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RACIAL DIVERSITIES AND SOCIAL PROGRESS
Julius Drachsler, Assistant Professor, Economics and Sociology,
The story of mankind is one, but we like to think of it as divided into periods, or eras, or ages. We speak of the prehistoric period, for the dark ages, or the era of machine industry. Now it is the presence or absence of written records, now the status of the arts and sciences, and now the dominant note in the economic life of humanity that serves as a basis for artificially dividing the ceaseless flow of universal history.
Think with me of the story of mankind as divided into two great epochs, the epoch of isolation and the epoch of mobility and contact. To be sure, human groups have always, since the rise of man, been wandering over the face of the earth. There has always been relative mobility and contact. But it was not until the beginning of what modern historians have come to call the commercial revolution, at the end of the fifteenth and the beginning of the sixteenth centuries, that the peoples of Western civilization, at least, began to move on a scale unprecedented in history. New lands, new treasures, new opportunities for trade lured them from their isolated life into cities and across the seas.
Now the distinctive net result of the epoch of isolation I shall describe as the fixaion of culture or civilization. The life of each group, no doubt, affected by outside influences (for there are no pure cultures or civilizations as there are no pure races grew relatively fixed, relatively rigid. With this developed an intense emotional attachment on the part of the individual to his own culture or civilization. The distinctive feature of the epoch of mobility and contact is that peoples or fragments of peoples with relatively fixed cultures begin to be thrown against each other. Today it is a world-wide movement growing and irresistible.
Modern America is the most dramatic product of the epoch of mobility and contact. Strange folk from all climes and all lands are gathered here, jostling one another, now good-naturedly, now with the fierceness of their animal ancestors. What is to be the future of this novel and gigantic human conglomeration? And what shall the experience of America mean to the rest of the world?
What is the answer to this momentous question and where is that answer to be sought? The race problem is the despair of social science. It is shot through with passion and bias, the spiritual remnants of the epoch of isolation; it suffers from a dangerous lack of tested facts; it is infested with dogmatic opinions; it is the victim of jugglery and confusion of terms. Can anyone think of a more effective combination of hindrances to the solution of a human problem? And yet we must face it. It will not down. Bias must be met by calm reason; absence of facts must yield to real knowledge; vague terminology must be banished and clear-cut ideas substituted. It is either this or chaos-chaos in thought and in action.
Now no one who faces the matter frankly denies the fact of diversity among individuals and groups, or the fact of their growing mobility and contact in modern life. It is when we begin to ask which diversities or differences are significant, and what our attitude toward greater contact is to be that opinions and judgments clash. There are obvious differences, for example, of physical appearance, of manner of behavior, of cultural inheritances between the Chinaman, the Central African Negro and the North European white man. But because there are these differences on the surface, we must
not infer that they are necessarily the expression of deep-rooted and ineradicable differences in native capacity or ability, and we must not necessarily draw the tempting conclusion that the greater the divergence from the white type, the nearer to the lower or animal type. For in some physical characteristics, such as the larger size of the brain, the small face, and high nose, the European race is farther removed, in other characteristics like the degree of hairiness, it is nearer to the probable animal ancestor of man, than other races. The few investigations that have been made of the relation between size and shape of head and intelligence, notably by Karl Pearson and by Manouvrier, have been altogether negative. Intelligence does not seem to depend upon size or shape of the head. There are big heads with little intelligence and little heads with big intelligence. Nor does there seem to be a very close relation between size of brain and intelligence. One investigator found the cranial capacity of a group of eminent men well above the average, but he also found the cranial capacity of a group of murderers well above the average. It is possible that the smaller brain of other races may do the same work as the larger brain of the white race. Even between the size of the brain and the number of cells and fibers in the brain the correlation is weak. There are, then, diversities among individuals of various races, of size and shape of head, of stature and weight, of color of hair, pigmentation, etc., but these do not necessarily indicate inferiority or superiority.
Modern anthropological science has cast strong doubt even upon the oft-repeated assertion that the so-called simpler or primitive peoples, like the Australians, the Eskimos, the Indians, are inferior in native capacity to the more civilized peoples. Primitive man is not incapable of self-control, nor of a high degree of sustained attention; nor does he lack the power of original thought. The difference seems to lie rather in the occasions on which his group expects him to show self-control, in the different things and activities on which his social setting prompts him to concentrate his attention, and on the degree of originality permitted within the group.
Nor can we condemn whole races on the basis of eugenic standards. As Professor Boas of Columbia University recently wrote: "If the task of the eugenist were the selection of that third of humanity representing the best strains, he would find his material among all European and Asiatic types and very probably among all races of man; and all would contribute to the less valuable two-thirds."
If, then, diversity in physical characteristics is not significant, and diversity in mental characteristics is not as glaring as a superficial and uncritical judgment would lead us to believe, what of the cultural or civilizational diversities? For here again no one would deny that they exist. The social inheritance of the Bushman or of the Plains Indian is certainly different from that of the medieval European or the twentiethcentury white American. The difference between these groups would seem to be rather a difference of richness and breadth and inclusiveness of their social tradition, or civilizational background. It is the difference between a culturally starved group and one that is the fortunate inheritor of a treasure-house of civilization. It is, to use the language of the sociologist, a difference in the degree of social evolution and social progress.
Now these last two phrases need careful definition. Much of the confusion in the discussion of the larger problems of social science and in the present discussion would disappear if the underlying ideas in these two phrases were made clear. It is not because of a love for mere verbal quibbling that modern sociologists are coming to draw
a distinction between social evolution and social progress, and even attempt, as one Italian sociologist did in a recent work, to measure civilization and progress in quantitative terms. Let me indicate briefly the direction in which this distinction is developing. Social evolution is social change. Social progress is a species of social change, the kind of social change that makes for individual and group welfare. But this is still too general. What are the distinctive features of social change and social progress? The introduction of the factory system of production was a phase of social evolution, but was it necessarily a step in the direction of social progress? The Great War resulted in social change, but did it result in social progress?
Now whatever else social change may connote, it indicates an increase or decrease in the understanding and control of natural forces, an increase or decrease in the degree to which the individual is permitted and encouraged to give expression to his creative or innovating impulses, and a readjustment or a shifting in the relations between individuals within the group and between one group and another. Mastery of nature, liberation of the creative impulses of the individual, readjustment of social relations, are then the essential earmarks of social change or evolution. What kind of social change is social progress? If the shifting or the readjustment of social relations results in more, rather than in less, harmonious relations, if reason rather than force becomes the arbiter in social friction, if the liberation of some individuals makes for the freedom of greater and greater numbers of individuals, and if the mastery of nature makes for both individual liberation and harmonious social life, rather than for the enslavement of the individual and strife and bloodshed among groups, then, and only then, does social change spell social progress. If you will apply these tests to the social changes that have occurred during the last 150 years in Western civilization, you will, I am sure, conclude that it has not all been unadulterated social progress. There has been progress in one respect and lamentable retrogression in another. Social progress, in other words, has been very uneven and very unsteady.
Now this distinction between social evolution and social progress should help us in our discussion of the racial problem. The contact of peoples and races makes for social change; does it necessarily make for social progress? As we enter more and more upon the epoch of mobility, due to the revolution in means of communication, we should expect more and more social change rather than less. Should we expect more and more social progress?
In the Romanes lecture of 1902, delivered in the Sheldonian Theater at Oxford University, on the subject of "The Relations of the Advanced and the Backward Races of Mankind," James Bryce, in his usual scholarly way, reviews the possible results that may come from the contact of peoples and races. I shall summarize them as extinction, amalgamation, and accommodation. Illustrations of the first are the extinction of the Indians of the Greater Antilles under Spanish rule, the wholesale dying off of Hottentots as a result of smallpox, of the Fijian Islanders of measles, of the dying out of the Hawaians, of the aborigines of Tasmania, and others.
The social history of Europe offers numerous examples of the second process, amalgamation. In the population of Spain are represented Iberians, Phoenicians, Greeks, Celts, Teutons, Moors, and Jews. The English are a mixture of a pre-historic, long-headed race and Romans, Teutons, Normans. The Slavs who invaded ancient Hellas about the eighth century B.C. have become Greeks; to the Balkan populations have been added Finns and other peoples. Even in Sweden, although mainly among
the nobility, there are descendants of natives from many parts of Europe. In our own time, the United States presents a striking illustration of the process of amalgamation. Europeans (North, Central, and South), Negroes, Mexicans, Chinese and Japanese, Indians, are going into the making of the American nation.
It also presents examples of the third process, that of accommodation, or contact without a high degree of amalgamation (though sometimes a high degree of social assimilation) as in the case of the Negroes, the Jews, and the Japanese. The English in India and British South Africa, the French in Algeria and others might also be cited here.
All of these three processes make for social change. Do they make for social progress? As to extinction, we can hardly apply the term social progress as used here. Now whether amalgamation results in social progress has been one of the most heatedly discussed questions in the whole realm of anthropological science. Does amalgamation make for individual creativeness and for social harmony? Or, does it make for individual deterioration and-social strife?
Students of race problems seem to be hopelessly divided on this point. This appears clearly in the conflicting opinions of American scholars as to the probable future of the people of the United States. Prophecies range from racial degeneration to racial rejuvenation. Ross's fears and Conklin's misgivings are balanced by Boas' reassurance and Pearl's sobering promise. The truth, however, is that neither one side nor the other has incontrovertible proof. Perhaps it can never be given in such a complex question. The alarmists' views of amalgamation in America are based largely on inflated interpretations of exceedingly slender data. Their opponents rest their case largely on analogical reasoning from animal experiments and from comparisons with a somewhat similar process that has gone on in Europe for centuries, which they insist has not resulted in racial degeneration. Practically no studies of any consequence, based on a direct examination of the biological and psychological results of race amalgamation in this country, have yet been made.
And does accommodation necessarily make for social progress? May it not make for outward harmony, to be sure, but latent hostility; for grudging sufferance, rather than generous toleration ?
If now we must honestly admit that social science has as yet no satisfactory answer to the problem of race relations, but needs to carry on much more extended researches over relatively long periods of time, what becomes of our desire to formulate an intelligent, scientific, and at the same time a humane public policy? Shall we wait until the social scientists do come to acceptable conclusions ?
I fear we cannot postpone the inauguration of a public policy, in reference to race relations that will make for social progress in America and throughout the world, simply because scientists are quarreling and have not as yet given us a complete answer. The problem is too severely practical. It is upon us. We must utilize whatever residue of fact we possess and work with that. Fortunately some of the facts with regard to racial diversities are clear, as shown before. For the rest, we must vigorously push research into ethnic problems and incorporate its results as fast as they are well established.
But in the meantime, what of the immediate situation? We stand before a number of alternatives, each of which it behooves us to weigh gravely. There is the policy of drifting, the policy of race domination and race antagonism, and the policy of race harmonization.
Neither the first nor the second is acceptable. Drifting in the face of growing difficulties at home and abroad is not only intellectually cowardly, but dangerous. We dare not drift any longer. Nor is preaching a philosophy of race domination and race antagonism likely to help. Look at Europe, burned to the ground, consumed by the flames of its own national hatreds! From the arrogant attempt of Austria to coerce Serbia into an ignominious surrender of her sovereignty, the fateful antecedents of the war can be traced back, step by step, until the roots of the great conflict are discovered in national policies of coercion, cultural and economic. It would seem that the experience of Germany with Alsace-Lorraine and East Prussia, of Russian Czardom with Poles, Jews, and Finns, of the Ottoman Turks with Armenia, of the Hapsburgs with Slovak, Hungarian, Rumanian, and Croatian, would be a solemn warning to America that compulsion breeds stubbornness and that stubbornness contains the seeds of hatred and of conflict. The only other alternative is the policy of race harmonization upon a basis of mutual understanding and mutual helpfulness. A philosophy of race domination makes against social progress, a philosophy of race harmonization makes for it.
But admitting that the latter is the only socially desirable policy, we must still face the question: Can it be realized and if so, through what methods? Are not race bias and group antagonism so deeply rooted in human nature that they will not yield to conscious social control? Shall we accept as scientific truth the contention of the famous Austrian sociologist, Gumplowitz, who in his work Der Rossenkampf (The Struggle of Races) raises race conflict to the plane of an unchangeable, eternal law of nature and of history? An adequate answer to these questions leads straight to the heart of the deepest and most complex problems of social science and social philosophy. For, in the last analysis, it is the answer to the question: Is social progress spontaneous or is it planned, willed, controllable? Does social progress come of itself without deliberate effort, or does it come only where it is purposefully sought and planned for?
Here again the scholars are divided. Philosophers like Hume and Ferguson, sociologists like Spencer and Sumner, are ranged against thinkers like Dewey and Hobhouse. But the conflict of opinion on this most fundamental question in social science is slowly being resolved, as we define social progress more accurately, and as we come to understand the true nature of race prejudice. Social psychology is beginning to throw light upon the latter. An illuminating hint comes from the ingenious experiments of the Russian physiologist Pavlow, who has studied what is known as the "conditioned reflex." In one instance he experimented with a dog into whose mouth he introduced an irritating substance which caused a profuse flow of saliva. Simultaneously with the introduction of the irritant he rang a bell. This was repeated over a period of time. After a while the bell was rung without the substance being introduced into the mouth, and the sound of the bell alone caused the flow of the saliva. The dog learned to react to an artificial stimulus. His reflex act was modified, "conditioned," as the psychologist would say. The reflex act was linked to a stimulus other than the natural stimulus.
To me the experiment is extremely suggestive. Race bias is largely, if not wholly, socially "conditioned." Antagonistic reactions of one race or ethnic group to another are the result largely of a certain type of training and social tradition. Change the training early enough, purify the tradition thoroughly enough and the antagonism will very largely, if not wholly, disappear. If Pavlow's canine can learn to modify such a relatively rigid, mechanical, and invariable type of behavior as a reflex act, certainly