Immigration and Race Attitudes

Chapter 5: Media of Antipathy

Emory S. Bogardus

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In addition to the direct origins of racial antipathy and prejudice in personal experiences, there are significant derivative origins. These occur in the experiences of a person's friends or relatives, or possibly, at the other extreme, in the experiences of strangers remote in both space and time, in social distance, and in myth. At any rate, they are transmitted. Significant phases of derivative race aversions are the media or the agencies through which they are transmitted.

Reactions to derivative experiences, as in the case of direct contacts, depend upon a person's previously organized behavior patterns. A given set of derivative or hearsay statements will arouse antagonism in one person and friendliness in another, depending on the nature of the life pattern.

The media by which unfavorable race experiences are transmitted from one person to another and by which they often become grossly distorted are many. Six types will be indicated here.

Family Media.-Within the family circle much is said or implied which engenders race antipathy in children and youth. Parents talking to each other, particularly the table talk of adults, is effective stimulus. When the father speaks feelingly about some  " ------ dago," the child sits quietly by, while anti-Italian behavior patterns are set up in his nature. Short, sharp antipathy expressions of parents to particular and repulsive race experiences, occurring in the course of the day's work, are the main factors in " passing

(66) on " race antipathy. A considerable proportion of the race prejudice in the world has been acquired in this way.

Frequently, a child plays with a boy or girl of another race, and is entirely happy in his new-found playmate, until he hears his mother exclaim: " What! Have you been playing with that nigger! I won't have it." The child, entirely innocent of having committed a great sin, is shocked into accepting his parent's antipathies.

Often through the family a child acquires a race superiority attitude with reference to his own race - a Nordic complex, for instance. The development of such an attitude necessarily involves racial distance reactions. Such an attitude gives rise naturally to antipathy toward " inferior " races, and hence toward all other races in varying degrees. A person reports, for instance, that he dislikes the Negro, because of no particular incidents, that he holds this dislike " on general principles," and that he " was brought up on that feeling." He adds that his father and mother dislike Negroes, " so that tended to make me do so too."

The distinctive influence of derivative racial dislikes originating in the family circle is often brought into contrast with later direct experiences. An adult looking back on his early adverse reactions toward the French sees these as duplicates of his parents' attitudes. When he compares these with his pleasant experiences as an adult with the French, he is able to define the rôle of his family group as mediating antipathy.

40. When my daughter entered junior high school, one of the first things she did was to choose a little colored girl for a " locker " companion. When we spoke to her about it, she said that she didn't see anything wrong about it, that the colored girl was friendly, and that it seemed quite natural. We had to tell her that she could play with the colored girl at our house, but that at school she had better not have the colored girl for a companion

( 67) because of what the other white children would say and think of our daughter.[1]

41. My grandfather was a slave owner, and my father was a manager of the slaves on my grandfather's plantation. After I was born I soon came to face the colored people with not only a feeling of superiority but with an awful prejudice against the race. I have often heard my father argue that the Negro had no soul. The day of slavery was over, but the spirit of slavery persisted. There were many exceptions of Negroes for whom I cared very much, especially my colored mammy.[2]

Associates. - A child's chum or an adult's close friend may have had an unfortunate experience or two with some " foreigner " and have " exploded " against the whole race represented by that hapless person. The antipathetic reactions are felt as one's own, and a race antipathy is fixated. In adolescence, boys frequently indulge in " shooting " and similar games. Indians, Mexicans, Negroes, or some other despised people are " hunted " and " shot down." If captured, the " enemy " is sure to torture the captives unmercifully.

Perchance a person may have an associate in business or social life who has pronounced race antipathies. To maintain status in such an associate's eyes, one must agree with or tactfully assume the associate's antipathies. By oft repeating such a rôle a person develops similar antipathies. In one's social contacts, a person must not be seen with members of the race that are taboo. In this way also he acts the part of possessing race aversions, and thus may actually develop them as his own.

42. My best friend at school was the daughter of one of the wealthiest men in the small town. Her father was German, and she lived in constant fear of him. Once or twice I had ventured to go to her home, but while there I too felt the same cold fear lest her father come in.

Very often this little girl was kept home from school by

( 68) her father for reasons unknown to the rest of us. She would confide to me sometimes of treatment which she received from her father and which to me seemed very unjust. She was always poorly clad and seldom had even a nickel to spend on what we considered the necessities of school life. Still, gossip had it that her father was very rich.

Her father flatly refused to allow her to belong to the Camp Fire Girls organization to which I belonged; and later when she asked him if she could go to Sunday school and join the girls there, she was punished for asking. Her mother seemed to have no authority, and even in the smallest things she had to ask her father's permission. If she didn't-and this practice became more and more frequent-she lived in constant fear lest he find out.[3]

A college woman recalls that when she was in high school her dearest friend was awakened " by an ugly Negro man standing over her bedside." Fear and even hatred toward the Negro race was aroused. This tendency was counteracted, says the college woman, by her mother's pleasant experiences with several Negroes and by her mother's spirit of racial idealism. The adverse reactions stimulated by her friend's dramatic experience proved stronger than the idealism mediated through her mother. " Despite these ideals, I feel very satisfied to have the colored man select his companions from his own people."

43. When I was a youngster -by that, I mean younger in years (you will have to judge the minute degree of mental growth for yourself), - I lived on a street where there were about ten or twelve boys about my same age. We used to play fanciful games of youth, such as " cowboy and Indian," or " war," or - oh, just any type of play in which our imagination took the place of the more conventional material background. One of the favorite games of our neighborhood was a game called " Mexicans and marines." In our imagination, we would hunt Indians and Mexicans in the bushes (forests) with sticks (guns). The Mexicans would shoot at us from ambush, and when we were captured, we would be tortured in a most horrible manner. If we wanted to

( 69) scare the smaller children, we would tell them that the Mexicans would get them. As I recall it, there was a fruit peddler who went around the neighborhood with a pushcart. I suppose that he was an Italian, but in our fancy he was a bomb-throwing, back-stabbing, anarchistic Mexican.[4]

Motion Pictures. -Race repulsions mediated through " villains " in motion pictures are common. As a rule no antirace propaganda may be intended, but the " villain " must be selected from some source. What is more natural than to choose him from the lower-class level of some condemned and helpless race? Such a selection, coupled with an atmosphere created for the part, is made without particular concern for the wholesale repulsive effects that are aroused in the minds of motion-picture goers. Not only is antipathy created against the villain but, most significantly, against the whole race represented by the villain. Many personal history accounts of derivative race antipathy contain references such as this: " Then I think of movies and plays where some Negro has the villain's part. That always makes me dislike them more than ever. I saw The Clansman several years ago, and ever since I have been afraid of Negroes."

44. A few years ago, the Japanese in the picture show always took a villainous part. I have never been personally acquainted with any members of the race, but have formed a dislike for them because of the little things. However, there are a few on this hill, and I have never noticed any out-of-the-way things done by them.[5]

 45. A picture whose name I have forgotten comes back to me often, or rather just one part, that of the villain, a sleek, treacherous Chinese. He was employed to do the "dirty work." A white man had been murdered, and the picture showed the Chinese with a knife going into the man's room. Shortly after, he came out, with a villainous, bloodthirsty, satisfied look that haunts me now, ten or more years after. Then, the American, stabbed, dead, was shown.[6]


Newspapers and Books. - Reading is a widespread source of race repulsions. Newspapers are charged with printing more " bad news " about members of every immigrant or foreign race than " good news," and thus with contributing greatly to the distortion of public opinion. Headlines including the phrase, " Mexican bandits " or some such idea, when often repeated, give readers the impression, unintentionally, that Mexicans in general are bandits. The good that Mexicans do is not mentioned, but invariably " accounts of Mexicans stabbing each other over some trivial matter " are given space. Hence, exaggerated attention is centered on one side of Mexican life.

When a native commits a crime his race is not mentioned; but when an immigrant perpetrates a wrong, his race is announced in flaring headlines. This practice is a common occurrence, and the members of all immigrant races protest against it. Not only is the bad that immigrants do emphasized to the discredit of the good, but " bad immigrants " are not placed over against " bad natives " in proper proportion.

Novels, like motion pictures, need " villains," and a " foreigner " is easily appropriated for this rôle. The reader dwells at length on the subtleties of the villain and transfers the evils of the villain to the villain's race.

School histories, often in loyal support of the home nation, arouse unjust antipathies toward the people of other nations in the behavior of pupils. Only the good of the home nation is described, while both the good and the bad of other peoples are dwelt upon. Take the case, for instance, of the boy whose early lessons in geography taught him that " the Japanese was a slant-eyed Mongolian, a type entirely different from the Caucasian and a race that existed under peculiar standards of living." His knowledge thus acquired "was prejudiced and not at all accurate as I have since

( 71) learned, although I cannot overcome the early feeling of dislike."

Often school books are quite secondary to other books.

" My dislike started in the grade school when I began to study history and learned that the Turks sponsored Mohammedanism, which I have always thought of as a religion of the sword." Sometimes race antipathy is transmitted through the accessory reading that is done under the reading stimulus of school days. " When I was in high school, I think that I read more stories based on the reconstruction period in the South than at any other time, and developed then a great disgust for the Negro."

46. The Turks have probably received most of my race antipathy. As nearly as I can determine the cause of this lies in the newspaper stories about their cruel practices, the magazine stories of their customs and the history accounts of them which I learned at school. In addition to these the stories about races and peoples that are usually passed around have included only unfavorable ones for the Turks.[7]

47. The most recent antipathy that has been aroused in my nature against a people was toward the Germans. I recently read a book telling about their development of poison gas. I did not have so much hatred against them during the World War as I did after I got through reading that book. The authority of the book is said to be without question. Among many things that I could not overcome was a bitter hate when I read that, at the time the Germans signed the international compact not to use poison gas, they were in their laboratories working on poison gas and besides continued to store up any amount ready for future use.[8]

48. Mexican history is full of reasons why a real Mexican should not only dislike the Americans but also hate them with all the rancor and hatred of which any human being is capable.

The actual historical facts have been distorted, and only one side of the question given. The patriotic acts of our heroes have been magnified, by placing beside each of them the ignominious act, real or imaginary, of the invader. I have in mind now the taking of Chapultepec by the Americans. This episode has been

(72) used by almost every writer in fiction, poetry, and drama or song in their arguments of why we should take care of the " Colossus of the North," as the American is often spoken of in Mexico and throughout South and Central America.

The daily news, and for that matter all our newspapers and journals even in this country, carry a consistent propaganda " lest we forget " that the Americans took most of what they now have from Mexico. The newspapers enlarge a great deal upon anything that may happen to a Mexican, particularly if one is hanged or is on trial for his life. In this manner they succeed in keeping to the highest pitch the dislike for the " Gringo," which, I am sorry to admit, I too shared until after years of close contact with the much-hated, but more often misrepresented Americans, I have been able to overcome .[9]

Public Speakers. -The rôle of public speakers on the lecture platform and in the pulpit in developing race antipathies is usually that of presenting a strong argument in favor of some race. In so doing, the destructive practices of at least one other race are " played up." The persecution of Christian Armenians is a common theme that serves to arouse antipathies for the Mohammedan Turks, based upon vivid descriptions of concrete occurrences.

49. During the war, I happened to hear a man lecture on the conditions in Turkey. He brought out the pitiful condition of the women and children in the country, their great need for education and religion and better living conditions. From this picture he took us to the industrial side of the Turkish people, then to the social side. The social side was appalling in every phase of its being. And the terrible part of it was that they had no desire to improve themselves.

But to me the life in the army camps was the worst, not only among the men but their ideas of life and their ideas of what their duties were. In his description or narrative, I could think of nothing worse, not even the scalping of the whites by the Indians in the early days. They, in a way, had a cause and a right for such actions in their uncivilized stage while the Turks have no excuse at all. Besides this, immorality is stronger among

( 73) the Turks than any other nation on earth, according to people who have traveled through Turkey and made a study of the conditions there.[10]

General Hearsay and Opinion. - General hearsay, listened to in casual and miscellaneous ways, in snatches or at length, is ever at work, spreading waves of race antipathy. Gossip is one of the subtlest enemies of racial understanding. A friendly racial deed may be told once or a few times, but an unfriendly one a thousand times. The former tends to be forgotten; the latter to be repeated and exaggerated. Race aversion thus multiplies where race friendliness remains stationary or decreases.

The prejudiced person is more prone to talk than the more thoughtful and unprejudiced one. The former also speaks with greater conviction and energy than the latter. Hearsay feeds upon hearsay. One adverse racial experience delights in hearing of another. Antiracial feeling knows no self-control and is the most dynamic race-attitude medium known.

Then there is deliberate propaganda. One-sided data or misrepresentations are spread. What is often repeated receives acceptance. The public is easily deceived.

Many persons report that they have heard so much propaganda against the Japanese that they have " come to have a feeling against them." This feeling has " probably been given me by hearsay through the conversation of persons who are prejudiced, and it has succeeded in giving me a dislike for them." Or, as another person says, " The reason why the Turks, as a race, repel me is because I have heard so many awful things of them and have never heard anything good of them." Another who feels strongly against the Turk reports that he has met only one person " who had a favorable word to say." 

Sooner or later this propaganda is not only accepted but

(74) justified. Repeated impact from propaganda leads first to its acceptance and then to its deliberate support. More thoughtful persons here and there, however, begin to raise questions and may repudiate it. Although repudiating, they may still feel its effects and their attitudes continue to express it.

50. So far as I know I have never seen a Turk, and yet there is no race toward which I feel an equal antipathy. This feeling dates back to childhood - to the time when I first heard of the atrocious way in which the Turks treated the Armenian Christians. Later I read articles and pamphlets relating the harrowing experiences of the Armenians at the hands of their inveterate enemies, and in Kansas City, several years ago, I heard an Armenian woman tell of the inhuman treatment which her people continued to suffer from Turk brutality. On the other hand, I have met only one individual who had a favorable word to say of the Turks, and she was too immature to form a sound judgment, and was, I believe, basing her estimate on a limited knowledge of one representative of the race. The " unspeakable Turk " and " as cruel as a Turk " are expressions which I have heard all my life. Naturally this race has become associated in my mind with extreme cruelty and barbarousness, and just as naturally I have a feeling toward it of strong antipathy.[11]

51. The feeling of unpleasantness and dislike that creeps over me when I think of the Turks is not the product of any intimate association with any of them, but is rather the result of propaganda sponsored by the various molders of public opinion, such as the press and the church.

This propaganda has always been directed toward the extreme cruelty, the debased morality, and the religion in whose name the acts of cruelty and immorality could be perpetrated. I cannot divorce the Turk from their persecution and slaughter of the Armenians; neither can I think of them separate from their despoiling of the beauty and chastity of innocent girls and women.

Throughout my whole life the evilness of the Turk has been thrust before me, without any presentation of any good qualities that he may possess. The pictures of the Turk with a dripping scimitar and a fiendish face have not been balanced by any picture

( 75) presenting his virtue. The glittering cartoons of the harem and the gross immorality engendered by it have never been counteracted by the picture of real love and home.

Thus I am a victim of propaganda. A great deal of it is undoubtedly true. I believe that there is also some good, however, in the Turk. But I am just immersed by the pictures of his cruelty so that I feel unpleasant when I think of him.[12]

In brief, it may be suggested that the family is particularly effective in creating racial aversion, because it influences children in their most uncritical years when emotional habits are oftentimes taking on a lifetime nature. Associates are powerful, because they give one (or take away from one's) status from day to day. Motion pictures are influential because of their indirect subtlety coupled with high vividness. Newspapers have a widespread current influence and are easily used for propaganda purposes. Works of fiction may be very skillful in exercising the art of indirect suggestion. Public speakers possess dynamic force at the moment, using both sight and sound devices to influence. General hearsay and public opinion secure results by omnipresence and by threatening personal and group status.


1. Distinguish in as many ways as you can, with illustrative materials, between direct and derivative experiences.

2. Describe the different ways in which your early life at home affected your attitudes toward the different races.

3. Give an account of some of the outstanding racial experiences of your close friends, interviewing them if necessary.

4. Choose a motion-picture film in which a foreigner is used as a villain, and analyze the various psychosocial factors involved.

5. Analyze a work of fiction in which the " bad " nature of the member or members of a foreign race plays a rôle.

6. Clip all references to " other races " from one or more news papers daily for a month or two months, and analyze the clippings in their psychosocial significance.

( 76)

7. Give a complete psychosocial analysis of a speech you have heard in which some race was incriminated.

8. Compare and contrast at some length the family, associates outside of the family, motion pictures, newspaper, and general hearsay as media or conveyers of race antipathy.


COOLIDGE, MARY R., Chinese Immigration, Chap. V. Holt, 1909.

DETWEILER, F. G., The Negro Press in the United States, Chap.IV. University of Chicago Press, 1922.

FAIRCHILD, H. P., Immigration, Chap. XIV. Macmillan, 1914.

JOHNSON, CHARLES W., The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man, Chaps. I, II. Knopf, 1927.

PARK, R. E., The Immigrant Press and Its Control, Part IV. Harper, 1922.


  1. Social Distance Studies.
  2. Ibid.
  3. Ibid.
  4. Ibid
  5. Pacific Coast Race Relations survey.
  6. Ibid.
  7. Social Distance Studies.
  8. Ibid.
  9. Mexican Immigration Survey of the Southwest.
  10. Social Distance Studies.
  11. Ibid.
  12. Ibid.

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