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Race Prejudice; Its Causes and Its Cure

The prejudice against the Negro, in which is involved the race problem of the United States, grew out of the accumulation of differences between the two sharply defined types of mankind which the institution of slavery brought together. They differed physically. The one had constituted for poets and sculptors the ideal of beauty and grace; the other was rude and unpolished in form and feature. The one possessed the arts of civilization and the learning of the schools, the other, at most, the simple speech and rude handicrafts of his native tribe, and no written language at all. The one was Christian, the other heathen. The one was master of the soil; the other frankly alien and himself the object of ownership. This accumulation of superficial differences brought into play an antagonism measured by the sum of that due to each. There was the contempt of the instructed for the ignorant, of the fair and comely for the black and homely, of the master for the slave, of the native for the foreigner, of the citizen for the alien, of the one who spoke a language fluently for one who spoke it brokenly or not at all. Such was the combination of differences with their resulting antagonism which the Negro had to face in the long struggle for equality stretching through the centuries in front of him.

These were the causes of race antagonism. Where lies the remedy? It lies in the removal of the antagonisms by the removal of the causes which gave rise to them. The instinct of antagonism will disappear as the characteristics that called it into play are modified: in other words, as the structure was built up beam by beam, stone by stone, so it must be torn down stone by stone, beam by beam. There is no magic wand which can be waved to make it vanish.

If this doctrine be correct, it should be borne out by a retrospect of history. Passing over 250 years of colonial and national development, to what extent had these differences been modified at the period just before the civil war? In language the Negroes were one with the whites, and there was no longer any barrier of alien speech between them.. The heathen religion had disappeared, the relation of master and slave was still the rule, although there were many free people of color. The one was citizen and the other, if not alien, was still not a citizen, and had no rights which the other held himself bound to respect. The physical characteristics had been greatly though not uniformly modified. A constant infusion of white blood, permitted by the customs of slavery, had left its impress upon the black race. The two races had thus been brought closer together at many points, and the antagonism was essentially less than at any earlier period.

The civil war removed others of these differences; all men were now alike free; all were voters, and therefore theoretically equal citizens. Thus radically were swept away several of the barriers which separated these two peoples. But the white were still relatively rich and instructed, the black poor and ignorant. The control of the social organism, the habit of command, has been made upon which we may justly congratulate ourselves. But let us not deceive ourselves. Much more remains to be done. The census shows that we have reduced our illiteracy over 50 percent. But what does that mean? By the census definition it merely means that 52 percent of the Colored people have stated to the census enumerator that they can read and write. By the census 88 percent of the southern white are returned as literate. But does that mean that the 52 percent of the Colored as well educated as the 88 percent of the whites? I think we would not claim it. There are 15,528 colored clergymen as compared with 94, 437 whites. What is their relative degree of education, morality and zeal for the cure of souls? This and not their number, is the real test of their influence. By the census we have a large number of business men., but in the census statistics, the grocer with a $200 stock counts as much as the grocer with a $200,000 stock. The census figures show many white children and so many Colored children in attendance at the public schools, and it is easy to stop upon these figures and overlook the fact that in some places the white schools are open ten months and the Colored but ten weeks. To close this gap so as to compete with the whites in social efficiency or value to the community, the Colored people must be relatively as well educated, their teachers of relatively as high a grade, their schools open as many days in the year, their grocers have relatively as large stocks, their banks relatively as large capital and volume of transactions. The mere raising of percentages in quantity without a corresponding advance in quality does not by any means eliminate the difference. Whatever can be done by organization or by individual effort to dignify labor, to make it more efficient and thereby to increase its rewards is an advantage to our people, and whoever helps this cause forward is their benefactor. We should not permit ourselves in our impatience of results, in our resentment of well known wrongs to forget the philanthropy which has given so fully and freely both of money and lives toward the education of the Negro in the South.

The standing controversy with reference to the kind of education which the colored people in their present condition need most, recalls to one's mind the old story of the shield which hung across the roadway in front of a castle which two knights in armor were approaching from different directions. One maintained that it was gold and the other that it was silver. After the fashion of their age they set their lances and fought for their opinions until they were unhorsed, and when they were carried into the castle to have their wounds dressed they discovered that both were right-one side of the shield was gold and the other silver. Our old ideas of education were based purely upon intellectual training, with a dash of morality and religion. but in this modern day the definition of education has been enlarged to take in a wider training for social usefulness. The great mass of men have always earned, must always earn their living by the labor of their hands, and that these hands should be trained in schools is a vital necessity for any people who by the decline of the apprenticeship system, the selfishness of labor unions and a prejudice which limits their opportunities, are compelled to compete with those possessing greater advantages. Will any one pretend to say that this necessity among our people has been fully met or more than merely begun upon? An institution like Hampton or Tuskegee in every Southern state for another generation would not meet the need of the Negro for training in the practical arts of life.

But the need of the higher education is equally important, not for so many perhaps, but certainly for a great many more than have enjoyed it. There are living and have died in the United States since the Civil war at least 15,000,000 Colored people. They had about 2500 liberally educated Colored men and women as leaders, one to six thousand. There are towns in the United States where there is one saloon to every 30 or 40 Poverty is still a characteristic of the Negro, which must cease to be a race trait before the prejudice is eliminated. Statistics show that Colored men own in whole out of a total of 5,739,657 farms in the United States, or one farm in 31. If we stop there, this would not be a bad showing, but pursuing our investigation we find that these Negro farms contain but 15,827,000 acres out of a total farm acreage of 841,201,000, or only one acre in 53, and that the value of these farms owned by them is reported at $1777,915,000 out of a total farm value in the United States of $20,439,906,-000, or $1.00 in $133. To bring the Colored farmer to economic equity with the white farmer he must own one farm in every eight, instead of one in every 31, These farms must contain one acre in every eight instead of one in 53., and these farms must be worth one-eighth of the entire farm valuation instead of 1-133. We are loosely credited with property to the value of three to four hundred million dollars. It is a very respectable sum, and would make half a dozen white men fairly well to do; it would make one white man very rich. There are several families in New York who could buy out the whole Colored race and have money to spare. The aggregate wealth of the nation in 1900 was given by the bureau of statistics as $94,300,-000,000; they have the $94,000,000,000. We have the $300,000,000; dividing it up, we are worth an average of $3 apiece; they are worth an average of $1446 apiece. I need not argue that before the Negro shall have attained financial equality-with the white, he must possess one dollar in every eight instead of one in every three hundred.

The disparity of civil and political rights must be removed; our constitution must be respected and our laws made to conform to it. I believe in manhood suffrage, that in some way-and what other way is possible except by the ballot?-every sane man, not in prison, who contributes by his labor to the wealth of the community, should have a voice in selection of those who make and administer the laws. But if there is any restriction upon the suffrage, it should apply to all men alike. I have sometimes thought, however, that some qualification of character or education might be not unwisely, required for holding office. The progressive debasement of state and municipal legislatures suggests that in some way a higher standard must be sought.

But whatever men's rights are fixed Why should we wish to perpetuate this disastrous difference between us and our fellow citizens? Every other people who come to this country seek to lose their separate identity as soon as possible, and to become Americans with no distinguishing mark. For a generation they have their ghettoes, their residence quarters, their churches, their social clubs. For another generation they may still retain a sentimental interest in these things. in the third generation they are all Americans, seldom speak of their foreign descent and often modify their names so that they will not suggest it. They enter fully and completely, if they are capable and worthy , into the life of this republic. Are we to help the white people to build up walls between themselves and us to fence in a gloomy back yard for out descendants to play in? This nation, with the war amendments, threw that theory overboard when it established the equality of all men before the law. The northern states have long since repudiated it, when they abolished discriminating laws and threw open the public schools to all alike, and if it still lingers among us it is due to that inertia of which I have spoken, which makes it difficult to change deep-rooted social questions. The southern states in attempting to perpetuate the color line, are trying to do the impossible, and I for one do not wish to encourage them for one moment by accepting their views any further than they can compel their acceptance by force. Race prejudice will not perhaps entirely disappear until the difference of color shall have disappeared, or at least until all of us, white and Colored, shall have resolutely shut our eyes to those differences and shall have learned to judge men by other standards. I ask you to dismiss from your mind any theory, however cherished, that there can be built up in a free country, under equal laws, two separate sorts of civilization, two standards of human development. I not only believe that the mixture of races will in time become an accomplished fact, but that it will be a good thing for all concerned. It is already well forward and events seem to be paving the way to embrace the Negro in the general process by which all the races of mankind are being fused together here into one people. Millions of foreigners, much nearer the Negro in some respects than our native whites, are pouring into the country. Perhaps in the economy of divine Providence, they may help to solve our problems by furnishing a bridge with which to span the race chasm. this is not a matter with which we of this generation need greatly concern ourselves, except for the principle involved. It is not left for us to say whether it shall take place or not, and it is not likely to affect any of us. But that in the long run it will come to pass, is, I think, the lesson of history and the conclusion of sound logic. I hope the prejudice may disappear long before that distant period, but I am quite sure it will disappear when there is no longer anything for it to feed upon. I wish I had time to quote in this connection some recent utterances on this subject, from the pen of a former governor of the island of Jamaica, who has lived for 20 years in that community, where the black population has outnumbered the whites by 40 to one, and where the doctrine of the equality of all men before the law has been faithfully and consistently worked out to form a contented, happy and progressive community. I quote a few words: "the color line is not a rational line, the logic neither of words nor facts will uphold it. If adopted it infallibly aggravates the virus of the color problem. The more it is ignored and forgotten, the more is that virus attenuated. The Negro in Jamaica has thus far been raised, and a freedom of civic mixture between the races has been made tolerable by the continuous application of the doctrine of humanity and equality, and equal claim of the black with white to share, according to personal capacity and development, in all the inheritances of humanity. My comparison of conditions in the Republic and in the West Indies has brought me to the conviction that no solution of color difficulties can be found except by resolutely turning the back to the color line and race differentiation theory.

And now to close, may I venture a prophecy? There are many who see the world through smoked glasses, and who view this problem of race solely from the pessimistic point of view, I think for my own part that it is in a healthy process of solution, which by sticking closely to correct principles and by acting upon them when the opportunity offers, we can help to further. Looking down the vista of time I see an epoch in our nation's history, not in my time or yours, but in the not distant future, when there shall be in the United States but one people, moulded by the same culture, swayed by the same patriotic ideals, holding their citizenship in such high esteem that for another to share it is of itself to entitle him to fraternal regard; when men will be esteemed and honored for their character and talents. When hand in hand and heart with heart all the people of this nation will join to preserve to all and to each of them for all future time that ideal of human liberty which the fathers of the republic set out in the declaration of independence, which declared that all men are created equal, the ideal for which Garrison and Phillips and Sumner lived and worked; the ideal for which Lincoln died, the ideal embodied in the words of the Book which the slave mother learned by stealth to read, with slow-moving finger and faltering speech, and which I fear that some of us have forgotten to read at all-the Book which declares that "God is so respector of persons, and that of one blood hath he made all the nations of the earth."