Social Psychology: An Analysis of Social Behavior

Chapter 18: Prejudice as Outcome of Subjective Patterns

Kimball Young

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A. The Nature of Prejudice.

Social prejudice has a controlling place in much of our behavior. It is rooted in the stereotypes in which are mingled myths and legends of group conflicts, and like every other feature of social behavior, it has both psychological and cultural foundations. It accompanies the mobility of populations which throws strange people into contact for the first time. It is related to economic and social competition. It is a distinct phase of in-group— out-group rivalry and conflict.

The meaning of prejudice is apparent in the word itself. In the simplest sense it signifies just what it says, "to pre-judge," to make a decision beforehand.[1] A prejudice is an opinion or attitude, favorable or hostile, based on prepossession and therefore biased and irrational. In ancient Rome to pre-judge meant to determine social status, and this status-determining feature has not been lost. At present we do not determine status by private, secret judicial hearings, but in the court of public opinion and conversation where are expressed the feelings and attitudes of superior groups toward those considered inferior. Morse defines prejudice as "undue prepossession in favor of or against" some person, thing, or idea, as "a mental cramp or tension which renders an individual unable to see or consider anything but from a single point of view." Often it is "a wilful perversion of judgment because of interest and passion." Bigotry and prejudice go hand in hand together. The prejudiced person tends to be obstinately and unreasonably attached to some particular creed, doctrine, or opinion, and to he intolerant of others. As Morse says, such a person looks upon truth as static, absolute, and unchangeable. Prejudice lies at the basis of conflict, and retards efforts toward more rational solutions of some of our most

(455) pressing social and economic problems. It is the opposite of tolerance. It is the foundation of tendencies to crystallize reactions into narrow and eternal frameworks. Prejudice fills our minds with such pictures of other groups that free contact with them is difficult. Prejudice presupposes the superiority of one's own group to those outside, and is essentially the foundation of ethnocentrism. The negative, antagonistic attitudes toward the outsider have counterparts in attitudes and ideas of superiority toward one's own in-group. We shall first discuss the psychological and cultural phases of prejudice as a general phenomenon of in-group— out-group relations. We shall then sketch briefly certain major types of prejudice in contemporary society. Because of different cultural backgrounds— religious, racial, and economic— each of these types has somewhat different psychological features.

B. The Psychology of Prejudice.

1. Personal-Social Conditioning of Avoidance.— One of the most common assumptions among uninformed people is that prejudices against races, religions, and divergent groups are innate. The prejudices of the common man against the negro, the Oriental, and the Jew seem so natural that he assumes he was born with a dislike for these people. In popular literature this notion is taken for granted. Physiology and psychology, however, give no support to any such theory of an instinct of prejudice against other races or persons of divergent culture. White and colored children, unhampered by adult interference, play together with as much ease and spontaneity as they do among themselves. There is certainly no evidence for a specific instinct of prejudice. On the other hand, we should not imagine that there are not deep-seated emotional and reflex action patterns which come into play in building up various prejudices.

At the outset we must take into account what Royce calls "natural antipathy" for those who are different from us. All children develop negative reactions toward certain persons who come into the range of their experience. These may be based on physical appearance, gestures, voice, and general behavior. There is no doubt that individuals differ in bodily odor; and it is certain that races do. Gilbert Murray tells of a Japanese waiting-maid who fainted at the smell of a number of Europeans and Americans sitting at dinner. Both Japanese and Chinese students have told the writer that they are quite aware of the distinctive bodily odor of the white race.

(456) White people are aware of the differences in odor between themselves and the negro race. Still, sensory accommodation in the field of smell goes on very rapidly. One man who spent years in the West Indies among negroes and American Indian-negro mixed bloods told the author that he was never aware of these odor differences after he had been associated with these people a few weeks. He played basketball and other games with these boys, went with them on picnics, and associated with them in school, but was never conscious of differences of this sort. Because of infrequency of contact large numbers of people never acquire such sensory accommodation. Naturally, difference in odor furnishes one basis for an awareness of divergence in personality.

Still more significant, perhaps, is the awareness of differences in color. Color is always more evident than odor, and it is accordingly more difficult to break down older ideas and attitudes associated with color. A child coming into contact for the first time with a yellowor black-skinned individual may naturally be somewhat uneasy because it is something strange and unfamiliar toward which he has no technique of conduct. So, too, strangeness of facial contour and gross bodily physique also mark off others as unfamiliar. Habit plays a large part in developing either avoidance, or adaptation to differences. After his long sojourn in the heart of Africa Livingstone said of his first contact with whites: "One feels ashamed of their white skin; it seems unnatural— like blanched celery or white mice." And Stanley reported his experience as follows:

As I looked into their faces, I blushed to find that I was wondering at their paleness— the pale color, after so long gazing on rich black or richer bronze, had something of an unaccountable ghastliness. I could not divest myself of the feeling that they must be sick; yet, when I compare their complexion to what I now view, I should say they were olive, sunburnt, dark.[2]

If we touch a person of color, we may get a distinct sensation of different texture of skin. People report a distinct consciousness of the finer texture of the Hindoo skin or the different "feel" of a black man's hand. One man reported the touch of negro shin as like the feel of a snake. Yet whites in the South have no such consciousness after they have been handled as children by negro servants.


Associated with odor, color, and touch are differences in costume which are at once noticeable. Strange clothes, divergent cuts of hair, or ornament — these things are quickly noted and make us aware of the unfamiliar character of those before us.

These things are psychologically basic to awareness of differences, but speech is particularly so. We can not communicate with the stranger within our gates. We do not understand language which sounds like a mere jumble of sounds with no rime or reason to it.

Yet our natural, untrained avoidance of persons of strange odor, color, skin, or speech is not alone sufficient to build a prejudice. Children have just these antipathies or negative responses to people of their own race or group. Speech differences are also evident. A man's deep bass voice may cause a small child to cringe and move toward its mother or father. These avoidance reactions are natural enough. If the differences are great enough, we may actually develop fear of the persons, especially in terms of auditory, visual or tactile stimulus. Even this will not in itself produce prejudice as we understand it. There must be some other factors superimposed on these physiological and psychological foundations. These influences arise from cultural conditioning.

2. Cultural Conditioning and Prejudice.— We must, as Royce says, give names to our antipathies. We teach the child that color means something, that it is a value toward which an attitude of avoidance is built up. In other words, we early begin to construct for a child the cultural framework in which will be cast his behavior toward members of strange races, cults, and other outsiders. Definitions of behavior toward these groups are laid down in language concepts which grow out of in-group attitudes of superiority, coöperativeness, and social solidarity. Since position in our own we-group means status and definite predictable relations to other members of our group, so, too, our relations with out-groups come to be determined by cultural norms. Where the relations of in-group and out-group are those of subordination and superordination, as are the relations between negro and white in the Southern states or in South Africa, status is related to the feelings of ethnocentrism expressed in prejudices.

Man has always looked askance at the stranger. The very terms "barbarian," "Ausländer," "goi," bear the marks of this attitude in their historical meanings. The unfamiliar is the unpredictable. Fear of the unknown comes into play very quickly. Anger is aroused by unconventional and mis-

(458) -understood types of conduct. Our own customs are always right and proper. We may attack by ridicule the notion of the propriety of other customs; but more effective is the exposition of traditional barriers common in all in-group— out-group relations.

The tendency to set off our own group from another may be defined as social distance. Social distance implies subordination and superordination. It indicates the tendency to move toward an object or person, or to retreat or withdraw. There is an ambivalence of emotion which may approach love and hate in the most extreme forms. Social distance means aversion and avoidance, on the one hand, and friendliness and close contact, on the other. It means coöperation or competition and conflict. As Bogardus says, an analysis of social distance gives a measure of "acting together" and of "acting apart." A student recently remarked about the Japanese that "they are all right so long as they keep a good distance from you." He apparently meant not geographical or spatial but social or psychic distance, reflecting the proper attitude of superiority of the dominant white race. Social distance signifies not merely spatial isolation, but the more important isolation of ideas and attitudes. The Jew living in the ghetto is not only segregated in a neighborhood reserved for him, but is cut off from contact with the Christians by reason of his ritual and folkways. In spite of physical proximity and of business relations with Christians, there remains a sense of remoteness, an isolation, which indicates a definite barrier to easy inter-participation. In a caste system, as exists in India, social distance is codified and standardized. In our society of "open classes," as Cooley calls them, it is the function of prejudice to keep the "outs" from getting in with the "ins." Thus the Jew is excluded from golf clubs, the Catholic from certain social circles, and the negro from the white trade unions. In a society of mobility and of economic opportunity there is much class flexibility, but the shift from one class to another is not possible without some strain between those already inside and those on the margin or the outside who desire to secure similar privileges.

As protection against the penetration of the inner precincts of personality and group individuality, there are the defenses of suspicion and aversion, of reticence and reserve, designed to insure the proper social distance.[3]


Even in our open class system the psychological mechanisms of avoidance are at work. The culture patterns which have grown up around the in-groups give the direction which these take in the individual. The culture patterns of one group furnish names or stereotyped labels for other groups. This "categorical motive," as Shaler called it, this pigeon-holing of persons into certain groups— niggers, wops, kikes, fundamentalists, bolsheviks, radicals, Babbitts— is the conventional method of handling those outgroup members who try to break across the barriers of our own in-groups. We may want them to come into relationship with us up to a certain point, but we do not wish them to come further. The negro is all right in his place, as a personal servant or as a workman, but not as an equal. The Jew is all right as a rag-picker, a pedler, or a small tailor, but not as a social equal or as the member of a college fraternity. Here the technique of the matter is to give the out-group a label to categorize them. Henceforth all members of the others-group are known by the same group stereotype. It is first a negro who commits a certain crime, then Mr. Johnson. It is first a negro who wins a school medal, then Mr. Jefferson. Likewise it is first a Jew, then Mr. Aaron, who absconds with a bank's money. We brand individuals with standardized stereotypes received from our culture long before we know them personally. Relatively unbiased people can not escape such comments as "He looks like a Jew," or "He is a Babbitt." It is doubly hard for people who carry the marks of different color to escape without definition in terms of the group labels before being defined as personalities. For most of us cultural patterns determine in unlimited ways our reactions toward the members of out-groups.

As we saw in the preceding chapter, stereotypes are natural. They aid us in getting about in our world. They are short-cuts in social interpretation and give us a clue in defining our conduct toward others. But when associated with emotional sets, stereotypes give rise to misunderstandings unless social interaction is rigid, conventional, and limited to a code. Such codes are norms of conduct in relation to out-groups. The Southerner knows the accepted manner of handling the negro. His Northern friend, who does not, often gets into difficulties because the negro himself has no set method of activity outside the standards to which he has been accustomed by living under Southern norms.

Crises play a part in the whole problem of prejudice. Where the caste or

(460) class system is accepted, the reactions of individuals from two or more groups to each other go on without undue strain. If the caste system is destroyed, neither knows what to do in the novel situation, and a crisis ensues. The culture patterns disintegrate and men are thrown back upon more natural, spontaneous personal-social methods of handling their relations. This is well illustrated by the relations of the Southern whites and the negroes after the Civil War and by the relations of the Jew in the Gentile world of America. New relations mean the development of new social definitions of situations. The individual person-to-person accommodations are projected on the group, and then become crystallized. They constitute thenceforth the sanctioned method of handling the novel situation. After the Civil War the Ku Klux Klan did just this. The code of lynching or other forms of terrorism was devised when the older techniques disappeared under the federal laws imposed on the Southern states.

3. Historical Antecedents to Prejudice.— Like all standardized attitudes and reactions, prejudices rest on myths and legends. The stories of the Ku Klux Klan affect both whites and negroes. The mythology of inherent negro inferiority helps to support the white man's domination. The myths of Jewish worship enhance the gentile's feelings of dislike. Historical myths have played a part in producing prejudice. In modern times, mobility of peoples has been of great significance. So long as there was little or only gradual movement of people, as from Europe to America, there was little prejudice among various groups, because there was little social strain. From 1820 until the Civil War some conflict and prejudice arose in our eastern cities over the Irish and German immigrants. The "Native American" movements were expressions of this inter-group antagonism. After the Civil War the flood of the "New Immigration" from southern and eastern Europe, brought to America hordes of strange-looking and strangespeaking peoples with divergent customs. Naturally a crisis arose and prejudices sprang up wherever the foreigners and older American stocks came into political, social, or economic competition.

Not only mobility, but size of groups and differences in cultural heritages produce prejudice. Where there are gnat numbers of people with novel cultures, strain is likely to arise. And economic competition rapidly produces strain. The prejudices toward the New Immigrant must be understood in terms of economic rivalries as well as those of language, custom, and religion. The prejudice against the negro in Northern cities, is

(461) definitely related to his economic competition with white laborers.

We shall now discuss more specifically race, nationality, religious and economic prejudice. While all of these have much in common, it is necessary to take into account the historical setting and the particular circumstances of group contacts in order adequately to understand the prejudices. It should be noted that in all of these types of prejudice there may appear all or some of the other factors. In race prejudice economic factors loom large, and even in religious prejudices economic rivalry is not to be ignored.

C. Negro-White Prejudice.

Since we cannot understand any social behavior without taking into account two factors— individual capacities, attitudes and ideas, on the one hand, and cultural, historical forces, on the other— it will be well to trace briefly the principal historical facts which lie behind the present negro-white prejudices.

1. The Cultural-Historical Basis of Negro-White Relations.— Slavery was practiced in Africa long before it was introduced into the New World. With the expansion of agriculture in the Americas, especially in the semitropical and tropical areas, there came a demand for cheap labor which the Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, and English slave-traders supplied. While slavery was accepted by the English and Dutch settlers generally, it developed principally in the southern colonies. In our Southern states the social adjustments of negro to white were stable enough. The negro accepted his status, and on the whole the personal relations of negro slave and master were satisfactory. Northerners still retain many stereotypes from such propaganda as Uncle Tom's Cabin, with its bloodhounds, its Simon Legree and the fleeing Eliza. The cruelty, barter, and inhuman practices in slavery were not so much the results of personal relations as of a faulty economic system and attendant attitudes. The attitudes of inferiority and submission of the negroes were balanced by those of superiority and domination by the white master-class. In general the relations of the races in slavery did not lead to difficulty. Social distance was carefully defined. There was good-will and security for the slavc. The question of tolerance did not arise, since it was not necessary in the system. The negro had his place and he remained in it. He had no desire to participate in the white man's world. There was no competition, no conflict of interests between the races, but accommodation in terms of the slavery patterns.


The sentiment of the negro slave was, in a certain sense, not merely loyalty to his master but to the white race. Negroes of the older generation speak very frequently, with a sense of proprietorship, of "our white folks." This sentiment is not always confined to the ignorant masses. An educated colored man once explained to me "that we colored people always want our white folks to be superior . . . ." [4]

The white master-class accepted the negro as a person, and often admitted him to intimate and trusted positions, but never accepted him as a race. The negro still remained chattel property. Nevertheless between the white males and comely negresses a sort of concubinage grew up. This practice gave the basis of the Southerner's sex attitudes toward the negroes. These facts must be remembered, for they lie at the root of social attitudes which persist to the present day.

The causes of the Civil War were not human relations in the intimate sense, so much as wider aspects of local and national problems. The economic system of slavery proved wasteful. While the Southerners were not fully conscious of it, there were indications on the economic horizon that ultimately changes would have to be made. Secondly, there was the conflict over the political power of the slave and the free states. This problem was not unrelated to the economic aspects of slavery. Associated with this was, thirdly, the whole question of state and federal power. Men still fought to centralize political power or to maintain intact the power of local self-governing groups. In addition, we must remember that the socio-religious propaganda of the abolitionists stimulated public sentiment in the North toward slavery. Although it did not meet with favor in many Northern centers, when the crisis came this propaganda had its effect. The Emancipation Proclamation itself was but a war measure designed to crystallize opinion in the North and to throw further dismay into the Southern forces.

The defeat of the South and the emancipation of the negroes from slavery brought tremendous changes. The South was torn asunder— politically and financially— and its population greatly reduced. The Reconstruction period saw the meddlesome carpet-bagger, encouraged by federal laws, stimulate the negro to ideas and practices for which he had no preparation. Disfranchisement of the Southerner led to the control of local and state governments by negro and carpet-bagger, and thus to mistreatment of the

( 463) Southern whites and a false education for the negro. The whites were thrown back upon conflict attitudes for survival. The negro was filled with fantasies of an ability and greatness which he did not possess.

Booker T. Washington described the fallacious notions acquired by the colored people in those days. They imagined that freedom meant imitation of the frills of white civilization. They tried to telescope the cultural ages which separated white from black by taking to useless education— they learned French, Greek, and mathematics instead of the attitudes of thrift, the techniques of farming, the sense of property-responsibility, and the habits of sanitation.

During the whole of the Reconstruction period two ideas were constantly agitating the minds of the colored people, or at least, the minds of a large part of the race. One of these was the craze for Greek and Latin learning, and the other was a desire to hold office . . . . The ambition to secure an education was most praiseworthy and encouraging. The idea, however, was too prevalent that, as soon as one secured a little education, in some unexplainable way he would be free from most of the hardships of the world, and, at any rate, could live without manual labor. There was a further feeling that a knowledge, however little, of the Greek and Latin languages would make one a very superior human being, something bordering almost on the supernatural.

In another place he remarked:

One of the saddest things I saw during the whole month of travel which I have described was a young man, who had attended some high school, with grease on his clothing, filth all around him, and weeds in the yard and garden, engaged in studying a French grammar.[5]

There was clearly no adequate preparation in cultural attitudes or technique for the new relations of whites and blacks. The negro had no training in economic responsibilities, in the duties of citizenship, or in independent thought. Nor was there any change in the social attitudes of the white man, who did not accept the altered schema. The negro was and still is "a nigger," to be addressed by his first name only, with little or no soul, not much higher than an animal. HP was shiftless, irresponsible, mid untrustworthy. It is no wonder that the Southerner turned to violence to keep the negro in his place. The original Ku Klux Klan was the result of an ingroup feeling expressing protection for itself. The negro could not be re-

(464) -turned to slavery. The Union armies had settled that, once and for all. But the negro could be taught by crude methods that "he did not belong." Rage at the assumption of equality and power by the blacks, fear of their changed legal status, desire to maintain the supremacy and hence the safety of the white race— these were the roots of the techniques of social control employed. In desperate instances they took the form of intimidation, flogging, and even lynching, rationalized in terms of the protection of white womanhood and the prevention of growth of negro political-economic power. As the Union power relaxed its harshness, legal subterfuges were devised to protect the political sacredness of white control: grandfather clauses, Jim Crow legislation, and lack of provision for negro education. In addition there was actual intimidation to prevent the negro from exercising his legal right to vote.

The negro had, on the one side, the sort of fantasy we have described, and, on the other, the concrete problem of meeting his fundamental needs of hunger and shelter. He was forced into a new form of economic dependence by a system of tenant farming little better than the late Mexican peonage. In some ways this was worse for him than slavery, because the personal nexus of master and slave was gone, and only the impersonal relationship of barter and money remained.

Emancipation did bring one thing to the negro. This was mobility. In spite of attempts to hold him to the land, he was free to move about. Any slight improvement of his economic status made it possible for him to drift to the city or elsewhere in an effort further to improve his economic condition. It led to increase in wealth, education, travel, and a new type of life. Mobility is one of the keys to the present changes in the South and in the North in the status of the negro. It brought the negro into Northern and Southern industrial centers. With it has come the gradual rise of racial self-consciousness in the colored group. The very segregation of the negro into limited districts has fostered this group consciousness. In spite of handicaps, education among the negroes has been distinctly improved and they have a new advantage in achieving a higher social and economic status. This recent development of race consciousness is nicely illustrated in the following story:

A few years ago a man who is the head of the largest negro publishing business in this country sent to Germany and had a number of negro dolls manufactured according to specifications of his own. At the time this company was

( 465) started, negro children were in the habit of playing with white dolls. There were already negro dolls on the markets, but they were for white children and represented the white man's conception of the negro and not the negro's ideal of himself. The new negro doll was a mulatto with regular features slightly modified in favor of the conventional negro type. It was a neat, prim, well-dressed, well-behaved, self-respecting doll. Later on . . . there were other dolls, equally tidy and respectable in appearance, but in darker shades, with negro features a little more pronounced. . .[6]

The incident is really significant, for it means that the negro has begun to substitute his own stereotypes of himself for those of the white man. After all, art represents the ideals of the group. And it may be remarked that the venture was a success. As Park remarks, the whole episode revealed the degree of earlier cultural assimilation in slavery and the present break from his own past. Not only is the negro attempting to give up the frills of white civilization and instead to learn the fundamental techniques, but these newer developments of art are significant measures of his awakening. Beginning with Paul Lawrence Dunbar there has been a distinct ethnocentric trend in negro poetry and music and more recently in the novel and short story, and in painting and sculpture .[7]

Not only in art, but in the whole economic and social structure the negro is pressing forward. These advances are not made without provoking antagonistic action and attitudes in the dominant white classes, South and North. The experiences of the negro abroad during the World War taught him that in other areas of the world the prejudice against his color is not intense.

If we take a cross-section of the contemporary problems of race prejudice, we shall have to differentiate between those which exist in the Southern states and those which have arisen more recently in the North. In the last generation there have been many changes in the South. The growing industrialization, the improvement of education among the masses, the building of good roads, and the increasing use of the automobile have facilitated contact with the larger world outside. Superstition and its related practices are still retarding forces, but significant changer are apparently in the offing. The migration of masses of negroes from the South since 1917 has produced a real problem in the North. It is said that since 1917, 1,200,-

( 466) -000 negroes have migrated northward, largely to certain industrial areas. This migration has developed attitudes and techniques of race adjustment previously unknown. Let us examine briefly some of the features of prejudice, first in the South and then in the North.

2. Negro-White Relations in the South.— The relation of the negro to the white man in the South even to this day has the features of a caste system, rather than those of pure prejudice; that is to say, the prejudices against the negro have been highly standardized in culture patterns. So long as the status quo of superiority and inferiority is not disturbed, all is well. In the South the negro is treated as a person in his infractions of the code. In the North the tendency is to treat him collectively. Certainly the most violent mob activities against the negroes as a racial group have occurred in the North: in Springfield, Omaha, East St. Louis, Chicago, Washington. In the South the recalcitrant negro is dealt with as an individual offender against the social code. Punitive justice is directed against persons, not against the whole race.

This treatment of the negro as an individual permeates the whole structure of negro-white relationships. So long as he maintains his social distance, the negro is accepted as a person in all sorts of relations to the white. He is not accepted as a group, or considered an equal. A Southern student came to the North to learn social work. She told this story of her apprenticeship with one of the agencies:

My first assignment was to visit a colored family. It was one of the sorest trials of my life. I could nt bring myself to address the negro husband, who was at home ill, as "Mr. Johnson," because we always called negroes by their first names. I simply could not overcome my aversion to calling any negro man "Mister." It did not seem right or proper. My family had once had many slaves. Although our property had been much dissipated we always had a number of colored servants. They were always called "Tom," or "George" 'or "Sally," or "Mandy." In the South we like individual negroes. Our relations with them are close and sympathetic. I recall attending a funeral of an old servant a year or two ago. During a recent visit to my home town I went out to call on my old mammy. But to deal with the negro family as a case worker for a social agency on any terms of equality even of speech, was a bitter experience.

This is the common attitude of the Southerner. He accepts the negro, in his place, as a person, but not as a social or racial equal. A young man from one of the larger Southern cities described how his attitudes toward

(467) the negro were conditioned by personal-social and cultural influences. Colored men and women are looked upon as satisfactory servants. "The good ones like to be bossed; they know what you want and do it. The common run of negroes are dishonest, lazy, and shiftless." He also told how in later adolescence his gang teased and abused negro boys and men when it sought adventure and new experience. While this was all in play, it nevertheless enhanced their attitudes of superiority toward the colored people.

The pattern of superiority is so deeply imbedded in the culture of the Southerners that they often resent any implication that there is a "Negro Problem" in the South at all. They are quite convinced that the attitudes of domination and submission are right and will remain the basis of future relations. As one man said, "if the Northerners would leave us alone, we'd handle our negroes all right." A man from Kentucky expressed common attitudes toward the negro when he said they were a "shiftless," "law breaking," "bootlegging," "immoral," "fighting" lot of people who have to be held constantly in check by the police force. "They have no morals," he remarked. "They live first with one woman and then another. They don't know their own children and don't seem to care." This young man was brought up in Ohio, but went to college in Kentucky. There, through social infection, he soon picked up the common attitudes of the Southern white population.

Although the industrial and commercial changes of the South have also brought social and educational changes, the fact remains that the Southern attitudes are an expression of the general culture levels. Culture level is not a reflection of some innate, original ability or lack of it, either white or black. It is a function of education, opportunity, and general culture exposure.

Like any other environment, the Southerner's personal-social and cultural environment is surcharged with emotional images and much dereistic, primitive thinking. Belief in the superiority of Anglo-Saxon people over all others is itself a possible rationalization of self-defense against n more satisfactory bi-racial accommodation. The notion of the superiority of the Anglo-Saxon race appeals to the Southerner but without the usual sense of responsibility. Rather it is an escape from the reality of the negro problem. The rural Southerner particularly is cut off from the general stream of higher culture. Illiteracy is high. Here superstitions about

( 468) the world and religion and about the negro are still common. Conservative theological dogmas are in force. The world is divided between the forces of evil and those of righteousness in terms of old-fashioned Biblical analogies and fundamentalist teachings. The negro is excluded from an equal place in this theological scheme of things. In a Handy Guide for Beggars Vachel Lindsay told of a conversation with a pious, poverty-stricken farmer in rural Georgia with whom he was spending the night. "Then he asked me whether I thought `niggers' had souls. I answered `Yes: He agreed reluctantly. `They have a soul, of course, but it's a mighty small one.

The retarded culture of the South is an effect of isolation, both physical and social. While religious revivals offer some release from mental ennui, they do not absorb all the excess emotional drive generated in the common man. The moving picture is just beginning to penetrate the rural sections. As good roads become common, isolation will begin to disappear. Yet for the most part the masses do not live in the same cultural world that the masses of the urbanized North do. The rural Southerner has no technique for recreation. He does not know how to play. Gossip, religion, and fanciful pictures connected with religion and the negro make up his inner, subjective world, and largely determine his behavior. Superstitions about planting crops, about unlucky days and numbers and magical cures are common. The more systematized myths of organized religion furnish even more of the rural Southerner's world. The opposition to the Darwinian theories of evolution is a typical example of this cultural lag. The opposition to Governor Smith's candidacy for the Presidency because of his Catholicism is another. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the whole fantasy is the recent revival of the Ku Klux Klan and the concern over white political supremacy. This supremacy is customarily associated with sex taboos and the moral control of the negro.

The psychology of the Ku Klux Klan need not detain us, since we have already examined the nature of the fantastical thinking found in lodges and secret societies. With its ritual, its stereotypes of purity, and its crusading purpose to save the country from the domination of the negroes, the Catholics, and the Jews, the Klan recreated the world in autistic terms for the Southern masses. Above all else it afforded a new means of play. At the same time it gave a chance to exercise authority over the negro once more without recourse to law and without fear of individual responsibility.

( 469) It had potent shibboleths. It stood for One Hundred Percent White-Protestant-Americanism, Protection of White-Protestant-Womanhood, the Detection of Crime, especially that of bootlegging among negroes and the poor white trash, and the detection of the infraction of the traditional standards of sexual morality of the community.

The idea of pure womanhood carries great emotional freight with most Americans, and particularly with the Southerners. As everyone knows, there exists a curious double standard of sex mores in the South. The whites have access to the negro women within the limits of custom, but a definite barrier is set up against like relations between negro men and white women. It is true that lynchings for alleged rape constitute but a fraction of the total number of lynchings. Nevertheless autistic generalizations out of chance cases of sexual crimes have created a vast mass of superstition and a body of techniques for dealing with the negro in this kind of social relations. In Jamaica, in South America, and in other parts of the world, the whites and blacks get on well enough without undue fear of sexual crimes by the negroes. In the South these fears frequently become genuine bogies.

The terrific taboo against the sexual approach of the negro to white women may sometimes constitute a powerful negative suggestion to the negro. It is not surprising that he does occasionally engage in a sexual crime. If we were inclined to follow the Freudian interpretation, we could probably make out a case that the taboo arises, in part, from the white man's sense of guilt in his relations with colored women. Possibly this defense mechanism may be further affected by a felt sexual inferiority to the male negro. In any case, a strong tradition and practice segregates the sexes of the two races. A whole world of fantasy surrounds this taboo. It is also evident that this intense sex consciousness is a partial outgrowth of the Christian attitude toward sex— a denial of its reality, a categorical statement of its sinfulness, and a technique of dealing with it by dereistic thinking and acting.

The custom of lynching, though dying out, bespeaks a primitive, violent manner of handling a conflict situation. The rationalization for lynching is revealed in the following defense from a Southerner:

The only way to teach the ignorant negro the logical connection between the crime and the punishment is to inflict the punishment while public interest is fixed tensely upon the crime. Moreover, speed is required because punishment is

(470) sure only when it is speedily applied. The indignation and abhorrence which wrong-doing always excites effervesce too quickly. Let an unruly child induce its parent to postpone punishment for a week or month, and the offense will be punished inadequately, or not at all. Thus the law's delay is a force of evil.

The present prevalence of negro crime is due probably in some measure to unwholesome notions of social equality and intermarriage that they have inculcated— the natural, elemental passion to breed upward, to mate with a higher order, called forth in violent form.

Psychologically a lynching does for the lynchers just what a war or any other crisis does for a larger group. It offers release from ordinary tensions of a severely organized life. After it is all over, it becomes the basis for elaboration into myths of a vivid kind. The events of a man-hunt are retold with enjoyment and zest. Souvenirs from the rope that hung the culprit or bits of burnt clothing, or scraps of firewood picked from the bonfire, are exhibited on occasion. Thus lynching is an important social event for thousands. Its persistence despite opposition from the North and from the more enlightened communities of the South is simple evidence that it is not only a method of social control when the negro violates the code, but a means of releasing pent-up emotions through a kind of socially-sanctioned mob violence. It is the living-out of a day-dream of superiority. It is new adventure in a world otherwise rather humdrum and dull. The disappearance of lynching in the South is correlated with the increase in educational opportunities, the expansion of different culture standards, the breakdown of isolation by improved communication, and the gradual emancipation of the masses from superstition.

E. F. Young pointed out that the rate of lynching per 100,000 population is much higher in rural, less well populated counties than in counties of denser population. These more sparsely settled counties are the areas where ignorance, isolation, and economic hardship make racial conflict most likely.[8]

With the rise of better accommodation of white to negro in new economic situations, probably there will be shift in the social attitudes of both races. In truth, the general race problem has not been caused by the white man alone. The negro assumes a certain cockiness as soon as he gets ahead in the world, just as do all other people risen from the lower culture levels. In time he may overcome this, especially if the corresponding attitude of

( 471) the whites is one of tolerance rather than of antagonism. A Southern negro wrote of the new difficulties in the changed situation developing in the South:

Significant is the changing attitude of the South toward work and industry in relation to the negro. For instance, organized labor in Memphis, Tennessee, recently petitioned the school board of that city to take the mechanical arts out of the curriculum of the negro schools. Labor that was first stigmatized by slave labor and subsequently by cheap negro labor can now be done by white men. The labor viewpoints of the changing South have led many whites to crowd negroes out of work once considered too menial for the touch of white men. The upper class white man disdained to accept the services of a white man who would condescend to take the job of a negro. The attempt of the city fathers of Atlanta to restrain negro barbers from serving white women and children is an instance of what economic competition can do and of the new social viewpoint towards jobs long considered the black man's by right and tradition . . . .

The negro may lose or gain in the industrialization of the South. He may be forced out of certain "race jobs," but on the other hand he may find compensation in new lines of industry as he is beginning to do already, especially in the North.[9]

In other words, new conflict attitudes are arising, built on economic competition in new fields. As the South becomes industrialized and approaches the rest of the country in its modernization, the negro-white relations will change, but whether toward a more peaceful accommodation remains to be seen.

3. Negro-White Contacts in the North.— In the North, the negro-white relationships have a different historical setting and at present a somewhat different aspect than in the South. As a result of the Abolitionist propaganda and the Civil War, the North theoretically, at least, accepted the negro as a political if not entirely a social equal. It is easy for us to be tolerant of a people with whom we have had no direct contact, whom we know only through idealized stereotypes created in books, pamphlets, and sermons on human equality. Moreover, so long as the negroes seen in the North were the occasional students in colleges, or personal servants, or porters on trains and in hotels, no prejudice arose. We did not invite these people into our homes, nor did we come into any economic competition with them. We accepted them en masse, in theory; we avoided them as

( 472) individuals. They lived in their segregated ghettos of color, and we had, little or nothing to do with them. In a way they were insulated from us more than their black relatives in the South were from their white master-class. With the industrial growth of the North, especially in late years, a tremendous number of negroes have migrated into our Northern industrial cities. This rapid influx produced new attitudes and habits as it brought new economic and social adjustments.

We must recognize that Northerners have picked up from Southerners many attitudes regarding negro inferiority. Prejudice need not result from direct social contact; it is often "derived." It is derived from reading, from conversation with those who claim to know, and from old myths like the Mammy stories, the jokes and tales of negroes, and from the theater, vaudeville, and motion picture. All of these media of communication make stereotypes and create attitudes as well as does rubbing shoulders on a job. Our principal negro comedians are not negroes at all. At first they were Irish-Americans; today they are largely Jews. For a long time, until the recent fad for "Negro Culture" began, we seldom if ever saw a real negro on the vaudeville stage. The funny negro yarns and the queer antics were made by burnt-cork artists who created and reflected our stereotypes of the indolent, humorous, ignorant, and happy-go-lucky negro, all smiles and songs.

In another way, the motion picture enhanced certain antagonistic attitudes toward the negroes. We can not estimate the effect which Griffith's famous screen version of Dixon's The Klansman may have had. It is highly probable that people of the North who had, at best, vague notions about negroes, then for the first time got definite images of negro crimes and felt the need of violent methods to keep these people in leash.

Yet even these stereotypes were not emotionally intense so long as the negro remained outside the Northerner's every-day world of work and play. When in answer to a call for cheap labor the negro came in great numbers into our industrial districts, social relations began to change. The factors behind the race riots of 1919 in Chicago are typical. Such incipient conflicts had gone on elsewhere, but without violent outbreaks. The report of the Chicago Commission on Race Relations entitled The Negro in Chicago (1922) presents in detail the social, economic, and psychological factors which produced the conflict.

Friction began when thousands of negroes from the South came to the

( 473) North, especially to Chicago, to work in industries. This led to serious housing problems. The inevitable expansion of the blacks into areas previously occupied by the whites brought difficulties. The mingling of whites and blacks in the industrial plants led to further friction. Finally the negro bloc in politics became so significant that the negro was exploited by various political factions. Thus housing problems, labor conflicts, and the introduction of the negro into local politics made possible the outbreak of hostilities over a trivial affair. "Expectant" attitudes were built up which were set off and came into action at the thought of further usurpation by the blacks of assumed white privileges.

Other cities had minor conflicts. In Detroit a race-riot over the Dr. Sweet case was narrowly averted. Threats of violence forced the negroes to leave a number of industrial towns. Thus the dominant factor in the Northern negro problem is probably economic. The barring of the negro from trade unions is typical. The liberalism of organized labor disappears when its white solidarity is threatened. This is but an evidence of the more fundamental in-group loyalties which determine even economic policies. The reaction to current negro problems of persons who do not know much about the negro from direct contact is illustrated by the following letter sent the New York Nation from California:

Sir:— I do not think a pro-Nigger magazine like The Nation is fit to be read by young people. The Niggers have entirely too much to say, and when we see Niggers appointed by the Federal Government to boss hundreds of white girls, I don't think The Nation needs to cry over their fate. This is a white man's country and must be run by white men.

It is my intention to drop The Nation when my subscription expires. The first thing I know it will turn Pro-Jap?[10]

The entire problem of negro-white prejudice is, of course, intimately related to the traditional white attitudes of superiority. It grows out of the in-group— out-group relations inevitable in the social process. The dissolution of such prejudices is complicated in the case of the negro by the fact that these prejudices are deep in our Anglo-American culture patterns. Built upon these are the vivid and recent experiences of both South and North with the negroes who do not yet possess a culture as high as that of the whites. o se, all of the rationalizations covered by our stereotypes, myths and legends, are exaggerated by pseudo-scientific discussions of

( 474) racial inferiority, when in plain fact our data are as yet terrifically incomplete. Though the reports from intelligence tests seem to indicate that negroes are inferior to whites in performance on the tests themselves, the fact is that no adequate techniques have been developed for measuring the subtle influences of early personal-social conditioning and exposure to inferior cultural environment. Moreover, the whole significance of emotional conditioning must be taken into account. In those investigations in which the groups seem fairly equal in background, the overlapping is enormous even when the whites are slightly superior on the average. This means that the great bulk of the two races, even when measured by the white man's tests, coincide in intellectual ability. It is unfortunate that many intelligent people use results of intelligence tests to support their prejudices.[11]

Before we conclude this section we should point out that there are areas where the whites and blacks get along very well together. Race conflict seems to depend upon economic competition and cultural notions about superiority and inferiority. In South Africa race friction is increasing. In Jamaica, in some of the other West Indies, and elsewhere the accommodation of race to race has been worked out fairly well. We find little prejudice against the black in continental Europe. Again this can not be entirely due to lack of contact. In France there seems to be little or no prejudice even though during the World War both American and African blacks were quartered in French towns and villages everywhere. In England, on the other hand, there is much color prejudice in spite of no direct contacts. The following results of a verbal questionnaire made over rather wide areas of France and England are interesting.

When the data obtained from France and England are compared the contrast existing between the color prejudice of these two peoples can not be doubted.

It would seem justifiable to conclude that relative to the English the French lack color antipathy. However, when discussing attitudes such as color prejudice, it must be borne in mind that any distinction of attitudes between individuals tends to be quantitative rather than qualitative. Thus it follows that in the table below the effort to segregate and classify people into one of three groups on a basis of their color prejudice is entirely artificial because of the qual-

( 475) -itative nature of such classification. Within any white group there are, of course continuous quantitative degrees between the extremes of those whites who are violently prejudiced against colored people and of those who are more or less prejudiced in favor of the dark skinned peoples. Somewhere in between then extremes will be a neutral zone in which prejudice or bias does not exist. There fore, any general conclusion regarding group prejudice must be based upon recognition of the quantitative nature of such phenomena. Thus in making the statement that, relative to the English, the French lack color antipathy it is no intended to lump the varying individuals of a nation or to abstract the "average' attitude. It is simply a convenient way to suggest the conclusion that if the attitudes of all the French people could be classified and reduced to a curve of distribution that curve would be skewed towards the "color acceptance" end, while on the other hand, a similar curve for the English would be skewed towards the opposite, or violent prejudice, end. Whether the French people would accept a negro of comparable culture on a basis of absolute equality in all social relationships it is impossible to determine. The writer believes, however, that it such contacts the determining factor would be personality and not color difference.

Table 15: Showing Comparative Color Prejudice in France and England
Total Number of
France 360 279 72   9
England 315 14 47   254
Number o f Hotels
Admit Colored
  Do not
Admit Colored
France 31 24   7
England 20 4   16

The above conclusion has been arrived at by a much less involved and far more vital method by an American negro. This man, formerly an American soldier, was living in a small French village with a white wife and three children. He appeared to have been absorbed into the local culture and, although evidently enjoying the. opportunity of speaking English, scoffed at the suggestion of his returning to America. His attitude can best be summed up by his reply to that suggestion. "Boy," he said, "over here I's a man, over there I's a nigger." [12]


To explain this divergence the writer goes on to say that whereas the French have had direct experience with colored people, the English scarcely know any negroes and have had only slight contacts with Hindoos. However, the strong color prejudice of the Englishman lumps negro and Hindoo into one category. This stereotype is probably derived from a long tradition of British wars with colored peoples. It grows out of myths and folktales of Africans and Orientals, and it has carried over into the attitudes of the every-day Britisher. Some writers commenting on this aversion of British and American peoples to colored races have gone so far as to posit a definite instinct of race prejudice in the so-called Anglo-Saxon race, and they explain Latin racial tolerance by saying that as the Latin is dark-skinned, he is himself racially nearer the negro. Such fantastic thought can have no standing in any respectable scientific circles. It is merely a typical attempt to explain complex social psychological data by resorting to biological mysticism. Doubtless the solution of the problem will be found in the deeper strata of our culture patterns rather than anywhere else.


A. Further Reading: Source Book for Social Psychology, Chapters XVIII, pp. 482-502; and XIX, Section A, pp. 505-28.

B. Questions and Exercises.

1. Discuss questions and exercises for assignment in Source Book, Chapters XVIII, p. 502, and XIX, nos. 1-9, pp. 538-39

2. How do culture patterns influence the rise of prejudice? Illustrate.

3. What place has competition in the development and maintenance of prejudice?

4. Does prejudice exist only where divergent races, classes or religions come into close contact?

C. Topics for Class Reports and Longer Written Papers.

1. See assignments for reports and longer papers in Source Book, Chapter XVIII, p. 503, and XIX, p. 539.

2. Report on Lasker, Race Attitudes in Children (appropriate sections).

3. Report on White, Rope and Faggot, A Biography of Judge Lynch, on lynching in the United States today.

4. The history of lynching in the United States.

5. The ecology of lynching in the United States. (Cf. E. F. Young, "The Relation of Lynching to the Size of Political Areas," Sociology and Social Research, 1928, vol. XII, pp. 348-53.) Concentration of population, type of

(477) farming, land values, education, etc., should be correlated with. lynching rate.

6. A critical analysis of the statistical studies of mental measurement made of negro students and negro draftees in World War. (Cf. Garth, "Race Psychology," Psychological Bulletin, 1925, vol. XXII, pp. 343-64 for references. Also, Willey and Herskovits, "Psychology and Culture," Psychological Bulletin, 1927, vol. XXIV, pp. 253-83 for references on anthropological side of race differences and culture.)


  1. The Latin word prejudicum meant a precedent, or a preceding judgment; also a special form of judicial examination precedent to a trial, especially in matters regarding status. Cf. Encyclopedia Britannica, 11th ed., Vol. XXII, p. 277.
  2. Quoted by W. I. Thomas, "Psychology of Race Prejudice," American Journal of Sociology 1903-04, vol. IX. p. 608.
  3. From Introduction to the Science of Sociology, by R. E. Park and E. W. Burgess, p. 230. Copyright by the University of Chicago, 1921.
  4. R. E. Park, "Racial Assimilation in Secondary Groups," in Publications of the American Sociological Society, 1913, VIII, quoted in Introduction to the Science of Sociology, by Park and Burgess, p. 630. Copyright by the University of Chicago, 1921.
  5. From Up From Slavery, pp. 81, 122, copyright 1901 by Booker T. Washington and reprinted by special permission of the publishers, Doubleday, Doran and Company, Inc.
  6. From R. E. Park, "Racial Assimilation in Secondary Groups," in Publications of the American Sociological Society, 1913, VIII, reprinted in Introduction to the Science of Sociology, by Park and Burgess, p. 626. Copyright by the University of Chicago, 1922.
  7. Cf. A. Locke, The New Negro, 1925, as an example of recent negro advances.
  8. Cf. E. F. Young, "The Relation of Lynching to the Size of Political Areas," Sociology and Social Research, 1928, vol. XII, pp. 348-53.
  9. W. S. Turner, "The Negro and the Changing South," Social Forces, 1928, vol. VII, pp. 117, 118.
  10. Correspondence in The Nation, 1923, vol. CXVI, p. 72.
  11. We do not say that the races are equal in every respect. We ought to take account of possible temperamental and emotional differences as well as intellectual ones; and caution is always necessary. In any case the overlapping is great; and in social advancement, cultural exposure is so important that it is hard to predict advancement in terms of I. Q. alone.
  12. R. T. Lapiere, "Race Prejudice: France and England," Social Forces, 1928, vol. VII, pp. 107-08.

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