Immigration and Race Attitudes

Chapter 19: Education and Race Problems

Emory S. Bogardus

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Education in the sense of developing and changing human attitudes is the culminating phase of " immigration and racial attitudes." Education is the supreme adjustment process. The discussion of education and racial problems is essentially a summary of the materials presented in the preceding chapters with reference to securing new and better racial adjustments than now obtain. But education is both unscientific and scientific, with the former predominant. Unscientific education is generally unsystematic and often propagandistic, while scientific education is usually organized.

Unsystematic Education. — Under the conditions that have existed in the past and that still rule, unscientific and unsystematic education plays the largest rôle in racial relations situations. The education that comes through sober experiences is still dominant. While these experiences work both constructively and destructively, the latter type unfortunately is the more effective. If unfavorable racial contacts lead to racial antipathies, and pleasing contacts to friendliness, then a sound education program may be built around the control of racial contacts. To provide social conditions whereby racial contacts will take place on bases of full understanding and fellow feeling would solve racial problems.

Another dynamic educational factor is hearsay and derivative experience as distinguished from direct contacts. In this connection it is chiefly the unfavorable racial contacts that become broadcasted through gossip. Since unfavorable experiences travel faster, farther, and become

( 242) more exaggerated than favorable ones, a wise educational program will include attempts to control the spread of gossip both from person to person and from " yellow journalism " to its millions of devotees. Some progress is already being made in educating people to " pass on " deeds of heroism, kindliness, and fair play by immigrants, and to " hold back " deeds of cruelty and repulsion of individual immigrants — at least to the extent of not charging the bad deeds of individual immigrants to whole races.

The atmosphere which is created when racial experiences are reported by one person to others is all-important. The " way in which a thing is said " is effective in developing true or false attitudes. The attitudes of parents and other leaders in repeating the ill-advised actions of racialists is often more significant than the actions themselves.

133. It was Easter morning on the second-class deck of the S. S. Olympic en route to America. A New England mother was quietly reading the story of the crucifixion to her three children. In the midst of the story one interrupted and asked, " So it was a bunch of Jews who killed Jesus?" The mother started to nod assent when her eye fell on the occupants of several adjacent steamer chairs, and, like a flash, she said, " Yes, it happened to be Jews who killed Jesus, but He Himself was a Jew. If He had been living in America today, it would have been Protestant Christians like ourselves who would have killed Him." [1]

Another relationship between education and racial attitudes is illustrated by the spellbinder, or emotional public speaker. By working up a climax of " terrible word picture," by painting the worst that may be said about a race in " hideous images," by shouting with vehemence, for instance, that " the Orientals shall never again enter the United States," the cheap orator has a wide but dangerous " educational " influence. Fortunately, there are also many public speakers who in calm and dispassionate terms are

( 243) doing educational work in behalf of many races. Pulpit, lecture platform, and radio station may well redouble their efforts in offsetting untoward racial propaganda.

Still another important educational factor, discussed in an earlier chapter, is the motion picture. An urgent need is the elimination of foreigners as " villains " and a change in attitude by the producers whereby the races of the earth will be " pictured " correctly in all their interesting social rôles and whereby culture history will be made fascinating, somewhat after the manner of pictures published from time to time in magazines such as the National Geographic. Paid ethnologists in the service of the motion-picture world could render widespread service.

The rôle of works of fiction in portraying foreigners as " villains " is well known, but this type of writing is counterbalanced by the many immigrant autobiographies that have recently been published.[2]

" Life histories " of immigrants often make more interesting reading than novels and carry a wide and favorable appeal. Foundations for publishing carefully selected life-history materials would serve a useful purpose. Life-history materials from natives who have moved from one part of their own country to some other locality would also be enlightening.

The Particularistic Error. — People generalize upon a few experiences, either direct or derivative. Upon the basis of one unfavorable experience with one Japanese and a general social atmosphere of suspicion regarding Japanese, a person ordinarily generalizes against all Japanese. Upon examination the " general social atmosphere " or prevailing public opinion is found to have been built up unscientifically. Often it is largely the product of rumor and myth and isolated experiences. Sometimes one or more unfavorable

(244) direct experiences are supported by a number of indirect or hearsay reports. A vivid personal experience or the imaginative dramatization of a reported event is effective. " Acquaintance with two Armenians has done much to develop my feelings against the Turks." Again, " In this terrible affair (the sinking of the Lusitania) over one thousand women and children were drowned. This is one thing I will never forget and will hold against the German race all my life."

134. The first time that I can remember seeing Japanese, I formed my opinion of them, and it has never changed. In fact it has been kindled into a roaring fire of hatred. My first experience with the Jap was when I was on my way to the Philippine Islands. At Nagasaki, Japan has a coaling station where we stopped for a day and a half to get coal. In loading coal, coal barges come out to the ship that is anchored in the harbor. With these barges there is a band of Jap laborers. On close observation we found that these gangs consisted of men and women. When the barges are tied up to the ship, a line is formed, and large baskets of coal are passed up into the ship by men and women alike; these baskets are dumped into the hold and returned to the barge. This little experience showed me what low standards of living these people maintained .[3]

135. I do not like the Englishmen very well, although they have not done any harm to me personally. My feeling against the English people was due to an unspeakable instance which occurred many years ago in Hong Kong, China. One evening while I was looking out from a window of the hotel, I saw a group of Chinese waiting eagerly for their friends to come up from a steamboat. One of the Chinese was trying to get as near to the boat as possible (as we always do) to welcome his friend. A six-foot English policeman rushed to that innocent Chinese man, who did not know the regulations of the pier, and said: " No one is allowed to get near the boat while passengers are landing," knocking him down with a club, and kicked him on the ribs with his iron-toed boot. From that time since, when the word " Englishman " is mentioned, that terrible instance always appears once again vividly in my mind .[4]


Even though a person recognizes the " particularistic error " as such, and that he is a victim, he is helpless. Even though he knows his experiences to be unrepresentative and unfair to a specific race as a whole, he cannot extricate himself from the thralldom. A few unpleasant experiences are more powerful than studied attempts to be tolerant and broad-visioned.

136. Again my experience with the Jew has prejudiced me in spite of my trying to be broad and democratic. I have known only a few Jews, and unfortunately these have not been good representatives. These Jews would not mix with the Gentiles, nor would they contribute in any way to help the particular little city where they were. They had only one aim and that was to make money, in any manner. These Jews were a representative of uncultured and rather narrow ideals. I have not been fortunate in coming in contact with the more desirable and worth-while Jew who, I am sure, exists. Naturally until I have more desirable experiences, there will exist that unfair prejudice.[5]

The particularistic error also operates in building up racial friendliness. College or university life is favorable to the development of friendship between native-born and a few splendid representatives of other races; particularistic results obtain. In other words, first-hand and intimate acquaintance with high-class, interesting, and dependable individuals of a given race leads to favorable conclusions regarding the entire race. This conclusion is a good start toward, but not a substantial ground upon which to build, racial friendliness. It may end in disillusionment, or it may lead a person to overcome derivative antipathies and to substitute racial friendliness at least of an idealistic sort for racial indifference or prejudice.

Systematic Education. — Textbooks skillfully written often depict the favorable traits of the given nation and its peoples without mentioning the worst practices. Concomi-

( 246) -tantly, they may emphasize the less worthy features of other races to the neglect of the best traits. Coupled with such texts there may be " injunctions " issued to the teachers " to teach the textbooks only " and to raise no " troublesome questions " in the minds of pupils. In this way systematic education may distort parts of the truth at the expense of other parts and promulgate dangerously inaccurate racial attitudes.

137. Another interesting picture is drawn by a colored woman who writes: " When I first entered school in the state of Ohio at the age of five or six years, I knew nothing about a color line. I was something of a pet, because I was the youngest in the school at that time. But when I got to be about eight or nine years old, I began to discover that somehow I was a little different from the other children. One evening when going home from school, a girl who lived next door called me a "nigger." We fought it out with fists and feet. I believe I could go to the very spot now where I sat on her prostrate body and pummelled her good.

A little later on, when I was about to finish the grades, we were studying the races of men in the geography class, and I remember distinctly the picture of the African savage that was used as our representative. I was quite innocent of the fact that I had the same racial lineages as he. Underneath the picture it said, " Ethiopian — he belongs to the most backward race on the face of the globe." And my white schoolmates turned around to me and said, " Now, that's your folks." Nothing else was said concerning Negroes in any textbook we used, except that they were slaves. This made a profound impression on my mind and resulted, many years after, in my touring the country for four years in a Ford coupé, carrying with me a two-foot shelf of Negro literature in the hope of doing something to offset the silence of the textbooks with regard to the achievements of the colored people.[6]

138. The southern writer George Madden Martin, in a recent report on the history of the Negro in public school texts to the Kentucky Inter-Racial Conference, says among other things:

" In no textbooks that your committee has examined is the American Negro shown in a creditable sense to the pupil, white

( 247) and colored, as a people, a race group, with a past and authenticated history of their own in Africa. Again, no textbook that we have examined tells the pupil that practically every people in the world have been enslaved by some people at some period in their history; no textbook that we have examined explains to the pupil, white and colored, that slavery is a condition imposed, endured, not necessarily merited.

" Your committee, in a word, has found no school textbook which first, presents and considers the Negro as a race group, with the rights and attributes of such a group and, next, as a slave group, contributory to the economic development of America."[7]

The emphasis upon the greatness of the United States and upon " her glorious past " often gives children exaggerated impressions of their own country and an inadequate background against which to measure other nations. By contrast they think of other nations as inferior, without realizing that each nation has certain superior as well as inferior culture traits. An Italian immigrant recalls textbooks used in his native country where Italy was pictured in the center of the page as a benevolent giant, while around the central figure were arranged the other nations playing small and ignoble rôles. Such an unfairly distorted presentation is made to the children of each nation. Moreover, this distorted educational influence is rarely corrected.

139. In the study of history and geography in the lower grades one forms many prejudices against various small foreign countries. These prejudices are largely a result of over-idealizing the United States and underestimating small countries by comparison with the United States. Much time is spent studying the utopian principles of loyalty, freedom, the magnificent business enterprise, and wealth of natural resources in the United States while the realism of it all is overlooked. In the meantime, little is said regarding the small foreign countries, and as a result one has a tendency to belittle anything favorable said about them. Later in school, the subject matter is handled more plainly, and a fairer estimate may be made of all countries concerned. Furthermore,

(248) one is constantly coming in touch with foreigners and newly naturalized citizens who are quite willing to state their views. Such magazines as the National Geographic often have articles, enlightening in nature, and giving a fair insight into the life of individual races. The change in the evaluation of these small countries is largely due to an increased and unprejudiced knowledge of them and of the actual social place of the United States. These ideas and prejudices regarding countries are naturally associated with the races inhabiting those countries, so that, when one thinks of a country being weak in world affairs, he feels that a corresponding weakness exists in its racial inhabitants.

Greece, for example, is historically a defeated nation, small in natural resources and population and fairly impotent in world affairs. It would not be difficult to feel that the Greeks were representative of their country and likewise weak in world affairs, but such feeling is purely illusionary in nature. The whole question rests on a less general and more specific knowledge of the people. In this country the Greeks have at once found a place as restaurant keepers, but their offspring are not un-American enough to be satisfied with that sort of living. In the United States these sons of Greeks are interested in law, medicine, and teaching; and they are not slow to grasp the American viewpoint. In the meantime, they are offering some of the classic Greek ideals which are evidently superior to some of our own. I have had the privilege of hearing Greek men, not well educated as Americans nor of the low type of Greeks, argue concerning the relative worth of legal and civic methods in this country and in Greece; they were quite convincing in showing how well regulated Greece is. I have read about some of the staid and reasonable methods of living in Greece, and it is quite apparent that the culture of Plato's time is still respected by the modern Greeks. To know now that this small country exists so successfully and independently in spite of the arrogance of other more powerful nations is very good reason to hold the Greeks in a much more favorable position than I did five or ten years ago.[8]

In the grade and high schools, however, are many teachers who in the extracurricular contacts as well as in classroom contacts with boys and girls do much to broaden the latter's racial attitudes. Some influence pupils in the opposite direc-

( 249) -tion, but on the whole this influence does not seem to be as extensive as the constructive type. As an example of the influence of a broad-minded teacher in changing attitudes, the following from the experience of a private school in a northern city is pertinent:

140. A high-school boy was going to give a party to his entire class but did not dare to invite the one colored member of the class, because he was afraid that he would not accept and that there would be some strained situation. He and his mother consulted me, because they were sincerely distressed at the idea of an omission. I told them by all means to invite the boy, and I would see to it that he did accept. I went to the colored boy and said: " Now you colored people, in your effort not to seem obtrusive, frequently make it very difficult for white people to treat you with the exact equality that they would like to do, because you defeat their efforts by withdrawing. You are going to be invited to this party. If you go, there may be some painful experiences for you, but I believe it is your duty to go and have just as good a time as you can rather than give the whole class a chance to say, ` Of course, he was in school with us, but when it came to a party he had to be left out.' " The boy and his parents coöperated perfectly, and the party turned out to be a great success, the only problem being caused by a girl who made herself somewhat unhappy by working up indignation over the situation. Everyone else took the matter in exactly the right spirit. — A TEACHER [9]

If a boy, for instance, leaves high school " to go to work," not much change in racial antipathies is likely to occur in his later years. Even if he goes into a professional school with only a brief liberal arts exposure, he still is not likely to undergo much change in racial antipathies. The first two years of study in a liberal arts college does not affect him greatly, but in the upper-division years, if he elects sociological courses, changes in the direction of increased race friendliness are likely to take place.

A large background of knowledge protects a person from generalizing too quickly. It leads one to insist on knowing

( 250) " both sides " before coming to a conclusion; it insists that scientific inquiry precede ethical judgments. If one's education includes courses in social anthropology, ethnology, and sociology, then definite and measurable results may be noted.
141. On coming to the university and after taking up a course in elementary sociology, I soon discovered that my race prejudice was based upon unfounded " facts." Lack of education and superstition were the reasons given for the conduct of some Negroes. Facts were presented to me, and the question was raised that, if the Negro was given the same opportunity as the white man under the identical conditions, wouldn't he attain the same results?

If the white student was forced to battle against the same adverse conditions as the Negro to gain his education, would he get as far as the Negro does?

It was probable that my white friends had based their views entirely on public opinion in the South and not on any specific causes. It was possible that they had developed a hatred for one or two individuals and judged the entire race on these views.[10]

In courses of this character where students have recorded their race reactions at the beginning of the course and again some months later at the end of the course, the results show limited changes toward increased race friendliness. There is generally noticeable a distinct decline in the wish " to exclude other races from the country entirely " and also a lesser tendency to cut down on the reaction to admit certain races " as visitors only." On the other hand, no particular effects are discoverable in the attitude toward marrying members of " other races," and the percentage remains low. There is, however, an increase in the tendency " to admit members of other races into one's own groups of chums." But this tendency is not due apparently to an increase in real racial friendliness so much as to an increase in racial curiosity and an aroused attitude to know other races firsthand — a sound basis, to be sure, for substantial racial friendliness. There are also inert-asps in the tendency "to

(251) admit immigrants to one's street as neighbors " and " to one's country," but these are rarely idealistic and not well stabilized.

Representative reactions include: " In the case of certain races I found myself hesitating this time, whereas before I was certain that I disliked them. Last time I put them at a distance; this time I did not make any marks." Again, " As a result of the reading that I have been doing I have been broadened considerably and have changed my race attitudes noticeably." Not only college courses but college contacts count. The latter are by far the more important in an emotional sense, while the former rank higher as intellectual factors.

142. Probably the outstanding reason for this statement is that, up to the time I went away to college, the only representatives of the race that I came in contact with were those of the lower class: namely, butlers, chauffeurs, waiters in hotels, valets, and the like. As servants they performed their duties efficiently, but their servile attitude aroused a contemptuous feeling within me, and I failed to appreciate their good qualities. If such a thing as class distinction can be made, they belonged to the lower strata of society, and as such I ranked them.

In preparatory school I happened to meet a Japanese boy on whom I at first looked with scorn; but as time went on, he not only excelled in his studies but also was a top notcher in athletics, a good mixer, and one of the best sports in the world. I opened my eyes and began to think that maybe there was something in this Japanese after all. Courteous always, willing to give one the benefit of the doubt but strong enough to always stand up for his rights, I began to admire him. Soon we became rather good friends. But this was only one representative of the race.

I went to college, and as things went along and time went on I came into contact with many Japanese who proved the new set of standards I had set up within myself for them. Racial prejudice runs strong in the South, and it was there that I was reared. This may account to some extent for my early feeling. Even though I have come to admire the Japanese and respect them, I do not believe in the intermingling of races, because there is always an inevitable clash as to customs and ideals.

( 252)

National prejudice has also been a factor that has set many people against them. Militaristic propaganda, introducing the idea that Japan will some day without a doubt " take a fall out of the United States " and grab our Pacific Ocean possessions and overrun our country has been at the bottom of it. There may be something to it, I don't know, but I cannot quite see the idea of arousing national hatred for the sole purpose of keeping the army in a job.[11]

The effects on instructors of racial-relations courses are noteworthy. Sometimes there are no effects or even " hardboiled " reactions. Occasionally, there is fine discrimination, as in the case of the teacher who states that a sense of the importance of his position and the fact that his pupils swear by what he says keeps him impartial. His reading of immigrant autobiographies has extended his sympathies, although a critical study of intelligence tests and eugenics makes him wonder if there are not hard and fast lines of superiority and inferiority between races. He feels that he has overcome race hatred and that he can discriminate between the constructive and destructive traits of the members of different races on the bases of personal worth. " I'm against some Turks, some Mexicans, some Jews, and so on, but for the same reason that I despise some Americans."

Exchange studentships and fellowships, cosmopolitan clubs, international houses, the widespread study of the cultures of all races by each member of each race —all these enterprises naturally lead to the development of broad racial attitudes. To overcome racial prejudice in America against the Turk, for instance, it has been suggested that Turkish students be brought to America and distributed among all the colleges and universities. The proposal of an American college to admit a number of properly qualified students from the various races of the world and to limit American students to a small proportion of the total number would be a unique experiment in racial relations phenomena.

Systematic or academic education under broad-minded and well-trained teachers in culture history and racial problems is, after all, the outstanding factor in a sound educational program. Actual living with races different from one's own, provided one has ethnological training and retains a fair degree of human sympathy, is the best educational procedure of all. Most important of all is the need for more and better racial relations surveys and studies throughout the world.


1. Outline a nation-wide program for multiplying the growth of constructive race attitudes.

2. Outline a world policy for building constructive race attitudes. 3. Compare unsystematic with systematic education relative to cultivating helpful race attitudes.

4. Describe a procedure whereby a person might protect himself from the evils of " the particularist error " in race matters.

5. Prepare a syllabus of the culture traits of two races besides your own, and make a comparative study.

6. Imagine yourself a member of some distinctly " foreign " race, and make a syllabus of the culture traits of your real race. Then compare the results with the findings of the preceding exercise.

7. Outline a complete procedure for a given race relations survey.


ABBOTT, GRACE, The Immigrant and the Community, Chaps. XI, XII. Century, 1917.

BOGARDUS, E. S., Essentials of Americanization, Part IV, 3rd edit. Jesse Ray Miller Press, 1923.

CLARK, JANE P., "International Social Service," Jour. of Applied Sociology, Vol. IX, pp. 362-5.

INQUIRY, THE, All Colors. New York, 1926.

——, And Who is My Neighbor? New York, 1924.

LEISERSON, W. M., Adjusting Immigrant and Industry, Chap. XVI. Harper, 1924.

MACLEAN, ANNIE M., Modern Immigration, Chap. XIII, XVI. Lippincott, 1925.

PARK, R. E., "Methods of a Race Survey," Jour. of Applied Sociology, Vol. X, pp. 410-5.

PRUDDEN, ELINOR, " An International Migration Clinic," Jour. of Applied Sociology, Vol. X, pp. 548-55.

THOMAS, W. I., AND ZNANIECKI, F., The Polish Peasant in Europe and America, Vol. IV, Part II. Badger, 1920.

THOMPSON, F. V., Schooling the Immigrant. Harper, 1920.

WISSLER, CLARK, Man and Culture, Part II. Crowell, 1923.


  1. From manuscript compiled by Bruno Lasker, The Inquiry.
  2. Well-known illustration, are Ludwig Lewisohn'.s Up Stream, Mary Antin's Promised Land, Constantino Fanunniu's The Soul of an Immigrant, Max Ravage's An American in the Making.
  3. Pacific Coast Race Relations Survey. .
  4. Social Distance Studies.
  5. Social Distance Studies.
  6. From manuscript by Bruno Laskar, ibid
  7. Ibid.
  8. Social Distance Studies.
  9. From manuscript by Bruno Lasker, ibid.
  10. Social Distance Studies.
  11. Ibid.

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