Races Are Strikingly Different
IT WAS 1955, at an international gathering in Nuremberg, Germany. A group of Europeans had surrounded a couple of American blacks, visibly happy to have them. They rubbed their skin and felt their hair. Apparently they had never seen a black person before and were intrigued by the striking differences. The blacks enjoyed being warmly accepted. Back home, however, racial attitudes had developed over the centuries to create a much different situation.
Consider the Spencers, a black family who moved into a nice section of New York city. It was the eve of 1975. A pipe bomb came flying into their house, with the note attached: NIGGER, BE WARNED. “It was intended to wipe out the family,” the police captain who investigated said.
A reporter, who later spoke with white residents, explains: “I kept pressing: why don’t you want blacks here? ‘If you really want to know,’ answered the fellow with the flag, ‘they’re basically uncivilized. Wherever they go, the crime rate goes up, neighborhoods fall apart, whites have to leave.’”
Many whites feel differently about association with blacks, developing friendly relations with them. In the southern United States fine strides have been made in improving race relations. Many schools and other public places have been racially integrated. Yet, there are still many persons who feel that differences in the races are so great that they warrant racial segregation.
Basis for Segregation?
In 1954 the United States Supreme Court ruled against racial segregation in the public schools. But many Americans do not agree with that decision. Nor do they agree with the Court’s 1969 order for public-school districts to desegregate “at once.” This is evidenced by the fact that in the late 1960’s a larger percentage of black children attended predominately black schools than in 1954!
Also, there are many persons in the United States who don’t agree with the 1967 Supreme Court’s ruling that it is unconstitutional “to prevent marriages between persons solely on the basis of racial classifications.” This decree invalidated all laws in the United States against interracial marriages. Yet people are still commonly heard to say that they don’t believe blacks and whites should marry.
The situation in the churches is further evidence that many persons believe racial differences warrant segregation. Kyle Haselden, as editor of The Christian Century, wrote in 1964: “Everyone knows that 11 o’clock on Sunday morning is the most segregated hour in American life.” And segregation persists. This year the minister of the Plains, Georgia, Baptist Church “said his resignation stemmed from ‘backlash’ over his efforts to integrate the church.” New York Post, February 22, 1977
Although much progress has been made in improving race relations, some persons have recently seen causes for discouragement. A black, writing in The Christian Century of April 28, 1976, said: “I am worried, really worried, about the serious deterioration in relations between blacks and whites. Black friends share their sense of frustration and powerlessness with me.”
There is often a polarizing, with races harboring hostility and sticking to themselves. As the above writer noted: “I went for a walk on the Yale campus. Two white students joined me. They complained of being forced into segregation by their black classmates who chose to live and take their meals alone, and to maintain little or no social intercourse with their white male peers.”
How Great the Differences?
Really, how great are racial differences? Are they of such a degree that people of different races cannot live together as equals, and take real pleasure in one another’s company? For example, is there a big gap between the intelligence of people of various races? Or, do the races have a distinct body odor, making it objectionable for blacks and whites to live in close quarters with one another?
Obviously differences do exist. Skin color and texture of hair are among the most observable. There are also differences in the shape of the nose, eyelids and lips. Thick lips are common among blacks, while persons of other races tend to have thinner lips.
Yet some whites are quick to point to what they call “more important differences.” As noted earlier, it is claimed that blacks are “basically uncivilized.” It is said that “they have looser morals.” Higher illegitimacy rates among them are given as evidence for this claim. But there are more assertions that are commonly made.
Some are: “Blacks care less for family.” And, as evidence of this, the higher rate of separations in black families is pointed to. “Crime rates go up when blacks move in; neighborhoods fall apart.” To support this statement, persons will point to black neighborhoods that are generally more run down, and to statistics that show that, proportionately, blacks commit more crimes. “Blacks are less intelligent than whites.” And it is a fact that, on the average, blacks score lower on IQ tests than whites of comparable socio-economic status and generally do poorer in schoolwork.
But why do blacks show up unfavorably in such comparisons? A publication of the United States Commission on Civil Rights put the matter in focus. It said that the obvious inferior “status of nonwhites can result from only two factors. Either nonwhites are inferior as persons, or white racism has prevented their natural equality with whites from asserting itself in actual attainments during their more than 300 years in America.”—Racism in America—How to Combat It.
What do you believe is the answer?
The Once Prevalent View
At one time the prevailing view was that blacks are inferior as persons. The Encyclopædia Britannica, Ninth Edition, 1884, said: “No full-blood Negro has ever been distinguished as a man of science, a poet, or artist, and the fundamental equality claimed for him by ignorant philanthropists is belied by the whole history of the race throughout the historic period.” It also spoke of “the inherent mental inferiority of the blacks, an inferiority which is even more marked than their physical differences.”
This encyclopedia said that, as children, blacks and whites seem to have equal intelligence. “Nearly all observers admit,” it notes, “that the Negro child is on the whole quite as intelligent as those of other human varieties.” However, it was said that in blacks there is a “premature ossification of the skull, preventing all further development of the brain.” Thus, the Britannica asserted: “On arriving at puberty all further progress [of blacks] seems to be arrested.” Chambers’ Encyclopædia, 1882, although not agreeing with the Britannica, spoke of the view “that the Negro forms a connecting link between the higher order of apes and the rest of mankind.”
The view that blacks are inferior as persons is still held by some; it is by no means dead. One person wrote of the common views held where he lived: “I grew up in a southern rural community where it was said that black people are black because of a curse God placed on them. . . . In fact, it was said that black people were not really people after all but a part of the animal kingdom.”
Even certain men of science today hold that blacks are biologically inferior to whites. In 1974 a long work of authoritative appearance, endorsed by leading educators, argued in favor of this view. Of the writer, John R. Baker, The Guardian of April 6, 1974, said: “He is skilled at piling up, ostensibly as data, quotations and references which, taken with the powerfully repulsive atmosphere generated by the style, would convey to any reader quite unacquainted with any ‘Negrids’ an impression of them as subhuman (for example, ‘Long says that the Negroes are distinguished by their “bestial or fetid smell”’).”
So what about racial differences? Really, how great are they?
[Picture Credit Line on page 5]
Many persons have felt that differences in the races are so great they warrant segregation
Courtesy of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, The New York Public Library, Astor, Lenox and Tilden Foundations