Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

much about it. The displacement of the Negro by the Mexican on railroad construction is proceeding at a rapid pace.

But the thing that is of greatest significance is not the casual Mexican, but the sedentary Mexican. When he settles down and decides to become a part of the American community, then he presents a most serious difficulty.

America has no technique for handling colored, or partly colored, persons as anything but a subordinated or isolated group. In Texas, where the Negro is such an integral element of our population, the usual southern view prevails. The Mexican presents shades of color ranging from that of the Negro, although with no Negro features, to that of the white. The result is confusion. A Mexican girl enters a street car and sits down among the whites, and the conductor tells her to sit among the Negroes. She refuses on the ground that she is "no nigger." A Mexican worker on a city job where both Negroes and white men are employed refuses to drink out of the Negro drinking cup, and the foreman beats him up. A party made up of the Mexican consul and his suite reach a small town for a celebration. After the celebration they adjourn to a restaurant to eat, and the restaurant keeper refuses to serve them in the dining-room, but offers to serve them in the kitchen. In a rural community some of the Mexicans refuse to send their children to the special Mexican school when they are not permitted to send them to the American school. In the main, the Mexican has been keeping to himself, but as he begins to share more and more in the occupations and activities of his American neighbor, even though in a subordinate capacity, the situation is becoming strained. The theory that the Mexican is a white man is receiving its acid test. At the same time we have a curious loss of perspective in the contact between the races. An American schoolgirl was scolded by her teacher for having been seen riding in an automobile with her arms around two boys. She replied in an offhand way, "Oh, well, they were only Mexicans!"

Yet gradually and inevitably the Mexicans in Texas are settling down to become a permanent part of the community. The process is visibly beginning, even with the semi-nomadic peons. Many of them buy property in San Antonio, little houses or huts which they close while they are away working and return to occupy when the slack season has set in. Some of them buy small plots of land on which they erect houses as good as they can afford. Others, in rather large numbers, are falling in with the American idea of home owning, and real estate companies are doing a flourishing business in opening up Mexican additions in the new parts of town. The further tendency on the part of the Mexicans is to come with their families, leave them in San Antonio, go to Michigan or Mississippi to work, and return to them when work is over. Others take their families with them, and return to put the children in school as soon as they can. They show a decided interest in the schooling of their offspring, in some instances amounting to a passion. The children themselves are almost addicted to it.

Voluntary truancy is quite unknown. The cause which makes for truancy is usually the poverty of the parents who cannot afford to supply the children with the necessary clothing for a decent appearance, or with money to buy school supplies. Yet this interest in schooling gives way as soon as the child is able to add to the family income. The Mexicans do not exploit their children, but they cannot see any use for more than a little education when the making of a living is so hard. School teachers seldom complain of the Mexican child. He is usually obedient and appreciative, with a tendency to show extreme devotion to the teachers.

In point of intellectual outfit the Mexican child presents a serious problem in the age of distribution. He usually ranks lower in grade and higher in age than the American child. Yet a very interesting conclusion was reached by mental tests carried on in connection with the recent school survey of Texas. Investigators found that the city Mexican ranks higher than the rural American, although he ranks lower than the urban American. The rural Mexican ranks below the rural American. It is also interesting to note that the Mexican does better in non-verbal than in verbal tests. All this leads one to look for a greater influence of psycho-environmental causes than is usually the case. The inability to speak or understand English adequately, irregular attendance due to casual labor conditions, and a general timidity in meeting the American school environment may have something to do with it.

In matters of health the Mexican presents a serious problem. Tuberculosis, syphilis, and genito-urinary diseases take an exceedingly heavy toll. Of course, the terrific overcrowding has something to do with it. Also the exceeding sensitiveness to cold of the Mexican, and his insufficient and unwise clothing. Apparently he comes with a predisposition for tuberculosis, to judge by the mortality in Mexico City from that cause. Gastro-intestinal diseases play a greater rôle in Mexico than they do here, probably because of the better feeding here than in Mexico. An addiction to meat and coffee are the chief changes in his dietary habits. In the summer time in San Antonio there is a great increase of gastro-intestinal diseases among children, owing to the consumption of spoiled milk, since most Mexican homes have no refrigeration facilities.

Family life shows strong patriarchal traits. The family ritual, particularly in the care of girls, is just as strong in the peon class as it is among the upper or middle classes. Yet the physicians with whom I have talked complain of a very large number of illegitimate births, and the court records show echoes of that situation. This is probably the result of a strict family code with a rapid substitution of a city environment for a village environment and a large number of unmarried men taken from their family moorings in search of work. Some very interesting observations could be made, in connection with family life, on the attitude between the Texanos, or Texas Mexicans of two or three generations, and the newcomers. The former have adjusted themselves to the new environ

ment and are keeping their families intact. The latter, although they look with contempt upon the family relations of the former, are yet suffering the greatest devastations.

Religiously, the Mexican immigrant shows not quite the same devotion to the church that he did in Mexico. Protestant denominations are making some inroad into the traditional faith. A partial survey of Dallas, where some 350 families were visited, showed nearly fifty Protestants. However, one should not take this too seriously, as the interest in the Protestant faith is often the outgrowth of some Protestant dispensary or kindergarten. Yet it is not without significance that San Antonio has five or six Protestant Mexican churches where services are carried on in Spanish to an audience that is attentive and apparently appreciative.

I shall have to hasten over the other factors-the interest in American newspapers rather than Spanish, in English books and magazines, and, of course, in American movies-and come to the crucial situation, which is the possibility of accepting the Mexican group as a permanent and integral part of our population. Here I have very little good to tell. A group that is brought or lured here for purposes of economic exploitation will be branded with the stigmas of that exploitation. It is wanted for no other purposes, and it will soon find that there is no place for it under any other conditions. Yet the Mexican cannot be kept forever in subordination. He is not a Negro, and he will refuse the status of the Negro. The only road open to him is to form a third, separate group, on the borderline between the Negro and the white man. Such a situation cannot last for long; it soon becomes intolerable, because the temptation of the American group is to push him down into the Negro group, while the efforts of the Mexican will be directed toward raising himself to the level of the American group. The result will inevitably be bitterness, animosity, and conflict. The Negro-white situation is difficult enough, but it is simple. The Negro has his place in the scheme of things. He is disfranchised and he accepts it-for how long, I do not know--but he accepts it. He is limited in his educational opportunities and in his occupational field, and he accepts that also. But the Mexican is theoretically limited neither in his educational opportunities nor in his occupational field. Neither is he disfranchised. He is educating himself rapidly, only to find that his education above the literacy line is quite useless to him. He will soon be going to college in large numbers, and he will soon wield an emphatic and brilliant English pen. He will organize his group politically, and then what? Will he tolerate a school system which gives American children a good school building and nine months of schooling, but gives the Mexican children in the same community five months of schooling and a miserable wooden structure, and which spends on 58 American children $1,669.00, and on 182 Mexican children $724.00? I am not afraid of social conflicts, but social conflicts waged on the basis of race or nationality are the most cruel, the most intense, and the most useless. For the sake of a speeding up in the exploitation of our natural resources and the crea

tion of a handful of newly rich and a greater consumption of high-priced automobiles, are we creating for ourselves a social problem full of dismal prospects, of race hatreds, of bruised feelings, of social ostracisms, and, perhaps, of lynchings and the race wars of a twentieth-century American city?

TRADE UNIONS AND THE FAMILY WELFARE AGENCY

Jacob Billikopf, Executive Director, Federation of Jewish Charities,
Philadelphia, and Benjamin Glassberg, Jewish Welfare
Society, Philadelphia

The fundamental difference between the objectives of trade-unions and of social agencies is that while the case worker is interested in the individual family, and formulates a program to meet its problems, the trade-union, on the other hand, is concerned with the membership at large. It aims to secure such standards in industry as will give to all wage-earners an adequate economic basis for life. It is concerned, not with individual problems, but with the problems of a large group. This distinction is not altogether correct, for most social workers realize that the cause of many of the ills of the family they are called upon to deal with is social, and not individual; that housing, low wages, unemployment, and so forth are not the worker's individual responsibility, but rather that of society.

In one respect, trade-unions and social agencies have similar objectives. The union is organized to maintain the integrity of its members, of the families in a given group, so that they can meet their problems through the use of their own resources. Relief agencies are organized to promote the happiness of the individual and his family, to enable him to rely on his own resources, to develop his self-reliance, his respect for his personality, and to increase his usefulness to the community. Assuredly only those who possess the bare minimum of food, drink, health, housing, and clothing can really be useful or happy. Both the union and the agency, in short, are working to provide this bare minimum.

Let us note for a moment what the trade-union movement in America has accomplished to improve the condition of the wage-earners: first, through constant struggle for increases in wages the unions have undoubtedly succeeded in raising the standard of living of the workers, which is important not only because it enables the worker to live in a cleaner and more sanitary home, and thereby improves general health conditions, but also because high wages make possible a reserve for a period of unemployment and sickness, so that the worker is not forced to apply for assistance when such emergencies arise; second, by gradually decreasing the working day the worker is able to enjoy a little more leisure time to devote to recreation and education; third, many trade-unions, as is well known, make provision for sickness and death benefits, and some also

provide for superannuated benefits for members who are incapacitated because of old age; fourth, forty-two states now make some provision for payments to workers incapacitated as a result of industrial disabilities, the trade-union movement having been in the vanguard of the forces working for such legislation; fifth, the American Federation of Labor has recently organized the Labor Life Insurance Company, which is preparing to sell insurance on an individual or against sickness or death; sixth, many of the large labor unions have gone into banking, and they now have a total resource of $95,000,000; seventh, the American Federation of Labor has encouraged and helped to finance many experiments in adult education, realizing the importance of broadening the interests of the workers so that they may be not only more efficient and intelligent in the management of their unions, but also better trained citizens.

Socialists, and to some extent trades-unions, have tended to look upon social work with suspicion and scorn, when they were not openly hostile. This attitude has been undergoing a change in recent years, especially as regards the trade-union, as those who have had intimate contact with unions well know. This earlier attitude is due to the feeling that the gifts of the wealthy, as Stuart A. Queen puts it, were offered with the hope of silencing the demands for thoroughgoing reforms for fundamental wrongs. “Not infrequently," he says, "the motive was merely a cowardly desire to escape the repulsive presence of misery." This feeling on the part of the trade-unions was further strengthened by the fact that the poor were accepted by the wealthier class as a separate grade in the social hierarchy.

It is interesting to note that the attitude of social agencies toward the union has generally been sympathetic and friendly to an unusual degree. The family case work agency very quickly realized that the union is its ally in its effort to raise the general level of family life. A very striking illustration of the attitude of the family agency to the problems of the trade-union is furnished by a report of the Industrial Problems Committee of the American Association for Organizing Family Social Work, issued January 14, 1926. This report is an account of a problem presented by an unemployed union carpenter, accustomed to earn $1.10 an hour, who applied for relief to an agency. When offered a job, presumably in a non-union plant, which would pay 85 cents an hour, he refused to accept, and the following questions were presented to the members of this community to get from them an expression of opinion as to what the attitude of the agency should be in the treatment of this case: first, should the family agency uphold John in his refusal to break a union ruling and assist his family when he turns down a job offering him 85 cents an hour? Second, should he be urged to find some other kind of employment temporarily until he can find work along his own line which pays the union wage? Third, how long should John be given financial aid in case a union job is not readily secured?

The following is a consensus of opinion of the members: first, that John should not be compelled to accept the job offered at 85 cents an hour if by so

« AnteriorContinuar »