Immigration and Race Attitudes

Chapter 12: Regional and Cultural Contacts

Emory S. Bogardus

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Racial attitudes vary according to region. The case materials upon which this chapter is based come from a number of different regions in the United States, for example, New England, New York City, the South, the Middle West, and the West.[1] In this consideration of race attitudes on a regional basis only those cases have been included where the extraregional factors are similar; that is to say, only those studies have been used where factors such as age-period, educational training, racial grouping, religious grouping are uniform. The chief remaining difference is region, and thus the relation of region to race attitudes may be examined. The racial attitudes of a total of 1725 persons have been treated in this regional study.

Graph 1, Comparison of attitudes of 1725 Americans from various parts of the United States with 200 Americans (white) from the Southrt 1 .

Regional Factors. - At the outset the thought may be advanced that region may make an important difference in

( 160) racial attitudes. The classic illustration of regional variation in race attitudes is the South. In taking the first 200 case studies made in the South and comparing them with the national total of 1725 studies, differences may be noted. Graph I, using the social-distance exercise,[2] shows the nature of some of these differences. In the South, for instance, there are fewer favorable reactions to intermarrying with Negroes than in the United States as a whole, to admitting Negroes to the white man's social clubs, and to admitting them to the white man's neighborhoods.

Again, if the case group of 200 white persons in the South whose racial reactions have been studied be examined with reference to reactions toward the Negroes, Orientals, and Mexicans, interesting differences crop out. As indicated by Graph II, a more friendly feeling is expressed toward the

Graph 2, Comparison of attitudes of case groups of 200 Americans (white) from the South towards Orientals and Mexicans and Negroes

Negro than toward Orientals and Mexicans. While there is antipathy shown toward the Negro, the people of the South know the good traits of the Negro and feel a real need of him economically. The Oriental, on the other hand, sometimes brings up a traditional image of " a Chinaman with a pigtail and a long knife " or of a " shrewd, aggressive Jap, the secret agent of the mikado." Mexicans, likewise,

( 161) are often viewed in terms of " bandits." Spatial proximity plus economic necessity versus spatial distance account for certain of these differences in cultural attitudes.

A second observation is that regional differences are accompanied by widespread similarities in attitudes. For instance, all the main regions of the United States express marked aversions for the Turk and good will for the Scotch. Taken by and large, and considering regional reactions to peoples of forty different racial groups, similarity rather than difference in racial attitudes prevails. When we consider the attitudes of the different regions of the United States toward well-known races, such as Italians or Norwegians, the correlations in the main are high and the standard deviations low.

A third consideration is variation in regional distance. The greater the spatial distance between regions, the greater

Graph III Comparison of attitudes of case groups of 200 Americans from the West and 200 Americans from the South (white) toward Negroesart 3>

the likelihood of finding differences in race attitudes. In the various regions of the South, for instance, the attitudes of the white people toward the colored do not vary greatly. The correlations of the race reactions of the citizens of Florida with those of Tennessee are high. On the Pacific Coast, the attitudes expressed toward the Negro in Washington and in California are similar. But when the race

( 162) reactions of two regions, as far apart as Florida and the state of Washington, are compared, noteworthy dissimilarities are evident. By case studies of the race attitudes of 400 persons (200 from the South and 200 from the Pacific Coast) who represent similar age periods, educational levels, racial descent, religious reactions, it has been possible to chart attitudinal differences (Graph III). Moreover, it has been feasible as shown by Graph III to measure these differences. These data are confirmed by the personal interview materials. The coast takes a somewhat friendlier attitude toward the Negro than does the South, as is to be expected, but the extent of this greater friendliness is much less than many " Northerners " would surmise.

Graph 4, Comparison of Attitudes of case groups of 200 Americans from the South (white) and of 200 Americans from the Southwest towards Mexicans

The differences in these regional reactions are shown by the personal experience data to be due to differences in social contacts, not to personal superiority; that is, if the white people of the coast could exchange places (in both the regional and social contact senses) with the people of the South, there would soon be a complete interchange of race reactions.

By the same methods of analysis, it appears that Florida and Tennessee react similarly. But the first, similarity is noticeably different from the second (see Graph IV).

( 163) Kansas and California are in the Mexican immigrant belt; they are extensively agricultural, and need Mexican immigrant labor. Moreover, where present even in large numbers, Mexicans have been docile, nonaggressive, have invaded nobody's status, and hence arouse little antagonism. They are not competitors with white labor; they do not disturb the social status of any group. The economic need for them is persistent, and friendly attitudes toward them flourish.

The personal experience materials show that in the South, on the other hand, the Mexican is not viewed as economically essential. The need for him is not strong. Moreover, his worst traits are " played up " in the public eye; the less reputable Mexican becomes the standard type of Mexican. On occasion, the Mexican is classed with the Negro. In comparing the South and the Southwest in their attitudes toward Mexican immigrants, true regional and ecological factors function more or less directly.

In the fourth place rural regions are different in racial attitudes from urban, but the connections between region and racial attitudes are obviously indirect. In rural districts the racial reactions are personal. " Likes " and " dislikes " rule. There is community uniformity and the range of " invading " races that will be accepted is smaller than in the city with its many varieties of regional cultures. The poorer urban districts, occupied by " downtrodden " races, do not mind the advent of one more such race even in considerable numbers. In the wealthy urban districts the racial reactions are more largely against a " race " as such. Again, cultural distinctions account for many variations in regional differences.

A fifth observation is that regional variations in racial attitudes may depend on differences in racial invasion. A clear-cut illustration is afforded by the materials of the Pacific Coast Race Relations purvey. A few years ago

( 164) Florin, California, reacted vigorously against the Japanese; at the same time the near-by community of Livingston reacted in friendly ways. In the former the Japanese were allowed only one main contact with Americans (by Americans of course) : namely, the economic contact, and that in a limited way. In the latter they became stockholders in the bank, members along with Americans in a coöperative society, attendants at the Y. M. C. A., members of the American parent-teachers' association, sharers in financing the community baseball team, the band, the chautauqua, and so on. No objections have been raised in the schools of Livingston to Japanese children, except by newly arrived teachers.

What were the differences in the "invasions"? (1) In Florin the Americans came first, but were later outnumbered. In Livingston, the Japanese as a group settled first and are now outnumbered five to one. " Competition " is far less in Livingston; the numbers are not disturbing. (2) In Florin the Japanese are of a lower cultural and less desirable type than in Livingston; the percentage of illiteracy is greater. (3) In Florin the Japanese have little leadership; in Livingston they have had a former Japanese teacher of agriculture in Japan as a leader. He is a broad-minded person, anticipating conflicts, and giving consideration to American points of view, instead of just blindly pushing into the community.[3] These variations in race invasion are partly, it will be noted, of a cultural nature.

Race invasion itself is sufficient to upset a region's established racial mores. If the invading race is likely in any way to lower the status - social, economic, or otherwise - of the citizens, then a whole region's race attitudes will change for the worse, or at least will not manifest friendliness.

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91. Ten years ago I was not particularly interested in the Japanese one way or the other. About that time a Japanese family moved into our neighborhood. They had bought their home in the name of their baby boy. The neighbors naturally were much opposed, and the quarrel resulted in two or three law suits. In both of these, the Japanese people were successful because of the fact that their son was an American-born child. I was very much interested in the case and, of course, resented the fact that made it possible for them to become our neighbors. Although they improved their home very much and were the tidiest of people, all the other people ignored them completely.[4]

Coupled with racial invasion as a factor creating regional differences in racial attitudes is racial competition. As racial competition varies in different regions, so racial attitudes vary. In the southern states the presence of masses of Negroes is disturbing, while in the Pacific Coast regions the competition by Japanese immigrants prior to 1924 upset normal racial attitudes. In New York City the "competition" of the Irish and the Jews has created serious disturbances in the race attitudes of the " natives."

Region and Culture. -It appears impossible to separate regional and cultural factors in accounting for differences in racial attitudes. If the cultures [5] are similar in different regions, then the racial attitudes are likely to be similar. If the cultures are different in the same region, dissimilarities in racial attitudes are likely to be found. A culture containing a definite race mores may become so embedded in a region that to separate the two is impossible. Cultural complexes as the home into which children are born may lead to such generalizations as " once a Southerner, always a Southerner," and " what has been born and bred into you, cannot be removed." Region and culture are complementary and inseparable.


92. Perhaps the key to the whole situation, that is, to my feeling concerning the Negro, is that practically all of my life thus far was lived in the South; and, of course, one who has been born, bred, and reared in the South is inclined to have a personal dislike for the Negro.

However, a bit more of explanation may show sufficient cause (the average Northerner would deny that there is a sufficient cause) for my feeling. In the majority of the southern states, the Negro knows that there is a so-called line of distinction between the white and black race, and he (the Negro) recognizes the fact that overstepping the line would doubtless cause difficulties; so he knows his place and keeps it even though it may be against his will. After having come North, I found an entirely different condition existing and one which it is indeed most difficult for me to become accustomed to: namely, that of the Negro considering himself on a par and even sometimes superior to the white. It even " goes against the grain " for me to have to sit in the same university class that a Negro is in. In fact, a Negro associating himself with the whites " leaves a dark brown taste in my mouth."

Of course, I am attempting to overcome that feeling and to suppress that prejudice; but when it is " born and bred in," it is not so easy to put it off. In not all cases is this true, but at least in the majority of cases it will be found that as to the feeling toward the Negro, " once a Southerner, always a Southerner."

When one sees with a prejudiced mind, it is exceedingly difficult to get him to see otherwise. I plead " guilty " on race prejudice - against the Negro -but perhaps if I live to be as old as Methuselah and stay in the North all that time, I will be able to erase that race prejudice.[6]

The rôle of culture in accounting for regional differences is seen in such variations in racial attitudes as is represented by northern California and southern California. The former, with its " native-son " consciousness and strong labor organizations, and the latter, with its " back-east " consciousness and its absence of organized labor conditions, have reacted somewhat differently toward Japanese immigration. Labor unions in the north turned quickly

( 167) against cheap labor from Japan, while the employers in the south have remained more or less friendly. The organized " native-son " consciousness of the north with its keen sense of California loyalty responds sooner (unfavorably) than does the unorganized " back-east " consciousness. In the north a common danger such as "racial invasion " is sensed sooner, produces more vigorous feeling reactions, and is more likely to be exaggerated than in the south. In both regions, however, there is the larger national loyalty that is quick to resent a serious racial invasion.

An important question arises: What is the connection between region and the origins of a given regional culture? Apparently there is a direct relation between a region and its peculiar culture traits, and in this way region is an indirect and important factor in the race attitude variations that are found in different regions.

Inter-Region Migration. -The attitudinal significance of regional and cultural variations is especially clear when case studies are made of the effects of moving from one region to another. After a person moves, he usually finds himself in conflict with racial attitudes that are at least partially new and strange to him. He is likely first to resent expressions of new attitudes, then " to explode against them." In the explosion he displays attitudes originating from the regional culture from which he has emigrated.

A white woman from the South went to Colorado and was employed in a hotel where a colored boy was taking care of the linen. An altercation over a minor matter occurred between them, whereupon the white woman demanded of the landlady: "Either get that coon out of here or me. We don't work under the same roof." Another white woman from the South, residing in a western city, went to the front, door to answer a call. A colored woman, introducing herself as _Mrs. Brown, said she was answering

( 168) an " ad " for work, whereupon the white woman replied: " All right, Brown, you just go right to my back door, and I'll talk to you." The old regional attitude maintains itself in new regions. The chief exceptions occur if one be young enough, tolerant enough, and mentally versatile enough.

A Southerner going North is shocked by the freedom that the Negro is given and that he " assumes." Under northern conditions the Negro is continually getting " out of place," from the standpoint of the Southerner. Under these regional conditions where the Negro acts " abnormally," the Southerner also reacts " abnormally." Increased antipathy toward the Negro is kindled. The friendly feeling toward the Negro " in his place " in the South changes to a hostile feeling against the Negro in the North, for " tramping on your feet in the street cars and punching your clothes off of you and even punching you off the sidewalks."

A given race's actions may be different in one region from its actions in another. Its status may be higher. If a member of the culturally dominant race in the first region moves to the second, he is naturally shocked by the " airs " that the lower race, culturally speaking, assumes. Race prejudice increases.

93. I have acquired a feeling of repulsion toward the Negro race. Before I moved to L., I saw few Negroes and had no feeling of enmity toward them. In fact, I rather liked the Negro. I read Booker T. Washington's Up from Slavery and a few books of like nature, and felt strongly in favor of more toleration for the Negro. I believed that race prejudice was useless and rather foolish.

Then I moved to L. Daily I was thrown in contact with many members of the race -on street cars, on the streets, at school. I saw evidences of great rudeness, almost insults, of many Negroes toward the whites. On street cars many Negroes, especially men, would rush to get a vacant seat before some white woman could get to it.

This hard feeling on the part of the Negro is said by many

( 169) people to have been caused by unjust treatment on the part of the whites. I believe that, if the Negroes would keep their distance, the whites would meet them half way regarding just dealing.

There is so much talk about the Negro question and so much argument that I believe the effect is to influence people in the opposite way and build up in them a feeling of hatred toward those for whom they wish to banish race prejudice.[7]

Again, when a person moves from one region to another, he may acquire new antipathies. The different conditions which he finds in the new region seem to justify him in " falling into " the antipathies that he finds. However, he may fight against the latter for a time, but he is likely to succumb. His chief recourse is to withdraw to some other region where conditions are more favorable.

An idealistic set of attitudes is quickly shattered by making a change in one's environment. A Northerner says that before he moved to Texas he thought of Mexicans at their best. He envisaged " dark-skinned beauties, senoritas with ruby lips and flashing teeth, dancing the fandango to wile away the hours that they do not spend in luxurious siestas." He also thought of Mexicans as playing serenades on soft-toned guitars. Then he moved to El Paso and before long became acquainted with " Spiks," the Texas word for neighboring Mexicans. He saw only the poor and degraded class of Mexicans, but had he come in contact with only the best and educated Mexicans his increasing dislike of Mexicans would never have occurred. " They (Mexicans) were a constant source of annoyance; they were thieving and fighting all over our part of town. Although my present dislike is unfair, I cannot help it."

94. I have a distinctly less favorable opinion of the Japanese race at present than I had ten years ago, or even five years ago, for several reason,

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First of all, in Birmingham, Alabama, where I lived for about ten years, there was only a handful of Japanese, and as a result they were looked upon more as curiosities by the whites than with any other feeling. A Japanese family lived several blocks away from my home, but I felt no opposition to that; on the contrary, I often walked by to see them, out of curiosity.

But about four years ago I came to A. and immediately began to hear of the Japanese "menace." In my first term in high school here, I heard a long and serious talk by one of the instructors on this "menace," and he asserted that the next war would be a racial one -the entire white world against the yellow. He pointed out the cleverness and craftiness of the Japanese, and I believed every word. Immediately I became alarmed, being in the " danger zone," for was not California " overrun " with the Japanese, and the first place that Japan would naturally attack?

Since that time I have heard more opposition against the race, although not always so strong. Of course, my " alarm " caused by that talk of several years ago has passed entirely, yet I hold faith in what the man said. And although I wish to be broad-minded and fair, I have retained a rather suspicious attitude toward the race.

I admit that I have had very little personal contact with the race. In fact, it is difficult for me to distinguish between the Japanese and the Chinese. And by the way, here is another race for which I have almost the same feeling, based practically on the same reasons.[8]

95. In my earlier years I had formulated no particular dislike for the colored people. For one thing, they did not come to my attention enough for me to bother about it. Then again, every one else merely accepted them for what they were and showed no outstanding prejudice for them or against them; they seemed to have just as good a right to be here as the rest of us, and as long as they were peaceful they would be let alone.

I took a trip to Texas about a year ago, and I learned a whole lot about the Negro -against him, of course. I learned that his skull was much thicker than a white person's, that he had no sense of morality and that he really desired to remain in subjection rather than to rise to a more elevated standing. I feebly argued about the clause in the Constitution setting us all on an equal basis; I even cited the case of a Negro, holding office in Washing-

( 171) -ton -to which they replied, "Yes, the President considers that all right; but if he had a daughter and the Negro would pay her attention, we would see what the President really thought about Negroes." The party I was talking to had always wanted to visit California, but after I told him that we allowed the Negro to sit by us in a street car, he was utterly disgusted and said that a Southerner could never endure the tolerant attitude we manifest here.

I must confess that my own attitude toward the Negro began to change little by little upon seeing them herded together in a street car and upon seeing the utter disregard for them manifested by the Southerners. Every time I would protest against the treatment accorded the poor colored people, I would be cited an instance where the Negro really desired to stay in his present state of subjection and resented any attempt to help him out of his rut.

After being talked to in this manner and after hearing of the atrocities against society committed by the Negro, my opinion of the colored person began to change by degrees until I probably would be as extreme in my dislike as the average Texan if I had not returned to the atmosphere of tolerance characteristic of the West. However, I believe that the average Negro in the North and West is of a higher type than those in the South. They are not so looked down on; they have more freedom and greater rights and their social position is very much superior than in the South. This is a big factor in causing the higher status of the Negro in the North and our consequent lack of abhorrence for all Negroes in general.

I have overcome my antagonism to a large extent, as I have already explained, but my opinion has, nevertheless, suffered alteration towards the Negro, which will probably be overcome as the years pass on and my Texas experience becomes a thing of the past.[9]

Sometimes, in moving, a person finds more friendly attitudes prevalent regarding a race than he had hitherto known. If residing in the new region affords him favorable experiences with members of the race in question, then ultimately he may be expected to become more friendly. The process, however, usually operates very slowly.

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96. Ever since my early recollections, I can recall how my family was very prejudiced against the French. I grew up in that environment and learned to hate the French because of the attitude my parents had for them. Every time that I would come in contact with one, hatred was the first thing that entered my mind. In my opinion, the French were detestable.

Later in life, I moved to a different community where I became very well acquainted with a French family. A son and myself became very good pals, and later came to college together. Through him, I came in contact with many other French people whom I admired, and gradually my prejudice against them was overcome.[10]

The part that region plays in the development and changes in racial attitudes is usually indirect, subtle, and many-sided. It operates through the culture differences and contacts that it affords. Its significance is often completely hidden from the persons affected by it. When a person migrates from one region to another, he is subjected to the impact of new regional stimuli. The more nearly similar these are to the old stimuli, the more immediate is the favorable response. If they be decidedly different, the first results are a series of " shocks," but in time a person grows calloused and may later adopt the ways that originally were shocking.

If the migrating person be a native moving from one part of his country to another locality, the " shocks " relate to the new rôles which he finds that immigrants are playing. He may quickly shift from favorable to unfavorable reactions concerning immigrant groups, or more or less slowly from unfavorable to favorable attitudes. At any rate, the impact of the new regional stimuli sooner or later produces results. But these changes vary greatly according to the ages of the persons involved - a theme which will be considered next. Differences in age usually imply significant variations in life organization.



1. If you have lived in two or more regions, compare in detail the race attitudes of each toward selected races, giving illustrative materials.

2. When you moved into a new region, what were your reactions to the new race conditions that you found? Describe fully any change in attitudes that you underwent.

3. Choose five specific attitudes of your own or of other persons, and search out the regional origins of each.

4. Compare and contrast the race attitudes of a rural region that you know with the race attitudes of a large city.

5. Compare the attitudes of two different regions of a given city toward selected races.


DANIELS, JOHN, America via the Neighborhood, Chaps. I, II. Harper, 1920.

MILLER, KELLY, An Appeal to Conscience, Chap. III. Macmillan, 1920.

PANUNZIO, CONSTANTINE, The Soul of an Immigrant, Chap. XV. Macmillan, 1921.

——, Immigration Crossroads. Macmillan, 1927.

PARK, R. E., AND MILLER, H. A., Old World Traits Transplanted, Chaps. VII, VIII. Harper, 1921.

SPEEK, P. A., A Stake in the Land, Chaps. I, V-VII. Harper, 1921.

THOMAS, W. I., AND ZNANIECKI, F., The Polish Peasant in Europe and America, Vol. V, pp. 29-92. Badger, 1920.


  1. The writer is now engaged in gathering data from other countries, and hopes at a later date to treat the question of social distance between races upon a world regional basis.
  2. Described in Chapter II.
  3. For fuller statement see Bogardus E. S.; The New Social Research, pp. 227 ff. J. R. Miller Press, Los Angeles, 1926.
  4. Pacific Coast Race Relations Survey.
  5. Used in the social anthropological sense and refers to all the ways of doing and thinking of a social group.
  6. Social Distance Studies.
  7. Social Distance Studies.
  8. Pacific Coast Race Relations Survey.
  9. Social Distance Studies.
  10. Ibid.

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