dramatic material, and all the immigrant groups have dramatic organizations, some of them producing nationalistic plays, but many of them giving plays close to their own lives. It is now recognized that the Negro life, not only offers exceedingly rich dramatic material, but that the Negro himself has great power to portray it. We are just now witnessing this in a number of contemporary plays. Art demands a wide range of emotional experience, and these groups of necessity cannot escape it.

In literature also we are finding the same situation, and again the Jews are the most prolific and the most eminent, but the Negro is beginning to follow the same line. Several national poetry prizes have been won by Negroes who undoubtedly turned to poetry in order to express symbolically their deep feeling in a social situation which they could not analyze logically. They also offer material for white writers such as Miss Peterkin Odum, Green, and DuBose Heyward. They are showing a tendency to develop writers of their own and some of their stories are appearing in the best magazines, and books with the best publishers.


In biography the immigrant has been very active. The span of life experience from an immigrant to success offers material for autobiography. Mary Antin's The Promised Land was a prelude to many. The Negroes have not arrived at that degree of success yet to make many such biographies possible, the outstanding exception was Booker Washington's Up from Slavery. I happened to be present when Jacob Riis exchanged his An American in the Making with Booker Washington for his Up from Slavery, and each thought that the other had written the same sort of book as himself. Most of the writing at present is either defensive or aggressive, but the situations at least offer something to write about.

Each of the subsidiary immigrant groups, and the Negroes, have been so much absorbed in their own problems that they have not been much aware of the others except as legislation or the Ku Klux Klan has driven them together, but outsiders have been aware of them. The politicians have recognized and worked for their votes and given them a consciousness of political power. Class agitators have worked among them both, much to the discomfort of Chambers of Commerce and patriotic societies. In India the treatment of the Negro in America has been accepted as exhibiting a common cause against the white race, and, when the recent revolution in China against white control broke out, Chinese students in America sent their representations to the Negro colleges. The erudite and traveled Dr. DuBois in his writings and lectures is doing much to make the Negro aware of a world and problems larger than the immediate environment, just as the socialists have aroused the immigrants.

The immigrant and the Negro are alike in both being problems, but they differ in the whole range of cultural heritages. It is customary to consider that the Negro problem depends primarily on the fact of race, but this is very far from being true. Not until everything has been accounted for that is common to all races can we be justified in attributing significance to the race factor. The one inescapable quality, that of color, which makes recognition certain merely identifies the individual but does not account for his actions. The fact that opinion makes so much of the race identity creates a powerful conditioning force both in the black and white races, and makes it more diffi-

(342) -cult to determine inherent qualities and accentuates the isolations. The fact that most people have had only the most casual contacts with other races makes it impossible for them to realize universal human qualities and justifies them in concluding that the differences they observe are due to inherent variations.

Years ago I went to the University of Chicago and showed W. I. Thomas something I had written about the Negro and told him that I wanted to do something to enlarge my perspective. He suggested that I study some immigrant group which would represent the transfer of a cultural heritage into an alien environment; after some consideration we selected the Bohemians. My first contact with the Bohemian community showed me that the most significant force making for the variation of Bohemians in Chicago was John Huss, who had been dead for five hundred years, and it became clear to me that I must become familiar with more than five hundred years of Bohemian history.

A large portion of the Bohemians were either indifferent to religion or militant freethinkers, and the explanation was the martyrdom of the priest, John Huss, and the domination of Roman Catholic Austria. This led to the formation of behavior and institutions both to substitute for the church and to carry on the conflict. It was closely allied to the nationalistic movement, affected political adherences in America, and was a determining element in the education of the children. It also gave a purposive drive in the determination of character.

We have labored under the error that the social process is, or ought to be, logical whereas it is psychological. We react to situations whose values have been derived from experience and not from abstract and impersonal conclusions.

The mystery and problems of life make some form of religion universal, but the theology and ecclesiastical institutions and their social allegiances are entirely accidental, depending on how they help in the solving of what are interpreted as the other most important problems of life, especially those that are communal rather than individual. I found that the devout Catholicism of the Irish must be explained by the Protestant political and economic domination of the English; that the orthodoxy of the Jews was in direct proportion to anti-Semitism, so that I was prepared when I went to Palestine, to find that

( 343) the synagogue occupies a smaller place in their lives there than in any other Jewish community. The Italians are indifferent to religion because of the conflict of the nation with the Vatican, while the Poles are more devoutly Catholic than the Irish because they could find no other adequate symbolism with which to preserve their identity against the efforts of Protestant Prussians and Orthodox Russians to assimilate them.

Under the conditions of freedom in America the tendencies which could not have free rein in the mother country burst into fruition. The Irish are even more zealous Catholics here than in Ireland, and the Bohemian freethinking movement was formulated here, appropriating its logic, but not its motive, from Tom Paine, Robert Ingersoll, and Charles Darwin. The Zionist movement of the Jews gets its strongest support in the United States and relatively free Germany. The Russian revolutionists find it difficult to realize that most things that they hoped for in Russia are already here, and carry on their energy in various ways with an abandon which, before the revolution, was utterly impossible in Russia.

For these reasons we must expect to find political affiliations in America predetermined. The Irish are Democrats both because the Republicans have generally been in power, and because Republicans are predominantly of English origin. The Bohemians and Germans are Republicans because the first comers arrived when the anti-slavery movement and Civil War corresponded to their own revolutionary experience, and the Republican party led in these activities.

The unity and solidarity of these groups have been actuated by what they have designated as the desire for national selfrespect. Self-respect for the group as for the individual is measured by the respect which comes from others. A nationality which has no freedom, quite obviously, does not have the respect of the nation that rules it, and presumably not of other nations. In America nationalism is aggravated because as immigrants neither the individual nor the group is respected, so the individual identifies himself with the group struggle hoping vicariously to secure his own emancipation. If the nationality votes as a bloc and elects or defeats a mayor, every individual must henceforth be reckoned with.

It may seem as though the case of the Negro were different,

( 344) but he offers only another variation of what obtains among the immigrants. He has a heritage that is different from that of the rest of the Americans, and perhaps more to be despised, though that is only relative. His cultural background is less unified because at best he has had only three hundred years of continuous environment, whereas the immigrants have had many centuries of welding experience. Contrary to accepted opinion the Negroes are not all alike by nature. They not only represent a great variety of geographical and cultural origin in Africa, but the widest variety of admixture of white blood in America. From this point of view the American Negro is perhaps the most heterogeneous stock in the world.

While the majority of Negroes lived on plantations, many lived in the families of their masters, and many have lived for several generations in towns and cities. Except for the coercive drive of outside opinion they would disintegrate into the whole range of social organization, but in the opinion of outsiders a Negro is a Negro whatever his color or position. This has the advantage to the group that whatever talent may develop redounds to the advantage of the whole and conserves the values and efforts of the group. It is interesting that group consciousness has become so evident that now they are referring to themselves not in terms of race, but as "our group." The tradition of slavery and the reaction against it is a habit-forming force which may be compared to the habits derived from slavery which, of course, have not yet been shaken off. The attitude both of servility and resentment are to be expected, though many white people wish only that of servility. What the Negro wishes is racial self-respect, and this is in conflict with the mores. His status had been established. It was like that of women, or dogs. So long as he remains in it there is no social disorganization and he is a good person. A dog is a good dog so long as he allows himself to be abused without resentment, but the moment he seeks dog self-respect and retaliates against the person who abuses him he is a bad dog. Much of this attitude prevails towards the Negro and his self-assertion is interpreted as bad, and this aggravates the symptoms.

It is a popular pastime to try to classify people by intelligence quotients. It so happens that I was the first person to make a

( 345) quantitative application of intelligence tests. Twenty-five years ago, at the suggestion and with the help of Dr. R. M. Yerkes, who later was largely responsible for the Army Tests, I devised in the Harvard psychological laboratory a series of tests, and, with money secured by William James, I made a trip South, giving the tests to hundreds of Negroes, mountain whites, and the Indians at Hampton and Carlisle. Although I won the Bowdoin Prize and wrote a doctor's dissertation from the material, its one essential value to me was to convince me that, as a method of group classification, it was utterly useless. All the developments in recent years have not dissuaded me from this opinion. They have their value, but it is not in this field, and yet on the basis of the Army Tests, Professor McDougall undertook to prove that America is not safe for democracy, and many other people having lost their Biblical fundamentalism have substituted intelligence tests as a new religion.

My contention in this discussion is that the psychological reactions of individuals and groups must be explained in terms of the entire social environment, some of which goes back many centuries. When this has been done, we shall be ready to discover what may be the varying inherent differences, but not until then.

Modern psychology has made two contributions of vastly more importance in the concepts of complexes and conditioned reflexes. What I have been trying to demonstrate is that the immigrant and the Negro are largely explainable by attitudes, which are complexes, and conditioned behavior which are not dependent on any varying nature in the individuals or groups which are under consideration.

They both offer a sociological laboratory close at hand of the utmost importance. Scientific social control will depend on the adequate formulation of laws such as inhere in these attitudes and relations.

For the present and for the purpose of development, no more valuable allegiances are possible than those that prevail. The particular problems in the social process must be worked out apparently through loyalties that are logically irrational but psychologically sound. The Jewish Law is only symbolically true, but if there had been no discrimination against the Jew,

( 346) and he had been assimilated, the socially valuable contributions of the Jews would not have been given to the world. The East Side would not have produced Al Smith, nor the Quakers Hoover, if England had not shown religious discrimination. The injustice under which the Negro suffers may be tragic for the individual but it is the greatest asset which the race now has, for it compels unity and accelerates the struggle for progress. Probably both the immigrant element and the Negroes will set the pace of progress in a generation, in the United States. The rest of the population may enlarge its understanding by becoming aware of the laws of the social process and by becoming personally familiar with representatives of the groups. Everything for which people should travel in foreign countries to learn exists within our doors, and the isolations of complexes and conditioning will preserve them for many years. The attitudes which are held by native whites will have little influence, except that, paradoxically, prejudice and activities for suppression increase the qualities against which they are leveled and accelerate the forces of self-assertion in the very direction that prejudice would suppress them.


Boas, Franz, The Mind of Primitive Man, New York, 1921.

Ellis, G. W., "The Psychology of American Race Prejudice," Journal of Race Development, 1914-15, Vol. V, pp. 297-315.

Lasker, Bruno, Race Attitudes in Children, New York, 1929.

Leiserson, W. M., Adjusting Immigrants and Industry, New York, 1924.

Miller, H. A., Races, Nations, and Classes, Philadelphia, 1924.

Moton, Robert R., Finding a Way Out, New York, 1921.

Riis, Jacob, How the Other Half Lives, New York, 1920.

Washington, Booker T., Up from Slavery, New York, 1905.

Wesley, Charles H., Negro Labor in the United States, New York, 1927.

Thomas, W. I., "The Psychology of Race Prejudice," American Journal of Sociology, 1903-04, Vol. IX, pp. 593-611.

Thomas, W. I., "Race Psychology: Standpoint and Questionnaire, with Particular Reference to the Immigrant and the Negro." American Journal of Sociology, 1912-13, Vol. XVII, pp. 725-75.

Young, K., Source Book for Social Psychology, New York, 1927, Chap. XIX.


No  notes

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