Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 79.djvu/485

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481
A WORLD-WIDE COLOR LINE

of commanding the confidence of both parent stocks, usually himself becomes the object of animosity on the part of both, and this is an added danger to social peace. Ostracized by both races, he is particularly hateful to the more backward type. Mixed breeds usually possess greater mental capacity than the pure blacks and are the victims of the latter's jealousy.[1] This is in harmony with the familiar social law that in a given society made up of hostile classes it is the nearest, and particularly that next above in the social scale, which is most cordially hated. Jealousy of hybrids is due chiefly to two causes. They are, except in the United States, more freely admitted to social privileges, and it is with them that the dominant race is more likely to contract marriage. In the United States, where any appreciable intermixture of blood exists, the mongrels are enumerated as negroes, while in nearly all the other countries mixed breeds constitute a separate and often a privileged class.

To characterize the negroes merely as a passive race, as is often done, does not fully cover the situation. It is more nearly correct to describe them as pliable and imitative. Ability to bend and adapt has proved the negro's salvation in the supreme test of contact with complex and often rigid white institutions. In marked contrast stands the American Indian whose "grand refusal" has been his undoing. Not only has the negro of the new world survived transplanting, but he has everywhere taken on the cultural tone of the particular white group with which he has been brought in contact. In Spanish America he has acquired the taste in dress and the pride bearing of the Castilian. In Haiti he is essentially French and in Brazil Portuguese. The impress of France is still on the negroes of Louisiana and the Jamaican negro is unmistakably British.

In other words, the negro reflects by imitation the civilization of the society in which he lives. His character in any mixed society depends largely on the social standards which others set. Originally brought into touch with European civilization without any fixed cultural equipment of his own, he develops in social capacity along the lines of least resistance, reacting to such stimuli as the social environment offers. But while lacking in positive cultural achievement he possesses certain well-developed temperamental traits which enable him to fit into some social environments better than others. He is sensuous, and his esthetic nature is richer on some sides than that of the north European. It can hardly be questioned that the Latin temperament is better adapted to harmonize with the negro than is the less volatile Teuton.[2] Just as the American

  1. "See Prichard, "Where Black Rules White: Haiti," p. 280; also Kirke, "Twenty-five Years in British Guiana," pp. 260-262.
  2. Oliver asserts that the negro is naturally more courteous than the lower classes of northern Europe, and he is convinced that the insolence of the American negro is due in large measure to the bad manners and unwarranted pretensions of the whites. "White Capital and Colored Labor," pp. 46, 48.