Methods of A Race Survey*

Robert E. Park
University of Chicago

The Race Relations Survey on the Pacific Coast is still in progress. It has been completed in its main outlines; but in detail, and in respect to a number of specific problems, much remains to be done.

In the course of the Survey's investigations, numerous local and special problems, requiring more detailed study, have presented themselves. These special problems have been taken over by men specially interested and specially qualified to carry them to completion. It is expected that they will issue, finally, in a series of mono-graphs dealing separately with specific problems; all of them, however, centering about and focusing upon, the relations of Oriental and Occidental peoples as reflected in the economic, social, and religious life of the Pacific Coast.

Two conditions under which the work of the Survey of Race Relations is carried on, have necessarily deter-mined the point of view and the character of the methods employed :

(1) Investigations extended over a geographical area from Victoria and Vancouver, in British Columbia in the North, to the Imperial Valley and Mexico in the South.

(2) Race Relations, as it turned out, involve all the relations in life: economical, political, cultural, and religious.

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In order to gather facts over so wide an area, and with reference to so many different aspects of human life, it has been necessary to secure the co-operation of representative men and women in all the different regions in which the Pacific Coast is divided not merely by geography, but by tradition. Regional organizations were established at Vancouver, British Columbia; Seattle, Washington; Portland, Oregon; San Francisco and Los Angeles, California.

Fortunately there were, in every one of these centers, universities and colleges, men already interested in studying some phase of the problem of race relations, either in its local or in its more general scientific aspects. It was the task of the director of the survey to discover these men and their special interests, and to indicate to them how they could contribute, by an extension of the studies that they were already making or were prepared to make, to the solution of the task of the Survey. It was necessary, further, without interfering in any way with the independence of these different investigators, to co-ordinate their tasks so that their investigations would all con-tribute -to a common body of knowledge in regard to the varied aspects of a common problem.

In order to accomplish this purpose, an effort was made to bring together, in local conferences, men in different colleges and different sciences, in each region, who were looking at the general problem from their special points of view. These local conferences turned out to be particularly interesting and helpful to all concerned. They served to indicate to each specialist the place of his own studies in the general program. Special studies gained a new interest and a new significance when they

( 412) were seen in relation to one another, and to the local and practical issues which were disturbing the public.

These conferences also served as a sort of clearing house for the different and special points of view represented by the different special studies. In Los Angeles under the direction of Professor Bogardus, there was organized, in connection with the local conference, a so-called methodological clinic. In these clinics, reports of investigators were read and discussed; students and investigators were given an opportunity at these meetings to hear reports from representatives of the Survey from other regions; particular attention was given to practical difficulties which investigators in the field had encountered in the actual process of investigation. Reports of these clinics were prepared and circulated to all the regional centers up and down the Coast. Following are the minutes of one of these clinics:

The seventh meeting of the Social Research Clinic was held on October 15th, in the Social Research Laboratory of the University of Southern California.

Eighteen persons were present, including the usual personnel, and Miss B. of San Diego who is undertaking a study of the Japanese there, Miss R. from Chicago, and Miss K. who is working among the Negroes in Los Angeles.

The meeting was in charge of Miss R. who presented data concerning life histories, social map making, and the analysis of myths in relation to public opinion.

She also gave a comparison of the social situation in Livingston with that in Florin. In the former the people have been successful in making numerous accommodations. In the latter the spirit of conflict prevails. In the former there is a variety of contacts between Americans and Japanese. In the latter there are no contacts except limited economic ones.

The speaker gave descriptive data concerning the Chinatowns of San Francisco and Vancouver and referred to several types of Chinese which she had become acquainted with, ranging from "bums" and hard workers to the trouble chasers, the sheiks, and the flappers. Comparisons were also made between different types of social community organization found among the Chinese and Japanese.

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Dr. C. inquired concerning the ancient Chinese culture, for example, that represented by village mindedness. He asked if it exists in China-towns on the Coast. Miss R. replied that there were many evidences of this culture and gave illustrations.

Miss L. asked how one can tell whether a life history is authentic or not, and the speaker replied by mentioning several clues whereby it is possible to classify interviews as genuine or inaccurate.

Another question brought out the attitude of the Orientals, particularly the Japanese, toward the American romantic conceptions, such as love-making, as being essentially "kindergarten stuff." Even Tennyson would be classified in some of his poems as promulgating the kindergarten attitude toward love.

The fact that children often constitute a motif among Japanese parents and the related fact that the Japanese are afraid of the city and seek the country as a means of protection for their children was brought out.

Mr. R. raised questions concerning intermarriage between Orientals and whites which led to the statement that it is generally American women who marry Japanese in this country, whereas in Japan it is American men who marry Japanese women. Miss R. advanced the theory that with greater acquaintance between races on the Coast intermarriage would not increase, but might even decrease.

It is expected that at the next meeting Professor M. will present some of his materials growing out of his agricultural studies. Mr. D. will also report on problems relating to funding inter-racial good will.

The first problem of the Race Relations Survey, as of every other study of a practical problem, is one of analysis. In order to investigate a complicated problem, it is necessary to reduce it to its smaller unit.

The last problem of a survey is one of synthesis. The question in the present instance, was how to bring this wide range of studies, covering so large a territory and so many aspects of life, within the limits of a single point of view.

The fact that has given unity, and will continue to give unity, to all the studies that the Race Relations Survey has initiated, is their relation to a practical issue. The different phases of the problem investigated all bear directly or indirectly on issues that were before the public, and in one form or another will continue to be before

( 414) the public for a long time to come. All the special investigations in progress, whether in the field of biology, economics, or sociology, are intended as answers to questions that have been raised in the press and in public discussion on the Pacific Coast. It is for this reason that, in the long run, all investigations of race relations tend to come to focus on the subject of public opinion. What the Survey has finally sought to discover has been what public opinion with reference to race relations on the Coast actually is; how it differs in different regions, and among different classes; and what are the sources of that public opinion in these different races and classes. It is for that reason that the central problem of this book is public opinion.

There has been a great deal of pessimism in regard to the social sciences, because, it is urged, in social matters it was impossible to experiment. As a matter of fact, speaking broadly, the amount of experimentation in the field of social life probably greatly exceeds that in any other field of human activity. Every social reform is, in a certain sense, a social experiment. Most of the vast flood of legislation which issues from our legislative halls every year, sets in motion some sort of social experiment. Prohibition has been an experiment on a vast scale.

The social investigators in the past have been very largely politicians, interested in formulating programs and in initiating policies. They are now, however, ambitious to go further, and conduct experiments. They are beginning to check up on the social experiments already in process. Experiment, however, in the scientific sense, seeks to formulate and test hypotheses; and social re-search, in the strict scientific sense, is confined to investigation based upon hypotheses.

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The term research may be used in a somewhat wider sense, to include exploration as well as experiment. In the most limited sense of the word, I should say that a survey is never research,—It is exploration; it seeks to define problems rather than to test hypotheses.

The only sociological experiments, and hence, strictly speaking, the only sociological research, that has thus far been undertaken in connection with the race relations survey are the studies in "social distance" so-called. These experiments were made by Professor Bogardus and are reported elsewhere.

Of all the recent attempts that have been made by psychologists to study social attitudes and to reduce to numerical terms the factors that co-operate to make public opinion, these studies strike me as altogether the most promising. They promise most, for one thing, because they recognize that all opinions, public or private, are a social product.


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