Immigration and Race Attitudes

Chapter 11: Static Attitudes

Emory S. Bogardus

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Important and common as are changes in race attitudes, static attitudes are still more common.[1] Here are vast areas of inertia. n a case s u y o persons who were invited to record all the more favorable and the less favorable changes in their opinions that had occurred in the last ten years toward the enumerated races, a total of 480 changes were noted out of a possible 4290 changes, or 8.9 per cent. After allowing for changes that were not important enough to have made a lasting impression or that were not reported, we shall have remaining a large percentage of unchanged opinions and attitudes.

Personal interview materials indicate that these relatively permanent or static attitudes are: (1) markedly unfavorable, (2) potential, and (3) markedly favorable. The first and the third may each be of such a pronounced or radical character that nothing can shake them. They are based on emotionally patterned reactions. The second is different. It is usually due (a) to lack of information or (b) to information that is general and somewhat equally divided---for and against.

Seven Types. -A more detailed analysis brings out seven types of static attitude situations: (1) that due to an overwhelming fear and hatred of a dominant race; (2) that due to a consuming disgust for " low "types of culture traits; (3) that due to a sense of dynamic loyalty to one's own

(149) race and to an overmastering superiority complex; (4) that due to an absence of knowledge; (5) that due to general knowledge about equally favorable and unfavorable; (6) that due to a brotherhood-of-man cosmopolitanism and idealism; and (7) that due to a rationalized philosophy of judging all races on a basis of personal worth rather than of racial heredity. Illustrations of these relatively permanent attitudes have been given in several of the preceding chapters. The analyses here therefore will not be extensive or the illustrations many.

1. Well-established fear-hatred behavior patterns are primary factors preventing change of attitudes. Fear arising out of a real or seeming attack upon one's social groups operates in the case of the Armenian's consistently adverse reactions toward Turks, or of the Polish Jew's reactions toward the Poles. An Armenian, for instance, says, " We are century-long enemies of the Turks. Their oppressions have always been unbearable. I never see one in Christian America but I shudder from head to foot and start to run." The permanency of such an attitude is easily understood. A Polish Jew reports that his grandfather taught him to hate the Poles and that " I can never forget the brutal murder of my father. I have always hated them (Poles) with an undying hatred, and I don't see how it can ever change, not until memory grows dim." The permanent element in this expression is also evident.

Hatred naturally follows fear. A race that is thought of as `bloodthirsty "-is hated as a matter of course. Fear-hatred. patterns are tenacious, -.ingrained feeling complexes, coupled with rationalized particularizations against whole races.

87. One does not hear the German situation talked over any more. I wonder if people all feel an unforgivable attitude toward then and try to cover it up or whether my animosity is of such an unusual depth that I can't seem to forgive or forget the stories

(150) I heard of the Germans during the war. Since peace has been restored, many of the stories have been discredited, but still my first reaction to the word " Germany " is one of hatred. I will be very much interested to follow this attitude of mine in the next few years to see if it will change.[2]

2. Uncleanliness, animal-like breeding, " coarse " personal appearance, and so forth repeatedly displayed by members of any race pave the way for a continuing disgust for such a race on the part of all but racially sympathetic people. No particular fear or hatred is experienced, but an overwhelming disgust. Portuguese immigrants of the illiterate type are referred to as " filthy," as " living like pigs," as " breeding like rats." " They live on a lower plane than ordinary human beings, and there is no hope for them." The custom prevalent among the men of certain undeveloped Slavic peoples of beating their wives gives race antipathy toward Slavs a relatively permanent aspect. A mental caste attitude develops. Organic feelings of repulsiveness offset by no favorable experiences frequently account for static race attitudes of this unfavorable type.

3. A strong sense of race loyalty and kinship holds many persons steadfast in their favorable attitudes toward their " own races," irrespective of how guilty various members of the given races may be of despicable deeds. " I am English," says one person, " and have always admired the Canadians. They are English anyway. They are a part of my own racial family." A loyal son of Erin boldly declares: " The Irish is my own race, and of course I have always liked them and always shall."

An overmastering race egoism leads many persons into stable superiority attitudes toward less fortunate races. Pitying reactions and a certain friendliness are characteristic of this type of static race attitudes. A patronage complex becomes rooted in taboo and convention. The

( 151) wish for recognition is also satisfied, providing the " inferior races " play a double rôle. As long as status is not invaded, friendliness within certain limits is ordinarily expressed toward the lower caste race.

88. I know my association with Negroes is passive; I am not interested in talking to them, being associated with them, or wanting them around. Recently coming from Texas, I suppose I have too much prejudice to quickly overcome. They have always been washwomen, cooks, and the like. And my love for them has been of the quality of one who loves a faithful and worthy servant, or any worthy inferior. One treats an inferior with possibly more kindness than an equal, but the feeling of condescension is there. Intermarriage between white and black is intolerable to me. I don't mind them sitting in class next to me. It makes me feel cosmopolitan and thus balances in personal vanity what might be overcome by racial prejudice .[3]

89. I was brought up on stories of Indian life in the early days. Grandfather was a doctor, and he often had work to do among the Indians. When there was any danger of trouble between white and Indian, some of his Indian friends would always come to warn him. However, no serious trouble ever developed. As far as I can learn, grandmother had the rare knack of knowing how to handle the Indian, just the right mixture of sternness and friendship. I know, when she died, that the Indians for miles came to the funeral.

Growing up with this background of family friendship for the Indians, I have always had that comfortable feeling of friendly patronage toward them.[4]

4. Absence of social contacts and lack of racial experiences give many people attitudes of permanent aloofness from races that they do not understand. No new racial experiences, either direct or derivative, bring about changes. " I have never known members of the race (Serbo-Croatian) and do not have any personal acquaintance with it. My feeling is neutral." In referring to the Syrians, another person states that "no members of that race have ever crossed my path." " I am neither favorable nor unfavorable

( 152) to them - just do not know them, that's all. I have never had any experience with the group and so have not changed in one way or another so far as I know." Still another cannot discover that his opinion has changed concerning any racial groups in the last years, because of the fact that he has lived in a distinctly American community. No immigrants or Negroes live there. No contacts with any other races have been made, and there " have been no distinct reactions either favorably or unfavorably."

5. General knowledge of an impersonal sort is accompanied by a potential attitude. Status is not invaded. Emotional reactions have not been aroused. No occasion has yet arisen whereby definite action one way or the other has been stimulated. The knowledge in hand is of a nonpersonal, noncompetitive nature. " I don't know what I do think about the Dalmatians," says one American. " I understand that they have a fine physique and good vitality, but on the other hand they are reported to be backward culturally. They are `humanity in the rough,' and I suppose can be refined. I am reserving my judgment until I know more about them."

6. A brotherhood-of-man cosmopolitanism is often the foundation of a stable race friendliness. Friendly feelings arising out of a long series of favorable experiences with certain races become crystallized into permanent attitudes of race friendliness. Religious idealism may also account for the even tenor of general racial good will that many persons manifest. An oppression complex often brings a deeply human and relative sympathy. "Being a member of a physician's family, I early discovered that pain and sorrow are no respecters of person or color."

90. The Indians are a racial group toward which I have always had a friendly feeling. I think this is due to my early contact with them. About six miles from my home town there was an Indian reservation. We always had an Indian woman come to

( 152) our house to do the washing. My mother could speak Spanish, and the Indian could also, so they always had a visit back and forth. We gave them things to take home with them besides their wages, bought their baskets, and they in return would often bring us presents of pasoli or meat.

In the summertime Indian families would come and camp at our ranch while they worked harvesting the apricots and almonds. I used to watch them cooking and eating. They always seemed to have such a good time visiting with each other.

Once we had a family of Indians come in from the desert to work for us. They had had little contact with whites. They came the first two years with pack horses and riding horses for the father and oldest boys. The mother and younger children walked. The third year they appeared with a wagon, and all rode. They were getting educated. This particular family used to make dresses for the mother and oldest girl. I believe another reason I felt an interest in the Indians was because my mother's people were among those who crossed the plains, arriving here in 1853. They were among the first settlers in the San Gorgonio Pass.[5]

7. A rationalized philosophy of life that judges people on the basis of personal worth and social achievement rather than on racial connections guarantees dependable racial attitudes. This tendency leads one to seek the racial understanding through the study of facts and of their deeply human meanings. A training in anthropology and ethnology that has led one to live with many races and to understand their history, their struggles, and their shortcomings is important. " Being a member of an oppressed group," says a Negro, " I have been reared to respect racial suffering." A Jewish young man recalls that his parents have instilled in him the belief that there are no racial characteristics that should cause hatred by other races and that ill feelings and prejudices are the result of not knowing each other's point of view. " That there are individual characteristics which make for good and bad in all races has always been clear to me." A Negro reports that, if it hadn't been for

( 153) his careful training, he would have developed a distinct dislike for the white race, because of the mistreatment which his race has received. As a boy and youth he was never told of the prejudices of white people against his race, and hence he has been able to stave off a dislike for the white race.

If there be different degrees of changelessness, the first two (negative) and the third (positive) are least likely to be modified seriously. The first two are " fixed " in adverse and defensive emotional patterns organized about the urge for security; the third is a form of ethnocentrism " fixed " in dogmatic beliefs centering about the wish for recognition. The fourth and fifth types are the most open-minded of all and most likely to have their stability upset. The sixth and seventh have vulnerable spots that are most easily reached by a series of experiences that would undermine status.


1. Compare static unfavorable with static favorable attitudes regarding race.

2. Compare the static favorable and unfavorable race attitudes with the static potential attitudes.

3. Compare the merits and demerits of possessing a highly developed and fixed race loyalty.

4. Analyze the strong and weak phases of having a strong and settled race prejudice.

5. Discuss the chief factors leading to a racial superiority complex, such as the Nordic complex.

6. Describe the process whereby a person develops a cosmopolitan race attitude.


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

FAIRCHILD, H. P., The Melting-Pot Mistake, Chap. TX. Little, Brown, 1926.

MILLER, H. A., Races, Nations and Classes, Chap. XII. Lippincott, 1924.

MINITER, EDITH, Our Natupski Neighbors, Chap. V. Holt, 1906.

PRICE, M. T., Christian Missions and Oriental Civilizations, Chap.II. Shanghai, 1924.

STERN, E. G., My Mother and I, Chap. X. Macmillan, 1919.

THOMAS, W. I., AND ZNANIECKI, F., The Polish Peasant in Europe and America, Vol. IV, pp. 87-138. Badger, 1920.


  1. An elaboration of materials first published under the title of "Static Social Distance" in the Journal of Applied Sociology, Vol. XI, pp. 579 ff.
  2. Social Distance Studies.
  3. Social Distance Studies.
  4. Ibid.
  5. Social Distance Studies

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