I. World PerspectivesG. Franklin Edwards
II. Social-psychological AspectsThomas F. Pettigrew
The term “race relations” refers to those forms of behavior which arise from the contacts and resulting interaction of people with varied physical and cultural characteristics. As defined by Robert E. Park (1939), the concept refers to all relationships which are capable of producing race conflict and race consciousness and which determine the relative status of groups in the community.
It should be noted that differences in physical and genetic traits are important in contributing to the observed ecological, economic, social, and political relationships which constitute the subject matter of race relations. However, since contacts among people of diverse racial origins have usually involved groups with markedly variant technologies, patterns of social organization, political systems, and religious beliefs and values, the biological aspect of race has usually been interpreted as reinforcing these other differences rather than as a primary, independent factor in the observed behavior. Expressed in other terms, the association of people belonging to different racial groups also involves the association of groups with different cultural characteristics.
Related concepts. A distinction should be made between the usage of the term “race relations,” which refers to the social processes and social structures arising from the contacts of different racial groups, and other related usages. The term is variously employed to cover forms of intergroup, interethnic, and majority-minority relationships. In these latter usages, race may or may not be a significant variable in the behavior under question. In general, these cognate concepts, though often used synonymously with that of race relations, encompass other forms of behavior as well.
In the United States since World War ii, the concept “intergroup relations” has been employed widely to cover forms of organized group relations involving tensions, conflict, and group adjustments. These include, in addition to Negro-white relationships, the interaction of religious groups and of organizations representing different economic strata. The major analytical focus in this area of study is upon such social-psychological phenomena as prejudice, discrimination, power relations, leadership roles and strategies, and the impact these make upon group relations and community change.
Although the concept “ethnic relations” is often employed to cover what traditionally is studied as race relations, it is not limited to analyses involving people with different racial characteristics. Ethnic groups are separated from others among whom they live by distinctive characteristics which provide a consciousness of difference [SeeEthnic Groups]. Besides race, the differentiating features may be religion, language, nationality, or some combination of these, which provide the ethnic group with a strong in-group feeling. In parts of Canada, for example, conflict and acutely self-conscious behavior characterize the relationship between the English-speaking and French-speaking communities, whose people are of the same racial origin but vary in language, religion, national origin, and traditional behavior.
Minorities are ethnic or racial groups that occupy subordinate positions in the communities where they reside [SeeMinorities]. In addition to segregation from other members of the community because of some racial, social, or cultural characteristic, they often suffer severe political restrictions. Their status is characterized by accommodation. The rearrangement of political boundaries so that people with different cultural traits are brought within a common national state is one source of the origin of minority groups. The realignment of national boundaries in the Balkan states following World War I is a classic instance of this process. In more recent times, following the end of British colonial rule in India, the emergence, owing to religious differences, of India arid Pakistan as separate states—the former predominantly Hindu and the latter Muslim—has witnessed the continued presence of Muslim minorities in India and Hindu minorities in Pakistan.
While these related terms can refer to behavior which is shaped by a wide variety of group characteristics, they are sometimes used to describe and analyze phenomena in which race does play an important part. In the United States, for example, the relations of Negroes and whites are conceptualized variously as intergroup, interethnic, and majority-minority relations.
If we leave aside the early migrations of primitive peoples, the era of race relations can be said to have begun with the overseas expansion of the major European powers from the fifteenth century onward. Over the following centuries England, France, Spain, and Portugal colonized the Americas and, with the addition of Dutch and Scottish traders, the Far East. The early settlement of the Dutch in South Africa was followed in the nineteenth century by the division of the African continent among the major European powers.
Economic expansion was the primary, but not exclusive, motive for the establishment of foreign settlements and for other contacts of Europeans with indigenous peoples in various parts of the world. Following the industrial revolution it was the need for raw materials and markets which led to the exploitation of non-European labor in different parts of the world and to the forms of social and political control which characterized the relations of European and non-European peoples.
E. Franklin Frazier (1957) distinguished three major types of racial and cultural frontiers created by this overseas expansion of European civilization : (1) those in which Europeans founded rather substantial permanent settlements (the United States, Latin America—including Mexico, Central America, South America, the West Indies and the Guianas—South Africa, Australia, and New Zealand); (2) the tropical dependencies, where Europeans were unable to form permanent settlements on a substantial scale (Africa south of the Sahara, southeast Asia, and the Pacific islands of Polynesia, Micronesia, and Melanesia); (3) the older civilizations of Asia (China and Japan), which constitute a relatively recent frontier. The relationships of Europeans with non-European peoples varied according to the type of frontier. Philip Mason (1954) enumerated three factors as having an important influence upon the race relations pattern which developed in each area: the type of climate and territory, the level of the dominated race’s civilization, and the attitude of the colonial power.
In the United States, where climate was propitious for white settlement, two very distinctive patterns developed as a result of variations in a complex of factors—land and climate, type of production, and labor requirements. In the northern section of the country, climate, soil type, and rainfall led to the development of small farm units, fishing, and small industries, the labor requirements of which could be met by family members or free workers. In the South, however, the climate and terrain favored the production of staple crops and a system of plantation agriculture, for which a more abundant supply of cheap labor was necessary. After unsuccessful attempts to enslave the native Indians and to use indentured workers, the labor problem was solved by importing several million Africans as slaves over a period of two centuries. The status of Negroes as slaves throughout this period and their continued residence in the South following emancipation help to explain why race relations in the United States have traditionally been regarded as a “southern problem.”
A pattern similar to that noted in the American South may be observed in other parts of the world where plantation agriculture developed—Jamaica, Brazil, and Java, to name only a few areas, as well as in South Africa, where mining also became an important industry. These areas he in the tropics or subtropics, where climate is not conducive to the heavy settlement of whites and therefore precludes the employment of free white labor on an extensive scale. The need to assure a stable labor supply resulted in the exploitation of native people through low wages, forced labor, or enslavement. In Latin America and the West Indies, as in the United States, slave labor was brought from Africa. After the abolition of slavery in the Western world in the nineteenth century, cheap labor was brought from India and China, and the exploitation of native workers was continued. Negroes in the United States continued to be exploited as farm tenants by their white landlords.
Variation in colonial policies
The variation in approach to race relations by the European powers may be represented here by the dissimilar attitudes and practices of the English and Portuguese toward native peoples in the Americas, and by the contrasting patterns of the French and Portuguese, on the one hand, and the English and Dutch, on the other, in Africa.
In the English colonies in the United States, the establishment of permanent settlements favored the importation of white women in substantial numbers. The colonists did not intermarry with the Indians and were socially distant from both Indians and Negroes. Although moral conflict was engendered by the effort to reconcile the tenets of Protestantism with slave holding, as slavery became institutionalized in response to increasing labor demands, it was rationalized and justified by ideologies based upon the conception that the blacks were inferior. The argument most frequently made was that since black men were biologically inferior, slavery was a natural state that was of value to slaves and masters alike; the conception that the institution was ordained by God was often added. Following the emancipation of the slaves, social distance between the races was maintained by a variety of devices. Thus, in the South there developed a caste-like system which was supported by legislation and state constitutions; Negroes not only were regarded as socially unequal but also became the victims of economic and political discrimination.
The pattern of relations which developed in Brazil is in contrast with that of the United States. The Portuguese, although holding Negroes as slaves until 1888, manifested a different attitude toward both Negroes and the native Indians (Freyre 1933; Pierson 1942). As Roman Catholics, they proselytized to convert both slaves and Indians to their religion, intermarried with them, and, following the emancipation, recognized the potentiality of members of these other racial groups to assume important positions as Brazilians. Brazilian society today is characterized by a marked absence of prejudice and discrimination based upon color and thus has no race problem of the type found in the United States.
The colonial policy of France and Portugal with regard to their African territories was one of eventual assimilation. Whenever educational and economic achievement justified it, Africans in the French and Portuguese colonies could expect to transfer from the status of subjects to that of citizens and to be governed by the laws of the metropolitan community rather than by the customary sanctions of local councils. In general, there was never any serious consideration of independent status for the colonies of these countries; it was expected that in time they would become a part of Greater France or Greater Portugal.
The English approach did not contemplate the evolution of African subjects, or those of the southeast Asia territories, to the status of citizens of the mother country. In contrast with the policies of France and Portugal, the long-range English objective was the independence of colonies as they became ready for self-government. In most English colonies the practice of indirect rule was followed. Parallel institutions were developed for the governance of Englishmen and native subjects, and native Africans were governed by their own institutions, with native rulers accountable to representatives of the English government. Under such an arrangement, there was little social mixing, and discrimination in wage payments to native laborers and free white laborers was practiced.
The extreme expression of separation of colonists and natives occurred in South Africa, where, during the early history of the colony, the Dutch Afrikaners, with the encouragement and sanction of the Dutch Reformed church, developed a policy of rigid segregation of the native Hottentots and Bantus. Later, the East Indians who came to the area and the Cape Coloured people—a hybrid population resulting from the mixture of Afrikaners and natives—were also subjected to social and moral isolation. The segregation of colonists and natives is expressed in residential patterns; under the present-day policy of apartheid, native peoples are forced to live in designated compounds, apart from the descendants of the European settlers. Even in the large urban areas such as Durban (Kuper et al. 1958), the areas where non-Europeans may live are delimited. The English in South Africa have accommodated their policies to accord with those of the politically dominant Dutch party, especially with regard to segregation in social life. The English approach, however, is tempered by the humanitarian approach of missionaries and the more cosmopolitan views of the English in general, so that it is less restrictive than that of the Afrikaners in the provision of education and welfare services.
The approaches described as characteristic of the French and Portuguese, and those of the English and Dutch, must be taken as ideal descriptions. In reality, some variation in practice existed among each of these powers from one colony to another. The French in Algeria, for example, prior to the independence of that country, departed to a considerable extent from the assimilationist doctrine, owing mainly to the presence of large numbers of Muslims in the Algerian population. The English in Kenya, it should be observed, were much less restrictive toward the natives than they were in South Africa.
Patterns of contact
In those parts of the world where Europeans settled or had extensive contacts with native peoples, a number of fairly uniform patterns and changes may be observed. One of these is demographic. The presence of Europeans exposed natives to a large number of infectious diseases to which they had little or no immunity, such as tuberculosis, syphilis, smallpox, and measles. Heavy losses of population from these diseases occurred among the native Indians of the Americas and the West Indies, the Maoris of New Zealand, and native populations in Australia and other countries.
After the native population acquired some immunity and public health measures and medical care had been improved, population decline was arrested by the lowering of mortality rates. There followed a period of sharp population increase as birth rates remained constant or increased and mortality continued to be reduced. The Indian population of the United States (now a little over half a million, according to the 1960 census) has, after suffering heavy losses from disease and warfare, increased to a point approximating the estimated number during the pre-Columbian period (Carr-Saunders 1936, p. 300; compare Palmer 1948, p. 261). Among the Maori and other natives of New Zealand and Australia the same tendencies are observed (Price 1950, chapters 8 and 9; compare Carr-Saunders 1936, p. 296). Where native populations have increased, there is often a struggle on their part, especially in plantation areas, for an adequate food supply. Pre-emption of much of the best land by Europeans has resulted in food shortages and an acute struggle for existence.
Although disease was a primary contributor to the decimation of population among native peoples during the early period of their contacts with whites, it was not the only cause of population decline; the introduction of firearms also played a part. In some instances, as in encounters with Indian tribes of the Americas, the Tasmanians, the Hottentots of South Africa, and numerous other groups, the European settlers used firearms to inflict severe losses upon the natives before conquering them. Firearms, moreover, made warfare among native groups more destructive and contributed to the more extensive killing of wild animals, an important source of food. The suffering experienced by the Plains Indians of the United States as a result of the virtual elimination of the buffalo illustrates the point.
A second observed phenomenon growing out of the contacts of Europeans and native peoples is the formation of mixed-blood, or hybrid, populations. Wherever the races have met, miscegenation has occurred and new population types and culture groups have been formed. A classic instance of race mixing has occurred in Hawaii, where, over time, the native Hawaiians of Polynesian extraction, Portuguese, Chinese, Japanese, Puerto Ricans, Filipinos, Koreans, Negroes, and other Caucasian and Oriental people have intermarried or otherwise mixed to produce new population types (Adams 1937; Lind 1938).
Race mixture has produced people who are marginal in both their physical and cultural characteristics—hence the term “half-caste” (Dover 1939). On the southeast Asian and Pacific frontiers the mixture has resulted in various Eurasian groups; in South Africa the Cape Coloured are the product of the admixture of the Dutch Boers and native Hottentots; in Latin America the union of the Spanish and the Portuguese with the Indians of the South American mainland resulted in the mestizos; and in the United States the mulatto population is the product of the mixture of white Americans and Negro slaves. These marginal populations not only are physically different from the parent populations but they also live in two cultural worlds. They are not fully accepted by the Europeans, and they, in turn, do not fully identify with the natives. Their intermediate position in the social structure makes them extremely self-conscious (Stonequist 1937).
The argument that these marginal people are biologically superior to natives (Reuter 1918) has been rejected, not only because it runs counter to genetic findings but also because it can be shown that the alleged superiority of these groups over indigenous populations results from greater access to available opportunities and social contacts (Wirth & Goldhamer 1944, p. 335). In the United States, for example, many of the mulattoes became free persons, chiefly through manumission, prior to the general emancipation of the slaves in 1863; thus they were able to become literate, purchase property, and develop stable families. With the formation of Negro communities following the emancipation, the mulatto was able to occupy leadership roles in politics and the professions. Since the large-scale urbanization of the Negro population and the resulting broadened opportunities for education, the mulatto no longer enjoys a virtual monopoly over status positions in the Negro community (Edwards 1959).
A third outgrowth of the contacts of Europeans and native peoples is the modification of the social organization of the latter. In general, the Europeans’ superiority in technology and scientific knowledge resulted in new methods of cultivation and work relationships which served to change the prevailing pattern of most native groups. In those areas where industrialization has developed and a wage system of payment is used, the communal relationships and close kinship ties of native people built around agriculture have been undermined (Wilson 1936).
European values and ideologies have had an impact on the social relationships of native people and have produced considerable conflict and alienation. In the diffusion of such values, the missionaries, who lived in intimate relationship with the natives, played a significant role. Their teaching of Christianity to native groups introduced an ethic of individualism which disoriented converts from customary communal ties and often produced in-tratribal conflicts by challenging the moral basis upon which tribal life rested (Schapera 1940). The provision of welfare services often served a similar end. The mission schools made many students disenchanted with native life, and the introduction of modern scientific health practices and beliefs seriously challenged native magic and witchcraft.
Some students have abstracted from the history of race relations a sequence of changes which occurs from the time of initial contact until assimilation or some form of accommodation is reached. Park (1926), for example, in his “race relations cycle” theory, refers to the following pattern which he thought progressive and irreversible: initial contact, competition, accommodation, and eventual assimilation or amalgamation. It should be noted, however, that although most students recognize that uniformities and similarities do exist, there is nonetheless a disposition to question attempts to develop a patterned sequence which applies to all situations in which different racial and cultural groups have associated (Berry 1951).
Contemporary interest in race relations centers on developments since the end of World War n, particularly on events in Africa and in the United States. The concern with race relations today, however, is universalistic and transcends local areas and the particularism of the people involved. The United Nations, founded in 1946 as an instrument of international cooperation and peace, is dedicated to the principles of equal rights and self-determination of peoples. These principles nurtured the rising tide of anticolonialism and nationalism which, during the following two decades, resulted in the emergence of many new nations in Africa and the Near East; 32 of these emergent nations are in Africa south of the Sahara.
The new relationships between the white people of the former colonial powers and the colored people of the new nations are, of course, matters of race relations as well as of world economics, politics, and geography.
The transformation from former colonial territories to nation-states has produced changes in the social structures of the new states, although not everywhere in the same fashion. There has developed, moreover, a sense of power and national identity as black men serve as heads of state and succeed to important positions formerly occupied by representatives of the colonial powers. This sense of power and identity is expressed in a highly self-conscious literature which began as an expression of protest against colonial rule. A foremost aspect of this literature is an emphasis upon the concept “Negritude,” which was developed initially and most fully by the writers of French West Africa. “The theory of Negritude,” Balandier (1956, p. 150) points out, “appears as an exaltation of African-Negro specificity, as a kind of highly elaborated counter-racism.”
While most of the countries of west and east Africa have become independent, events have moved in an opposite direction for native peoples of South Africa. In the Republic of South Africa, the policy of apartheid was established in 1948 by the Nationalist party, which is devoted to the doctrine of white supremacy and which has been in power continuously. Apartheid, in essence, has the objective of maintaining the domination of three million whites over eleven million natives through physical separation of the races, both in residential areas and in places of public accommodation.
In 1959, the apartheid policy was extended by the passage of the Bantu Self-Governing Act. On the theory that each group could develop to its fullest capacity in its own homeland and that the Bantus were not a homogeneous people, eight reserves, or Bantustans, were established as homelands for the natives. Three million native Africans who lived in urban communities, some of whom were three generations removed from native life, were no longer regarded as permanent residents of such areas. They were, rather, to be considered as belonging to Bantu areas and would be interchangeable with residents of the Bantustans as the labor market required.
Although the restrictive character of life in South Africa is rationalized in terms of “separate development“and “peaceful coexistence“of the races, its results have severely penalized the non-white groups through land limitations, restrictions on freedom of movement, and differential voting privileges and expenditures for education, health, and other welfare measures. Although apartheid has been criticized within the republic by the National Union of South African Students, the South African Institute of Race Relations, the Women’s Defense of the Constitutional League (the Black Sash), and the Christian church (excluding the Dutch Reformed church), it has been rigorously enforced. There have been some riots by natives in protest against this regime, but so far such efforts have resulted only in heavy losses of life. To many observers, South Africa is a police state (Bunting 1964).
Racial conditions in South Africa are so much at variance with the movement toward freedom and independence of subject peoples throughout the world that they have become the object of world discussion and reaction. Discussion of the problems has been carried on in the United Nations almost continuously since 1946, when the Indian government protested the treatment of Indians in the Union under the Asiatic Land Tenure Act and the reprisals which followed their passive resistance campaigns. The question of South Africa’s mandate over South-West Africa also came before the United Nations in 1946, and it has been a matter of continuous concern since 1948, when apartheid policies were introduced into the territory by the Nationalist government. In 1960 Liberia and Ethiopia petitioned the International Court of Justice, asking the court to find that South Africa had violated its obligation in administration of the South-West African territory and requesting that an order be entered to have discriminatory practices cease. In 1966 the court ruled that it had no jurisdiction in the matter. This decision was unexpected, in view of the careful legal preparation that had gone into the petition, which was supported by the United States.
In the United States much progress has been made since the end of World War n in improving the position of racial minorities. Although the spotlight has been on the status of Negro-Americans, who constitute the largest and the most active group working for change, Mexican-Americans, American Indians, and Orientals have also benefited from antidiscriminatory legislation.
In the 1880s and 1890s, segregation became legalized in the South through the passage of various “Jim Crow” laws and changes in state constitutions which were subsequently upheld by Supreme Court decisions; for example, in the precedent-setting case of Plessy v. Ferguson (1896) the Court held that state laws requiring racial segregation were constitutional so long as “separate but equal” facilities were provided. Separate institutions were operated for the two major racial groups, separate facilities were maintained in places of public accommodation, racial intermarriage was forbidden, and the right of suffrage was effectively nullified through legislation and practice. Thus the rights guaranteed Negroes through passage of the thirteenth, fourteenth, and fifteenth amendments to the constitution in the period between 1865 and 1870 were undermined. Furthermore, in the northern cities, to which Negroes migrated in large numbers during World War i and immediately thereafter, large Negro ghettos were formed as a result of discriminatory practices in housing and employment. While segregation in the southern states was based upon both law and custom, in the North de facto segregation resulted from discriminatory actions of groups and individuals.
In the 1930s the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People initiated a series of court cases asking that facilities for Negroes be made equal to those provided whites in those states maintaining separate institutions for the two groups. These cases met with some success in terms of improving specific segregated facilities. However, in the 1940s the “separate but equal” theory was rejected by Negro leaders (and gradually by the courts), on the ground that, in practice, segregated facilities never actually provide equal conditions and opportunities. Petitions were entered for Negro plaintiffs on the theory that exclusion from publicly operated institutions and facilities on account of race is a denial of the citizenship rights that had been guaranteed by the fourteenth amendment to the constitution. In 1954, in the case of Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka (347 U.S. 483), the Supreme Court held that admission to institutions of public education could not be denied on account of race and ordered those states maintaining separate educational systems to proceed with “all deliberate speed” to desegregate them. This decision was a landmark in the American Negro’s struggle for equality; in effect, it nullified the position taken in Plessy v. Ferguson and provided the precedent for public policy in many areas other than education.
By court decisions and executive orders, the public policy of the United States has outlawed segregation in interstate travel on common carriers, the armed forces, public educational institutions, and places of public accommodation. The Negro’s right to participate in the formerly “all-white” primary elections in the southern states was affirmed in 1944. Although these court decisions and orders have created new norms, they have not eliminated the fundamental disabilities from which the masses of Negroes suffer. Counterdevices such as intimidation and violence are still effectively employed to deny many citizenship rights to Negroes.
In what has been termed the “Negro Revolution,” Negroes have provided most of the effective leadership. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the leading Negro organization in the struggle for Negro civil rights over the past half century, was at first joined by such newly formed groups as the Congress of Racial Equality, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. Although predominantly Negro in composition, these groups had white membership and were the beneficiaries of financial support from the white community. A corps of young Negro leaders emerged, the most celebrated of whom was the Reverend Martin Luther King—a Baptist minister and leader of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964. The principle of nonviolent resistance espoused by Dr. King, and by the Negro movement in general, owed much to the teachings of Mohandas Gandhi. From 1958, nonviolent demonstrations were held in numerous American cities by various groups for the purpose of presenting the enemy with a moral confrontation over the injustices suffered by Negroes. These demonstrations resulted in imprisonment for thousands of Negroes and their white allies and captured the attention of the nation.
So long as the civil rights movement was focused upon the elimination of racial discrimination in public accommodations and differential participation in programs supported by government funds, the organizations spearheading the movement were highly unified. This was expressed through frequent meetings of the Civil Rights Leadership Conference in which heads of the major organizations participated. Judicial proceedings and direct action, moreover, were appropriate techniques for the achievement of the stated objectives, and there was a consensus regarding their use. This period of unity can be said to have lasted at least through 1963, and perhaps through 1964.
As greater attention became focused on the elimination of discrimination in housing and employment and the further implementation of school desegregation and voting rights, the movement lost some of its former cohesiveness, and new ideologies and tactics began to be advocated by some of the groups. The doctrine of “black power” was advanced by the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and supported by the Congress of Racial Equality. This doctrine called for a mobilization of the economic and political power of the Negro community as solutions to the Negro’s problems and as a way of providing a sense of racial identity and self-respect. It repudiated the idea that white support of and inclusion as members of Negro organizations were essential to success and viewed past alliances with whites as having contributed to the Negro’s present status. Although the doctrine did not repudiate nonviolence as a technique, it asserted that violence was justified in some situations.
In 1967 the foremost exponent of “black power” was Stokely Carmichael, a young Negro college graduate and the leader of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. Carmichael pointed to the employment of Negroes as soldiers in the Vietnam war as further evidence of the general maltreatment of Negroes by the “white establishment”: while Negroes suffered discrimination at home, they were being used in disproportionate numbers in a war in which they could have no interest.
This more militant position of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and the Congress of Racial Equality was rejected by the NAACP and the Urban League, the older and larger Negro civil rights organizations, which, throughout their history, have been allied with liberal elements of the white community. For these groups, “black power” was a racist and separatist doctrine. They regarded it as an unworkable principle that was not calculated to further the cause of Negro rights. The doctrine also ran counter to the nonviolent ideology of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the other major civil rights organization.
In addition to impairing the unity of the civil rights organizations, the “black power” doctrine had resulted, by 1967, in a reduction of the financial support furnished the civil rights movement by whites, with the heaviest losses experienced by the more militant groups. The doctrine, moreover, had provided the rationale for open resistance by reactionary whites in what was described at the time as the “white backlash.” This upsurge of white prejudice as a counterforce to Negro militancy was believed to have contributed to the success of reactionary politicians in the elections of 1966.
The federal government has played a significant role in advancing the cause of Negro rights, not only through court decisions and executive orders but also through legislation. In 1957 Congress passed the first civil rights legislation since 1875; this act, among other things, established the Civil Rights Commission to investigate and make recommendations on racial conditions. This was followed by the civil rights laws of 1960 and 1964. The 1964 act, which is the broadest in its coverage, has titles referring to voting rights, public accommodations, public facilities, public education, and employment opportunities. Among the sanctions it authorizes, upon the finding of discriminatory conduct, is the withholding from state and local districts of funds for federally assisted programs. Its provisions on voting have been reinforced and expanded by the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
The efforts of both Negro groups and the federal government have been affected by world conditions and world opinion, as well as by the internal changes affecting minorities. The position of the Negro in the United States is obviously inconsistent with the ideologies of freedom and equality which characterize the postwar world. Furthermore, it is embarrassing to the United States government to participate in United Nations discussions and actions on colonial and minority group problems as long as discrimination is practiced within its own boundaries. Since the United Nations now includes a large number of representatives of colored peoples, the United States has become increasingly sensitive to their opinions of its racial problems. The riots occurring in American cities are known in all parts of the world and are used for propaganda purposes in the cold war.
Although the major interest in race relations today is in Africa and the United States, some attention is directed to the course of race relations in Britain, where, in the postwar years, large numbers of East Indians, Pakistanis, and West Indians have settled in English cities. With the increasing density of these groups, prejudice and discrimination have been practiced against them, and riots have occurred (Glass 1960). The reaction of the English toward these newcomers is not greatly different from that manifested by whites to the migration of Negroes to northern cities in the United States at the end of World War i, and the British government has been forced to pass legislation limiting the number and type of Commonwealth immigrants.
Race relations in the modern world are based upon color as well as upon social and cultural differences. The actions of former colonial peoples in the Near East and Middle East can be interpreted as a revolt of “colored” people against white domination. In a similar sense, the conflict between the Chinese communists and the Western powers involves color differences between the antagonists as well as variations in ideology. The Asian-African conferences, the first of which was held at Bandung, Indonesia, in 1955, have brought together a wide variety of people who share a common consciousness of being different in color from their former rulers. Thus the question of race relations has become increasingly international, and it is no longer possible for governments to claim that their racial problems are of purely domestic concern.
G. Franklin Edwards
[Directly related are the entriesAssimilation; Constitutional law, article oncivil rights; Minorities; Prejudice; Segregation. Other relevant material may be found inColonialism; Race; Slavery; and in the biographies ofDubois; Fanon; Frazier; Park.]
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“The problem of the Twentieth Century,” wrote W. E. B. DuBois prophetically in 1903, “is the problem of the color line.” And, to be sure, together with related concerns it is the problem of the twentieth century. In an era of rising expectations, “the color line” is often the salient common element underlying a diversity of other major concerns—from colonialism to poverty and war.
Important as it is, however, social scientists typically view race relations (the social interactions between any two or more socially or biologically defined “races”) as merely a particularly potent special case of intergroup relations (the social interactions between any two or more identifiable groups). Concepts and principles which are helpful in understanding relations between racial groups should be of value in understanding intergroup relations in general. Indeed, scientists find this contention repeatedly borne out as the study of these phenomena progresses.
Broadly speaking, all intergroup relations are conditioned by four interrelated classes of factors: historical, sociocultural, individual, and situational (adapted from Allport 1954). The first set relates to the unique history of the groups and especially the history of the direct contact between the groups. Thus, no one can fully appreciate the highly patterned “group relations” of the Republic of South Africa without a thorough grounding in the peculiar and complex history of the relations between the Africans, Afrikaners, Coloureds, English, and Indians who inhabit that troubled land.
The second general class of variables relates to the sociocultural setting of the intergroup contact. Here a myriad of cultural, economic, political, demographic, and ecological factors come into play. Often these variables can predict at a gross level the status and change in group relations over different geographical areas; for example, in the southern United States, a variety of indexes of Negro-white conflict and harmony—from lynching to the desegregation of public facilities—can be reliably predicted from county to county by the use of such demographic variables as the percentages of Negro and urban residents in an area (Pettigrew & Cramer 1959).
Individual factors constitute a third broad category. Deep-seated personality dispositions toward outgroup prejudice, as documented by the research on authoritarianism (Adorno et al. 1950), are important considerations. But so, too, are less deeply rooted personality needs to conform and gain social approval, needs which also lead to outgroup rejection when it is the ingroup sanctioned “thing to do.” Likewise, individual phenomenology must be considered, for intergroup behavior is often determined less by objective realities than by the perceptions of these realities. Such perceptions can be shaped by political ideologies and “racial” myths or merely by the individual’s need to perceive the situation selectively.
The final category—the face-to-face intergroup situation—provides the vital structure connecting these various levels. It is here that the historical, sociocultural, and individual factors come to a focus and, conditioned by the particular characteristics of the situation, produce intergroup relations as such. Hence, this article concentrates on an analysis of the intergroup situation.
A fundamental issue of intergroup and race relations concerns the effects of contact. Some writers maintain that increased contact between groups of markedly different values and origins will lead only to heightened conflict; others hold that increased contact between such groups will decrease prejudice and fear and lead to greater intergroup harmony. Social science evidence supports neither extreme. Increased interaction, whether of individuals or groups, intensifies and magnifies the processes already underway. Hence, more intergroup contact can result in either greater prejudice and rejection or greater respect and acceptance, depending upon the situation in which it occurs. The basic task, then, is to specify the situational conditions under which contact leads to distrust and those under which it leads to trust.
Gordon Allport (1954), in his review of the relevant research, concluded that four characteristics of the contact situation are of the utmost importance. Prejudice and conflict are lessened when the two groups possess equal status, seek common goals, are cooperatively dependent upon each other, and interact with the positive support of authorities, law, or custom. Instances throughout the world of intergroup conflict where these situational conditions are not met come readily to mind: caste contact in India, Greek-Turkish contact on Cyprus, racial contact in South Africa. But more solid evidence must come from controlled research. And opportunities for this research abound in a nation such as the United States where intergroup patterns are undergoing extensive alterations.
Thus, Allport’s contact principles can be seen in operation in a series of studies of newly desegregated situations. Ira N. Brophy (1945) found that white American merchant seamen tended to hold racial attitudes in direct relation to the number of voyages they had taken with equal-status Negro American seamen: the more desegregated the voyages, the more positive their attitudes. Similarly, William M. Kephart (1957) noted that white Philadelphia policemen who had personally worked with Negro policemen were far more favorable toward the further desegregation of their force than other white policemen.
Such intergroup bonds built through optimal contact situations can even withstand severe crises. For instance, while Negro and white mobs raged during the Detroit race riot of 1943, desegregated co-workers, university students, and neighbors of long standing peacefully carried on their lives side by side (Lee & Humphrey 1943).
Mention of neighborhood desegregation introduces the most solid research evidence available. Repeated studies have found that racially desegregated living in pubhc housing developments that meet all four of Allport’s contact criteria sharply reduces intergroup prejudice among both Negro and white neighbors (Deutsch & Collins 1951; Wilner et al. 1955; Works 1961). In addition, these studies demonstrate that living in segregated, but otherwise identical, housing developments structures intergroup contact in such a manner that intergroup bitterness is, if anything, enhanced. The segregated or desegregated pattern of the housing developments fixes a social climate that in turn influences the intergroup expectations, behavior, and attitudes of the occupants. D. M. Wilner and his associates (1955, p. 107) concluded: “Contact and the perceived social climate tend to reinforce each other when their influence operates in the same direction and to cancel each other out when their influence works in opposite directions.”
In such instances historical and sociocultural factors intersect with the intergroup situation. Consider a comparable study of a multigroup neighborhood in Durban, South Africa (Russell 1961). The area afforded a rare South African example of close contact between Coloureds and Indians, both of relatively high occupational status, and Caucasians; and the situation did enable whites to develop somewhat more positive attitudes toward their non-white neighbors. Yet the whites in this unusual situation were defensive about their intergroup contacts, some even attempting to avoid contact as much as possible. Moreover, the contact that did take place was not truly equal and reciprocal. Whites received neighborly aid from nonwhites and entered nonwhite homes far more often than the other way around. In fact, many whites rationalized their intergroup contact in terms of the mildly exploitative aspects of the relationship. Both the whites and nonwhites were fully aware that the social climate of South Africa does not support, in fact punishes, equal-status contact between races— an atmosphere which poisons true neighborliness at the core.
A further qualification attends attitude and behavior change through intergroup contact: at least in the early stages, the change is frequently limited to the specific situation involved. Thus, J. D. Loh-man and D. C. Reitzes (1952) found that white steelworkers in the northern United States generally approved of the racial desegregation of their union to the point of sharing all union facilities with Negroes and electing Negroes to high office, yet they also sternly opposed the desegregation of their all-white neighborhoods. In this case, as in many others, institutional structures limited the contact effects. Intergroup attitudes and behavior had changed in the work situation, with the support of the union organization; but these changes did not generalize to the neighborhood situation, where a community organization resisted desegregation.
In sum, intergroup contact can result in either conflict or harmony, depending upon the situa-tional conditions under which it occurs. When the contact situation involves a combination of equal status, common goals, no competition along group lines, and the support of authorities, law, or custom, improved intergroup relations are likely to result. When these conditions are not met, one of two sharply contrasting negative group stereotypes often emerges.
Two contrasting negative stereotypes
Bruno Bettelheim and Morris Janowitz (1950) have drawn a psychoanalytic distinction between outgroup stereotypes which focus upon superego concerns and those which focus upon id concerns. The superego stereotype ascribes to an entire group such personal traits as being overly ambitious, striving, crafty, clannish, shrewd, intelligent, sly, and dishonest. By contrast, the id stereotype ascribes to an entire group such personal traits as being overly unambitious, lazy, happy-go-lucky, loud, irresponsible, stupid, dirty, odoriferous, uninhibited, and hypersexed. The psychoanalytic interpretation of these distinctive, though strangely reciprocal, stereotypes is straightforward. These two types of outgroups serve in part as alter egos for the bigot; intergroup animosity in these terms is interpreted as a projection of the bigot’s own unacceptable inner impulses onto an outgroup. The prejudiced person thus personifies his own superego sins of ambition, deceit, and egotism in the first type of outgroup, and his own id sins of the flesh in the second type of outgroup (Adorno et al. 1950; Bettelheim & Janowitz 1950).
The selection of which stereotype is to be applied to various groups is determined by a complex of historical and sociocultural factors intersecting with individual factors once again at the situa-tional level of analysis. The superego stereotype is typically applied throughout the world to “middleman minorities,” that is, groups consisting largely of merchants who are structurally squeezed between the landed and the laboring classes. The id stereotype, however, is typically invoked throughout the world to apply to groups found at the bottom of the social structure.
The superego stereotype
The classic middleman situation was that of the European Jews in the Middle Ages. Barred from owning land and encouraged to handle financial matters, they assumed their intermediate status because of the special historical circumstances of the period. This story has been repeated throughout recorded history, partly because the outgroup member may actually perform better than the ingroup member in market situations requiring objectivity and impersonality; Gemeinschaft bonds, in other words, may hinder Gesellschaft relations.
Cultural and racial minorities generally occupy this middleman role, probably because they serve as ideal scapegoats, as shock absorbers that protect the elite from the masses. The history of the European Jew bears tragic witness to this buffer function. During episodic crises—from depressions to revolutions and epidemics—the Jew has served as a unifying target of temporary coalitions between landed and laboring elements. Even in relatively peaceful times the Jew has often served the elite in such invidious roles as tax collector, or he has been the object of minor frustrations and competitiveness in market dealings. Hence, the superego stereotype of the Jew as ambitious, sly, and dishonest took root. Significant, too, is the fact that this stereotype has also been applied to non-Jewish groups caught in the same middleman position. Consequently, the Chinese merchants of Malaysia and Indonesia are often called the “Jews of Asia,” and the Muslim Indian merchants of east and south Africa the “Jews of Africa.”
The id stereotype
The assignment of an impulsive id stereotype to an outgroup occurs in a wider range of intergroup situations; however, these groups are almost invariably at the bottom of the social structure and are generally far less technologically skilled than their detractors. With a history of slavery, segregation, and poverty, Negro Americans have long labored under the image of a lazy, happy-go-lucky, stupid, dirty, hypersexed people. So have the gypsies of central Europe, for centuries an outcaste group. So, too, have the poor of southern Italy. Research reveals that the view held by northern Italians of their fellow countrymen in the south is strikingly similar to the view of Negro Americans that is held by many white Americans (Battacchi 1959).
A recent example of the id stereotype has developed in Israel. Higher-status Israelis of European origins often look down on the lower-status Oriental Israelis from north Africa and Asia. The prevailing stereotype of the less technologically advanced Orientals is a familiar one. The assumed group traits are “…instability, emotionalism, impulsiveness, unreliability and incompetence …habitual lying and cheating, laziness, boastfulness, inclination to violence, uncontrolled temper, super-stitiousness, childishness, lack of cleanliness, and in general ’primitivity’ and ’lack of culture’” (Patai 1953, p. 314).
Sometimes the two types of images are fused into a single contradictory stereotype. In Nazi Germany, for instance, the lack of a significant id type outgroup forced the anti-Semitic image of the Jew to do double duty. Jews had to serve as the personification of both superego and id concerns and were seen as both lazy and too striving, stupid and too intelligent. In most countries, however, bigots possess the luxury of a variety of outgroups, and more differentiated stereotypes have evolved. The prevalence of such stereotypes in the world today raises questions concerning the possibility of relatively permanent safeguards against intergroup conflict.
Intergroup and race relations can always be improved; group prejudice and discrimination are by no means inevitable aspects of the human condition. Institutional mechanisms can be established to protect minorities and foster intergroup harmony, and often these institutional changes are won by the minorities themselves. Thus, in the United States, Negro Americans have achieved significant alterations through direct, nonviolent action (Pettigrew 1964). These alterations typically eliminate practices of racial segregation, a prerequisite for allowing and encouraging intergroup contact that meets Allport’s four criteria for positive change. Indeed, nationwide public opinion polls have noted major improvements in racial attitudes and linked much of this improvement to the alleviation of segregation (Hyman & Sheatsley 1964).
Political pressures for such institutional changes frequently come about in democracies when a coalition of minorities becomes electorally powerful. For example, the dominant political party in the United States won seven out of nine presidential elections from 1932 through 1964 as a delicately balanced coalition composed of the predominant share of the nation’s Negroes, Jews, and Roman Catholics. It maintained this coalition in large part because of its achievements in establishing institutional protections of minority rights—the most heralded, perhaps, being the 1964 Civil Rights Act.
Legally required changes
Appropriate and enforced laws are a principal means of institutionalizing minority acceptance. Yet some repeat the nineteenth-century dictum that “laws cannot change the hearts and minds of men.” Changes in race relations in the United States over the past century do not bear this out. A case in point is the 1945 legislation against discrimination in employment enacted by New York State. As a result of this law, many New York City department stores hired Negro Americans as sales clerks for the first time. Two investigations conducted separate tests of the effects of this law-induced desegregation. One study of white sales personnel revealed that those who had experienced the new equal-status job contact with Negroes held more favorable attitudes toward interracial interaction in the work situation (Harding & Hogrefe 1952). Once again, however, the initial effects of this contact did not extend beyond the immediate situation; equal-status clerks were not more likely to accept Negroes in eating and residential situations.
The second New York City department store study questioned customers (Saenger & Gilbert 1950). Though reactions to later questioning varied, there was a widespread acceptance of this legally required racial change. Customers were largely concerned with convenient and efficient shopping; many hesitated to challenge the fait accompli firmly established by the law; and for others the new situation was consistent with the national belief in the justice of equal opportunity for all.
Behavior and attitudes
Contrary to the old adage, then, law can change the hearts and minds of men. It does so through a vital intermediate step. Enforced law first acts to modify behavior, and this modified behavior in turn changes men’s hearts and minds. Notice that this is precisely the opposite sequence commonly believed to be the most effective method of improving intergroup relations. Persuade people to be less prejudiced through informational and good will campaigns, goes the conventional reasoning, and then their intergroup behavior will improve. To be sure, this sequence is sometimes effective, but the preponderance of social psychological evidence attests to the greater efficacy of the opposite approach. Behaving differently is more often the precursor of thinking differently.
The basic problem with exhortation as a means of bettering intergroup relations is that it does not require participants to change their behavior. If there is intergroup contact, it is generally brief and artificial. Moreover, a vast body of psychological data indicates that prejudiced individuals avoid tolerance messages altogether, deny the relevance of the messages for themselves, or find ways of twisting the meaning of the messages (Cooper & Jahoda 1947; Hyman & Sheatsley 1947).
True, antidiscrimination laws can also be “tuned out” by prejudiced individuals. But if properly enforced, such legislation has a potential for achieving behavioral change that is not possessed by exhortation. Several reasons for this are apparent. There is, of course, the threat of punishment and unfavorable publicity for recalcitrants. But more important is the “off the hook” function such laws provide. Thus, the department stores in New York City may each have been afraid to hire Negro sales personnel as long as there was no assurance that their competitors would follow suit. But the antidiscrimination law, applied to all stores, furnished this needed assurance. And, as noted in the studies previously cited, the legally established fait accompli, unlike exhortations for intergroup tolerance, generates its own acceptance. The situational face lifting it achieves is a year-round process, a constant, institutionalized reminder that intergroup harmony is the sanctioned norm. Finally, the new behavior required by the law commits the individual psychologically; for he who has publicly behaved in a new manner and been rewarded for doing so is likely to become personally committed to the intergroup change.
A microcosmic case in point
The fundamental principles underlying situational factors in intergroup relations are dramatically highlighted by an ingenious field experiment conducted by the eminent social psychologist Sherif (Oklahoma, University of …1961). Twenty young boys, of homogeneous backgrounds but previously unacquainted with one another, attended a summer camp set up for the investigation. From the start, the boys were divided into two groups— “the Rattlers” and “the Eagles.” The first stage of the experiment was designed to develop high esprit de corps within each of the groups. Totally separated from each other, the Rattlers and the Eagles engaged in a variety of satisfying experiences, and each group soon developed the pride and sense of “we-ness” characteristic of strong ingroup solidarity.
The second stage of the study brought the two groups face-to-face in a series of grimly competitive tasks, such as tug-of-war, baseball and football games, and tent pitching. In all of these contact situations only one group could win and the other had to lose. The inevitable animosity soon appeared. Derogatory songs and slogans were composed; destructive raids on “the enemy’s cabin” began; negative stereotypes developed; and even preferences for group segregation were voiced. Competitive contact had wreaked its usual havoc.
The experiment’s third stage tried to mend the damage. An approach involving more intergroup contact without competition came first. The boys met in such situations as eating good food in the same room, shooting off fireworks, and attending a motion picture. Note that all of these activities involved passive conduct without common goals or group interdependence. And, understandably, intergroup friction between the Rattlers and the Eagles did not abate; in fact, the boys employed these unfocused events as opportunities for further vilification of their hated rivals.
Next the investigators introduced carefully contrived problems that required the cooperation of both groups for their solution. Fixing the damaged water tank that supplied the entire camp, jointly raising the funds to show a favorite motion picture, and other such functionally dependent behavior achieved a striking decline in intergroup hostility. While at the close of the competitive second stage more than half of the characteristics assigned by the boys to their group rivals were sharply unfavorable, more than two-thirds of such judgments were favorable at the close of the interdependent third stage. In addition, the percentage of friendship choices across group lines multiplied fourfold.
One final result of Sherif’s intriguing investigation replicated the limited nature of the attitude change initially induced even under optimal inter-group contact conditions. The first interdependent encounters of the two camp groups by no means removed all of the bad feeling between the Rattlers and the Eagles. But as these socially sanctioned confrontations continued, the prejudice-reducing power of this type of contact accumulated.
This finding suggests that as a widespread process of institutionalized change in intergroup relations proceeds, it may well receive increasingly greater support and have increasingly greater effects upon the participants. This possibility is of special relevance to such intergroup processes as India’s efforts to end caste discrimination and the United States’ efforts to end racial segregation.
Thomas F. Pettigrew
Adorno, Theodor W. et al. 1950 The Authoritarian Personality. American Jewish Committee, Social Studies Series, No. 3. New York: Harper.
Allport, Gordon W. 1954 The Nature of Prejudice. Reading, Mass.: Addison-Wesley. → An abridged paperback edition was published in 1958 by Doubleday.
Battacchi, Marco W. 1959 Meridionali e settentrionali nella struttura del pregiudizio ethnico in Italia. Bologna (Italy): Societa Editrice II Mulino.
Bettelheim, Bruno; and Janowitz, Morris (1950) 1964 Social Change and Prejudice, Including Dynamics of Prejudice. New York: Free Press. → A reprinting of Dynamics of Prejudice, with a reassessment of its findings.
Brophy, Ira N. 1945 The Luxury of Anti-Negro Prejudice. Public Opinion Quarterly 9:456-466.
Cooper, Eunice; and Jahoda, Marie 1947 The Evasion of Propaganda: How Prejudiced People Respond to Anti-prejudice Propaganda. Journal of Psychology 23.15-25.
Davis, John P. (editor) 1966 The American Negro Reference Book. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall.
Deutsch, Morton; and Collins, Mary E. 1951 Interracial Housing: A Psychological Evaluation of a Social Experiment. Minneapolis: Univ. of Minnesota Press.
Dubois, W. E. B. (1903) 1963 The Souls of Black Folk: Essays and Sketches. Gloucester, Mass.: Smith.
Harding, J. and Hogrefe, R. 1952 Attitudes of White Department Store Employees Toward Negro Co-workers. Journal of Social Issues 8, no. 1:18-28.
Hyman, Herbert H.; and Sheatsley, Paul B. 1947 Some Reasons Why Information Campaigns Fail. Public Opinion Quarterly 11:412-423.
Hyman, Herbert H.; and Sheatsley, Paul B. 1964 Attitudes Toward Desegregation. Scientific American 211, no. 1:16-23.
Kephart, William M. 1957 Racial Factors and Urban Law Enforcement. Philadelphia: Univ. of Pennsylvania Press.
Lee, Alfred M.; and Humphrey, Norman D. 1943 Race Riot. New York: Dryden.
Lohman, J. D.; and Reitzes, D. C 1952 A Note on Race Relations in Mass Society. American Journal of Sociology 58, no. 3:240-246.
Oklahoma, University of, Institute of Group Relations 1961 Intergroup Conflict and Cooperation: The Robbers Cave Experiment, by Muzafer Sherif et al. Norman, Okla.: University Book Exchange.
Patai, Raphael 1953 Israel Between East and West: A Study in Human Relations. Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society of America.
Pettigrew, Thomas F. 1964 A Profile of the Negro American. Princeton, N.J.: Van Nostrand.
Pettigrew, Thomas F.; and Cramer, M. Richard 1959 The Demography of Desegregation. Journal of Social Issues 15, no. 4:61-71.
Russell, Margo 1961 A Study of a South African Interracial Neighborhood. Master’s thesis, Univ. of Natal.
Saenger, Gerhart; and Gilbert, Emily 1950 Customer Reactions to the Integration of Negro Sales Personnel. International Journal of Opinion and Attitude Research 4:57-76.
Wilner, Daniel M.; Walkley, Rosabelle P.; and Cook, Stuart W. 1955 Human Relations in Interracial Housing: A Study of the Contact Hypothesis. Minneapolis: Univ. of Minnesota Press.
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"Race Relations." International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences. . Encyclopedia.com. (February 3, 2019). https://www.encyclopedia.com/social-sciences/applied-and-social-sciences-magazines/race-relations-0
"Race Relations." International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences. . Retrieved February 03, 2019 from Encyclopedia.com: https://www.encyclopedia.com/social-sciences/applied-and-social-sciences-magazines/race-relations-0
Modern Language Association
The Chicago Manual of Style
American Psychological Association
RACE RELATIONS, in complex societies, such as that of the United States, involve patterns of behavior between members of large categories of human beings classified on the basis of similar observable physical traits, particularly skin color. Race is a social status that individuals occupy along with other statuses, such as ethnicity, occupation, religion, age, and sex. In the United States racial status has often been paramount, transcending all other symbols of status in human relations.
While it is virtually impossible to chronicle the history of American race relations in any single publication, this entry provides a brief glimpse at some of the events that played a major role in continually evolving relationships among America's various races.
Although there have been numerous instances of friendly and egalitarian relationships across racial lines in American history, the major pattern of race relations has been characterized by extreme dominant-subordinate relationships between whites and nonwhites. This relation-ship is seen in the control by whites of the major positions of policymaking in government, the existence of formal and informal rules restricting nonwhite membership in the most remunerative and prestigious occupations, the often forcible imposition of the culture of white Americans on nonwhites, the control by whites of the major positions and organizations in the economic sector, and the disproportionate membership of nonwhites in the lower-income categories. Race relations have also been characterized by extreme social distance between whites and nonwhites, as indicated by long-standing legal restrictions on racial intermarriage, racial restrictions in immigration laws, spatial segregation, the existence of racially homogeneous voluntary associations, extensive incidents of racially motivated conflict, and the presence of numerous forms of racial antipathy and stereotyping in literature, the press, and legal records. This pattern has varied by regions and in particular periods of time; it began diminishing in some measure after World War II.
Race Relations in Early America
Before the Europeans arrived in America, there were at least 1 million Indians divided into hundreds of tribes and bands and speaking at least 200 mutually unintelligible languages. However, the first discussion of race, or the categorization of individuals based on physical features, occurred when three historical occurrences converged in America. The first Europeans arrived on the continent and labeled the indigenous ethnic groups "Indians." Shortly thereafter, Europeans began referring to themselves as "whites." Ethnic groups that were, for the most part, indigenous to Africa were brought to America and labeled as "Negroes." Since this early effort at categorization, the subject of race relations has been a controversial topic ripe with dissenting opinions and actions.
The first Africans arrived in the English colonies in 1619. Debate over the status of these new arrivals has been substantial. Some scholars suggest that the first Africans were probably indentured servants, individuals bound to a person for a specific amount of time. This would infer that Africans who were called indentured servants had approximately the same status as white indentured servants, many of whom paid their way to America by binding themselves to service for a limited period. However, other equally learned scholars argue that historical records do not indicate the existence of indentured servant status for early Africans, and believe that this "legend" occurred because the word "slave" did not appear in Virginia records until 1656.
Prior to the arrival of Africans aboard a Dutch manof-war, Europeans had attempted to enslave Native Americans. However, complex issues, including Native Americans' susceptibility to European diseases, the numerous avenues of escape available for Native Americans, and the lucrative nature of the African slave trade, led to a transition toward African slavery. Before this transition, numerous Native American nations—including the Pequot, Tuscarora, and Yamasee—and tens of thousands of individuals were displaced and relocated throughout the colonies. Colonists also drove Native Americans from their territories by signing treaties, which they quickly violated, and declaring war on the affected nations.
As relationships grew between Native Americans and African Americans and the evolution of Afro-Indian nations began to occur, colonists used the legislature to strengthen their hold on the enslavement of both integrating cultures. In 1662 the general assembly of Virginia had passed a law that ruled any child born of a slave mother would also be a slave, regardless of the father's legal status; by 1740 the South Carolina slave code declared that all Negroes and Indians in that particular province, as well as their descendents, would be and re-main slaves for the rest of their lives.
Africans and Indians, however, began to protest their enslavement. Slave revolts began as early as 1657 when an African-Indian uprising occurred in Hartford, Connecticut. Other early revolts occurred in 1690 in New-bury, Massachusetts, and in Queens County, New York, in 1708. This spirit of uprising continued throughout the 1700s, culminating in slave revolts in 1712 and 1739.
Years later, a sense of historical irony came over the nation. During the time when the colonies were fighting for their freedom from British rule, Abigail Adams, the wife of founding father John Adams, told her husband that she could not understand how the colonists could fight for their own freedom while they were daily stealing the freedom of those who had as much right to freedom as anyone. Then, on 5 March 1770, former slave Crispus Attucks became the first person to die in the Boston Massacre, and became, to many, the martyr of the American Revolution. Despite this apparent show of bravery and the fact that 20 percent of the overall population in the thirteen colonies was of African descent, the Continental Congress in 1775 barred people of African descent from joining the Revolutionary Army.
On 4 July 1776, America issued its Declaration of Independence, which professed that all men were created equal, endowed with certain inalienable rights, and entitled to liberty. It was this act, which a number of African Americans considered hypocritical, that helped fuel the creation of an African American polity that would eventually lead the way for a civil rights movement.
Gabriel's Insurrection, Black Cultural Identity, and Race Relations
Africans and their descendants in the new United States outnumbered Europeans south of the Mason-Dixon line in 1800; in fact, close to 50 percent of all immigrants (including Europeans) who lived in the thirteen American colonies between 1700 and 1775 came from Africa. A forced migration of these proportions had an enormous impact on societies and cultures throughout the Americas and produced a diverse community of peoples of African descent.
An event known as Gabriel's Insurrection characterized race relations in the early nineteenth century. In the spring of 1800, the slave Gabriel Prosser, whose intention was to create a free black state in Virginia, organized a slave uprising. Prosser hoped that slaves from the surrounding territory would join him and his comrades and, eventually, that the uprising would reach such proportions that the whites would be forced to discuss Prosser's vision for a free black state. When Prosser's plans to attack the city of Richmond became known, Governor James Monroe ordered in the federal militia, which ultimately suppressed the insurrection. Prosser and fifteen of his followers were hanged in October of that year.
During this time, Africans and their descendants forged two distinct identities: one as black Virginians sharing a provincial culture, and a second as African Americans sharing a fate with enslaved peoples throughout the hemisphere. In his Ploughshares into Swords (1997), the historian James Sidbury contends that African ethnicity mattered in the New World. To highlight the absence of racial solidarity, Sidbury points to the refusal of slaves from one locality to aid those of another in resisting their common oppressor. Ironically, the lack of a broader collective identity was itself the primary "Africanism" in early Virginia.
In the half-century after 1750 four developments fostered a broader racial consciousness. First, as plantation slavery expanded into Piedmont counties, links between old and new quarters enlarged the boundaries of community. Second, evangelical Christianity created a network of the faithful, especially as black Baptists pushed to establish autonomous churches. At the same time, the American Revolution gave black Virginians a reason to see themselves as a cohesive people. In particular, Dunmore's Proclamation addressed the colony's slaves in collective terms. Finally, events in Saint Domingue, Haiti, provided a model of revolutionary racial justice that prompted black Virginians to situate themselves in a larger African diaspora.
By 1800 Prosser and his neighbors asserted a double consciousness that was at once provincial (black and Virginian) and global (black Virginian and African American). Sidbury carefully roots community and identity in concrete social relations, specific to time and place. People can simultaneously inhabit multiple, and potentially antagonistic, communities. Likewise, identities are "crosscutting," the term Sidbury uses to capture the tension among an individual's class, race, gender, status, nativity, and religious positions. Race was the foundation of many, but not all, of the communities to which enslaved Virginians belonged. When Haitian slaves arrived with their exiled masters in Richmond in 1793, local slaves skirmished with the strange, predominantly African refugees. In 1800 Prosser and his allies excluded women from their uprising. They also debated whether to spare Quakers, Methodists, Frenchmen, and white women. Not long after, two slaves alerted their master to the plot, another black man turned the fleeing Prosser over to the authorities, and several co-conspirators turned state's evidence. Where other historians have mythologized a homogeneous "slave community," Sidbury introduces complexity and conflict.
Native American Relations
After the American Revolution white Americans increased their migration into Indian territories to the West and into the Spanish Empire (and after 1821, Mexico). The policy of the federal government toward Indians before the Civil War was the removal of Indians to then unwanted territories west of the Mississippi River. By 1821 the tribes in the Great Lakes region had been forcibly relocated, and the Indians of the Southeast were forcibly removed between 1817 and 1835.
Settlers in Georgia coveted Spanish and Seminole land in Florida. The Georgians were also upset that when Britain controlled Florida the British often incited Seminoles against American settlers who were migrating south into Seminole territory. These old conflicts, combined with the safe-haven Seminoles provided Africans, caused the United States to support a group of recent settlers (mainly from Georgia) who lived in northeastern Florida and called themselves the Patriots. The Patriot War was unsuccessful in part because the United States became involved in the Creek War in Alabama. But soon attention turned again to Florida. One of the initial attacks of the First Seminole War (1817–1818) was the attack on the Negro Fort. The cry of "Negro Fort!" became a battle cry among Seminoles and Africans in Florida. By 1817 reports claimed that 600 blacks were training as soldiers and were highly regimented, an even larger number of
Seminoles were preparing to fight invaders into their territory. Many Africans had decided that they would follow Bowlegs as king, and Nero was their commander. Forces under General Andrew Jackson fought the Seminoles for several years. Although the war officially ended in 1818, unofficial U.S. military expeditions into the territory continued until Spain formally ceded Florida to the United States in 1821. As soon as the United States acquired Florida, it began urging the Indians there to leave their lands and relocate along with other southeastern tribes to Indian Territory, in present-day Oklahoma. Some Seminole leaders signed a treaty in 1832, and part of the tribe moved. But other Seminoles refused to recognize the treaty and fled to the Florida Everglades.
The Second Seminole War (1835–1842), usually referred to as the Seminole War proper, was the fiercest war waged by the U.S. government against American Indians. The United States spent more than $20 million fighting the Seminoles. In 1842, a nominal end to the hostilities arrived, however no peace treaty was signed. By this time most Seminoles had been moved from Florida and relocated to Indian Territory. A Third Seminole War broke out in 1855, when conflicts—largely over land—arose between whites and some Seminoles who remained in Florida. Constant military patrols and rewards for the capture of Indians reduced the Seminole population in Florida to about 200 when the Third Seminole War ended in 1858.
In 1862 Indians were designated wards of the Bureau of Indian Affairs rather than enemies, and in 1871 Congress declared an end to the policy of signing treaties with Indian nations. Numerous conflicts took place during the nineteenth century as Indians resisted the invasion of their territories and their placement on reservations. Of the Indians in California, 70,000 were killed by war and disease between 1849 and 1859, and other groups were similarly devastated. The defeat of the Plains Indians was made possible, in part, by the reduction of the bison herds from an estimated 13 million in 1867 to 200 in 1883.
With the defeat of the Apache in 1886, the Indian wars came to an end; the Indian population had been reduced to about 200,000 and was forced into impoverishment on reservations under the paternalistic and often corrupt control of the Bureau of Indian Affairs. From 1887 to 1934 federal policy toward Indians was governed by the General Allotment Act (Dawes Severalty Act) of 1887, under which Indians were to be transformed into individualistic and responsible farmers on family owned plots. The policy reduced reservation acreage from 139 million acres in 1887 to 47 million acres by 1933.
African American Relations
Throughout the colonial period and until 1819, slaves escaped from the Lower South into East and West Florida. While the famous "Negro Fort," once the British Fort Gadsden, was taken by American troops in 1816, it was not until 1819 that the United States made a bold play to take all of East Florida. In that year, Congress attempted to put a stop to slave runaways and Indian raids across the Florida border by sending General Jackson to make war on the encampments and communities of Africans and Native Americans. Jackson claimed all of Florida for the United States. Spain was not strong enough to reclaim Florida and the descendants of many fugitives moved on to Cuba or retreated into the swamps.
The bloodiest insurrection of all, in which some sixty whites were murdered, occurred in Southampton County, Virginia, in August 1831. Nat Turner, its leader, besides being a skilled carpenter, was a literate, mystical preacher. He had discovered particular relevance in the prophets of the Old Testament. Besides identifying with the slave experience of the Israelites, Turner and other slaves felt that the social righteousness preached by prophets related directly to the men's situation. Turner's growing hatred of slavery and his increasing concern for the plight of his brothers led him to believe he was one of God's chosen instruments. In early 1831 Turner collected a small band of followers, and in August they moved from farm to farm, slaughtering the white inhabitants, gaining many of the slaves who were freed in the process. When word of the massacre spread, they were met by armed resistance. Some of Turner's men were killed and wounded, and Turner and several of his followers were captured and executed.
The Turner massacre was universally depicted as the work of savages and brutes and, as a result, new laws controlling the slaves were passed throughout the South. Both the violence of the slaves and the verbal abuse of the abolitionists served only to strengthen the South in its defense of the institution of slavery. Slaves who revolted were depicted as beasts that could not be freed because they would endanger society. Submissive slaves were pictured as children in need of paternal protection from the evils of a complex, modern world. They were never seen as men whose rights and liberties had been proclaimed in the Declaration of Independence.
By 1804 all the northern states had either eliminated slavery or passed laws for its gradual abolition. But the humanitarian motives behind the antislavery laws were not sufficient to prevent the imposition of a system of severe discrimination and segregation on the 10 percent of the African American population that resided in the North. Before the Civil War, African Americans in the North were restricted from entering various states, given inadequate and segregated schooling, barred from most public facilities, excluded from jury service and denied the vote, and nursed in segregated hospitals and buried in segregated graveyards.
The Post–Civil War Period
After the Civil War, African Americans improved their economic status as a whole, engaged in civil rights efforts to enforce new antidiscrimination laws, and became politically active. However, between 1877, when the federal troops were withdrawn from the South, and 1910, a new system of segregation and discrimination was imposed on African Americans. With each depression in the late nineteenth century, African Americans lost their hard-won gains, were deserted by liberals, and saw a number of rights eliminated or curtailed by U.S. Supreme Court decisions in 1873, 1883, and 1896.
With the passage of numerous state and local ordinances dealing with segregation, the disfranchisement of the African American voter, and the economic relegation of African Americans to the lowest menial occupations, the apartheid system was complete, not to be seriously challenged by white liberals or African Americans until after World War II. In the North between 1865 and 1945, African Americans could vote and segregation was never formalized into the legal code; but de facto segregation and a disproportionate placement in the less desirable occupations were still a social reality for African Americans in the North.
With the end of the Mexican-American War in 1848, half of Mexico was annexed to the United States, and the estimated 150,000 Mexicans who lived in the territory rapidly became a numerical minority as Americans inundated the area. Most of this Mexican population was reduced to landless menial labor by 1900, through discriminatory property taxes and title laws. As the economic status of Mexicans was reduced, those of Spanish and of Indian-Spanish, or mestizo, descent were lumped together by Americans and viewed as a single, distinct, and inferior race—a view intensified by the entrance of over 700,000 legal immigrants from rural Mexico into the United States between 1900 and 1930. (In 1930 the U.S. Census Bureau, for the first and only time, divided Mexican Americans into 4.6 percent white and 95.4 percent colored.)
During the same period European and Asian immigrants arrived in the United States in increasing numbers to meet the demands of an expanding economy. Between 1820 and 1920 some 30 million Europeans entered America. Being white, most of them entered the American mainstream within two or three generations, the rate of assimilation being affected primarily by the degree to which their cultures approximated that of Americans of British descent.
Asian immigrants, however, had a different experience. The peak years of Chinese immigration were from 1861 to 1890 (249,213) and 1891 to 1920 (239,576) for the Japanese. All were met with resistance. The Chinese were barred from voting in California in 1848 and from testifying in court between 1854 and 1872. The California constitution banned Chinese persons from working in corporations and government, and forced them to pay discriminatory taxes and fees. This state-sanctioned discrimination made for an essentially lawless West that ignored
the numerous acts of violence committed against Asian immigrants.
By arriving in a more stable period, the Japanese avoided this "frontier" situation but were excluded from white unions and denied ownership of land by a number of western states (a practice declared constitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1923). Further Chinese and Japanese immigration was almost terminated by congressional acts in 1902 and 1924.
The Twentieth Century
By the beginning of the twentieth century almost all nonwhites were in the lowest occupation and income categories in the United States and were attempting to accommodate themselves to this status within segregated areas—barrios, ghettoes, and reservations. The great majority of whites, including major educators and scientists, justified this condition on the grounds that nonwhites were biologically inferior to whites.
Although the period was largely characterized by the accommodation of nonwhites to subordination, a number of major incidents of racial conflict did occur: the mutiny and rioting of a number of African American soldiers in Houston, Texas, in 1917; African American–white conflict in twenty-five cities in the summer of 1919; and the destruction of white businesses in Harlem in New York City in 1935 and in Detroit in 1943. A major racist policy of the federal government was the forcible evacuation and internment of 110,000 Japanese living on the West Coast in 1942—a practice not utilized in Hawaii, and not utilized against Italians and German Americans.
Following World War II major changes occurred in the pattern of white dominance, segregation, and non-white accommodation that had been highly structured in the first half of the twentieth century. After the war a number of new nonwhite organizations were formed and, with the older organizations, sought changes in American race relations as varied as integration, sociocultural pluralism, and political independence. The government and the courts, largely reacting to the activities of these groups, ended the legality of segregation and discrimination in schools, public accommodations, the armed forces, housing, employment practices, eligibility for union member-ship, and marriage and voting laws. In addition, in March 1961 the federal government began a program of affirmative action in the hiring of minorities and committed itself to a policy of improving the economic basis of Indian reservations and, by 1969, promoting Indian self-determination within the reservation framework.
Although government efforts to enforce the new laws and court decisions were, at least at the outset, sporadic and inadequate, most overt forms of discrimination had been eliminated by the mid-1970s and racial minorities were becoming proportionally represented within the middle occupational and income levels. Changes in dominance and social distance were accompanied by white resistance at the local level, leading to considerable racial conflict in the postwar period. The Mississippi Summer Project to register African American voters in Lowndes County in 1965 resulted in the burning of 35 African American churches, 35 shootings, 30 bombings of buildings, 1,000 arrests, 80 beatings of African American and white workers, and 6 murders.
Between 1964 and 1968 there were 239 cases of hostile African American protest and outbursts in 215 cities. In 1972 Indian groups occupied Alcatraz, set up roadblocks in Washington, D.C., and occupied and damaged the offices of the Bureau of Indian Affairs in that city. The Alianza movement of Chicanos in New Mexico in 1967 attempted to reclaim Rio Arriba County as an independent republic by storming the courthouse in Tierra Amarilla. Mexican American students walked out of high schools in Los Angeles in 1968, and a number of Chicano organizations boycotted the Coors Brewery in Colorado between 1968 and 1972. During the 1970s Chinese youth organizations in San Francisco, California, staged a protest and engaged in violence, claiming the right to armed self-defense against the police and the release of all Asians in American prisons.
The major developments in the 1970s were the increased efforts on the part of federal agencies to enforce the civil rights laws of the 1960s; a greater implementation of affirmative action programs, involving efforts to direct employers to take positive actions to redress employment imbalances (through the use of quotas in some cases); and the resistance in numerous communities to busing as a device to achieve racial integration in the public schools. In the 1970s America saw an influx of 4 million immigrants, followed by 6 million more in the 1980s. Millions more arrived in the country illegally. Most of the immigrants originated in Asia and Latin America and, by 1999, California, which was the nation's most populous state, had a makeup that included more than 50 percent nonwhites.
Hate crimes continued to grow from the early 1980s to 2002. In 1982 Vincent Chin, a Chinese American, was beaten to death in Detroit, Michigan, by two out-of-work autoworkers. The men blamed the Japanese for their lack of work and mistakenly believed that Chin was Japanese. In July 1989 a young African American man was assaulted in the mostly white area of Glendale, California. Despite these and numerous other instances of hate crimes throughout these decades, race relations became embedded in America's social conscience with the Rodney King beating. On 3 March 1992, a young African American man named Rodney King was pulled over for reckless driving in Los Angeles. Several police officers beat King, and despite the videotape of a bystander, an all-white jury acquitted the officers. Riots erupted in Los Angeles, resulting in 53 deaths, 4,000 injuries, 500 fires, and more than $1 billion in property damage. When speaking to reporters, King uttered what are now some of the more famous words surrounding race relations: "People, I just want to say, you know, can we all get along? Can we just get along?"
Kitano, Harry H. L. The Japanese Americans. New York: Chelsea House, 1987.
Marden, Charles F., Gladys Meyer, and Madeline H. Engel. Minorities in American Society. 6th ed. New York: Harper-Collins, 1992.
Moore, Joan W., with Harry Pachon. Mexican Americans. 2d ed. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1976.
Pinkney, Alphonso. Black Americans. 5th ed. Upper Saddle River, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 2000.
Quarles, Benjamin. The Negro in the Making of America. 3d ed. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1996.
Sidbury, James. Ploughshares into Swords: Race, Rebellion, and Identity in Gabriel's Virginia, 1730–1810. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1997.
Simpson, George Eaton, and J. Milton Yinger. Racial and Culture Minorities: An Analysis of Prejudice and Discrimination. 5th ed. New York: Plenum Press, 1985.
Wax, Murray L. Indian Americans: Unity and Diversity. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1971.
"Race Relations." Dictionary of American History. . Encyclopedia.com. (February 3, 2019). https://www.encyclopedia.com/history/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/race-relations
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The term race relations entered the sociological lexicon through Robert Ezra Park (1864–1944), who pioneered the study of race at the University of Chicago. Before becoming a professor in 1914 at the age of forty-nine, Park did a stint as a reporter and then worked for eight years as publicist and ghostwriter for Booker T. Washington (1856–1915), the founder of Tuskegee Institute in Alabama, whose mission was to provide blacks with “industrial education.” Washington, of course, is famous as the apostle of self-help and racial accommodation. He was catapulted to national prominence in 1895 with his speech at the Atlanta Exposition exhorting blacks to forego politics and to pursue education and manual labor. His core assumption was that once blacks demonstrated that they were deserving of full rights of citizenship, better race relations would ensue. This raises the tantalizing question: To what extent was Park, as he entered the nascent field of sociology, the purveyor of ideological tenets associated with Washington’s uplift ideology?
Park was also heavily influenced by the evolutionary theories prevalent at the turn of the century when he studied social philosophy at Harvard and in Germany. Herbert Spencer (1820–1903), the English philosopher and political theorist, applied Charles Darwin’s (1809–1882) theory of evolution to the social order, arguing that history progressed through a series of stages from lower to higher levels of development. Park, in turn, applied Spencer’s theory to the domain of race, and expounded a theory that “in the relations of races there is a cycle of events which tends everywhere to repeat itself” (1950, p.150).
According to Park’s famous formulation, the race relations cycle has four distinct phases. It begins with contact when different races come together through migration or conquest. This leads to conflict as the rival groups compete for supremacy. During the third stage, accommodation, the weaker group resigns itself to its subordination, and a racial etiquette is established that maintains social distance between the races. The final stage of the race relations cycle is assimilation, which involves the gradual but inexorable absorption of the subordinate group into the dominant group, culturally and biologically. Thus, according to Park, new races are formed out of “the broken fragments” of different racial groups, and the race relations cycle provides the impetus of human evolution.
Park applied the race relations cycle both to people of color and to “the races” of Europe who were flocking to Chicago and other American cities at the time he wrote. Park’s race relations model had a sanguine political subtext: it rebuffed the nativist claim that the new immigrants were “unassimilable,” and provided reassurance that the intermingling of the peoples of the world was the stuff of human evolution. As Park wrote in Race and Culture : “Every society, every nation, and every civilization has been a kind of melting pot and has thus contributed to the intermingling of races by which new races and new cultures eventually emerge” (1950, p.192).
Park acknowledged that the race relations model did not proceed as rapidly or completely when it came to people of color. Even so, he clung to his evolutionary optimism that the assimilation process eventually would run its course, and like Washington, he emphasized the great progress that blacks had made during the half-century after slavery. Park also shared Spencer’s view that attempts to influence the flux of history were in vain. He was contemptuous of social reformers, and exhorted social scientists to observe an Olympian distance from the world of politics. Thus, Park’s race relations model gave theoretical exposition and scientific legitimacy to Booker T. Washington’s politics of accommodation. As Charles U. Smith and Lewis Killian observed, Park “constructed a theory of assimilation which paralleled Washington’s program in its major premises of accommodation and assimilation, realism and optimism” (1974, p. 200).
Park’s race relations model emerged as the reigning paradigm in the social sciences, both in the United States and Britain (Banton 1967; Rex 1983). The hallmark of this paradigm was to normalize and naturalize race and racial inequality, and to remove them from the political realm. Even black demands for full civil rights remained off the radar screen of mainstream social science. In a trenchant analysis of the social science literature on race, Stanford Lyman shows how leading sociological theorists from Park to Gunnar Myrdal (1898–1987) to Talcott Parsons (1902–1979) avoided the issue of civil rights. Instead, they advanced teleological models that projected racial improvement as part of an evolutionary process of societal change. “Since the time for teleological redemption is ever long,” Lyman writes sardonically, “blacks might consign their civil and equalitarian future to faith in the ultimate fulfillment of the inclusion cycle’s promise” (1993, p. 394). Lyman concludes with an indictment of the entire discipline: “Sociology, in this respect, has been part of the problem and not part of the solution” (1993, p. 397).
The race relations paradigm had enormous implications for praxis as well as for theory. Social scientists of all disciplinary stripes were cast into the role of managers of the troubled and fractured “relations” between the races (Steinberg 2001). The root cause of racial conflict was seen as prejudice: the distorted, derogatory, and often malicious beliefs that placed a stigma of inferiority onto blacks and led to their discriminatory treatment. Sociologists over many decades have charted historical trends in the prevalence and distribution of prejudiced beliefs. Other practitioners in “the race relations industry,” as it came to be called, engaged in projects of education and social work, designed to bridge the racial chasm and to forge better, more tolerant and harmonious “relations” between the races (Killian 1979; McKee 1993). According to critics, the fatal problem with this otherwise innocuous approach was that it elided those structures of oppression that enforced black subordination: Jim Crow laws in the South, racial apartheid in jobs and housing in the North, and structured inequalities along racial lines that pervaded all major societal institutions.
Nor was criticism of the University of Chicago’s race relations model only a matter of hindsight. There were some contemporaneous critics, though they were mostly black or Marxist, and therefore could be easily marginalized. Throughout his long career as both scholar and activist, W. E. B. Du Bois (1868–1963) treated racism not as an individual anomaly but as a feature of major political and economic institutions. In 1909 Du Bois was a principal founder of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), whose main purpose was to secure full rights of citizenship for blacks. Oliver Cox (1901–1974), another black Marxist, directly challenged Park’s “new orthodoxy” on race relations, arguing that Park’s “teleological approach has diverted him from an examination of specific causal events in the development of modern race antagonism” (1948, p. 476). For Cox, race prejudice was merely “the social-attitudinal concomitant of the racial-exploitative practice of a ruling class in a capitalist society” (1948, p. 476). That both Du Bois and Cox were beleaguered and ostracized within the sociological profession, and their work dismissed as “propaganda,” underscores the intellectual hegemony of the Chicago School of race relations (Deegan 2000, p. 284).
Just as the Chicago School studiously ignored power “from above,” it was oblivious to the possibility of revolt “from below.” All of this changed with the eruption of black insurgency, beginning with the Birmingham, Alabama, boycott in 1955 and culminating with the passage of landmark civil rights legislation in 1964 and 1965. The ensuing societal crisis threw into question the prevailing paradigm on race. A pivotal moment occurred at the 1963 Annual Meeting of the American Sociological Association when Everett Hughes (1897–1983), a student of Robert Park, delivered his presidential address in which he pondered the reasons that sociology had failed to anticipate the civil rights revolution (McKee 1993, p. 9). Here was a rare admission of intellectual failure and an unmistakable sign of paradigm crisis. Indeed, with the intensification of racial conflict beginning with the Watts revolt in Los Angeles in 1965 and the escalating black militancy during the 1970s, events demonstrated the utter failure of the race relations paradigm to shed light on the forces that were tearing American society apart. The time was ripe for paradigm change.
The civil rights revolution engendered a “scholarship of confrontation” that emphasized the centrality of race and racism, and incorporated minority and radical voices that had long been relegated to the fringes (Steinberg 1995). The most important revision to the race relations paradigm came from a book that was a collaboration between Stokely Carmichael (1941–1998), a frontline activist, and Charles V. Hamilton, a political scientist at Lincoln University. In Black Power (1967), Carmichael and Hamilton posited a distinction between “individual racism” and “institutional racism,” the latter referring to the ways in which racism is not necessarily predicated on racist motives but rather embedded in routine institutional practices that reproduce racial inequalities. The concept of institutionalized racism provided a crucial theoretical underpinning for affirmative action policy, which succeeded in integrating significant numbers of blacks into blue-collar industries, corporate management, and the professions (Collins 1983; Darity and Myers 1998).
In another landmark study, Racial Oppression in America (1972), Bob Blauner gave theoretical exposition to ideas that emanated from the anticolonial movements in the third world. Even his title, Racial Oppression, implicitly challenged the obfuscating terminology of the “race relations” model. Blauner also drew a sharp distinction between “immigrant” and “colonized” minorities— the latter referring to people of color who did not arrive as voluntary immigrants seeking a better life, but who entered American society en masse, as the result of conquest or slavery. These “colonized minorities” were not only exposed to more virulent prejudice, but were also denied the rights and opportunities that delivered immigrants from poverty.
Recent scholarship is marked by two opposing schools of thought. On the one hand, there has been a “scholarship of backlash” that contends that racism is of declining significance, and restores the victim-blaming discourses that anteceded the civil rights revolution (Wilson 1978; D’Souza 1995; Thernstrom and Thernstrom 1997). In the tradition of Washington and Park, these theorists see racial progress as contingent upon blacks acquiring the education and skills that explain the relative success of the black middle class. The flip side of this proposition is that the sources of persistent inequalities are located not in societal structures but in putative defects of black families, communities, and culture. Institutionalized racism is either ignored or defined out of existence.
On the other hand, there is a rival discourse that builds on “the scholarship of confrontation” associated with the civil rights movement, and posits “colorblind racism” as the central concept for both theory and praxis (Bonilla-Silva 2006; Brown et al. 2003; Feagin 2006). According to these writers, despite progress on some fronts, we are far from the colorblind society that Martin Luther King (1929–1968) envisioned in his 1963 “I Have a Dream” oration. Indeed, the claim of colorblindness has been used as a smokescreen to conceal the retreat from the affirmative action and other antiracist policies that account for much of the success during the post–civil rights era.
This intellectual contestation is indicative of an ongoing struggle for intellectual hegemony between rival paradigms. The outcome may well determine whether sociology will continue to be part of the problem, as Stanford Lyman has alleged, or whether it will be part of the solution.
SEE ALSO Park School, The; Park, Robert E.; Race; Race and Education; Race Relations Cycle; Racism
Banton, Michael. 1967. Race Relations. London: Tavistock.
Blauner, Bob. 1972. Racial Oppression in America. New York: Harper. 2nd ed., 2001, with the revised title Still the Big News: Racial Oppression in America. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.
Bonilla-Silva, Eduardo. 2006. Racism Without Racists: Color-Blind Racism and the Persistence of Racial Inequality in the United States. 2nd ed. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.
Brown, Michael K., et al. 2003. Whitewashing Race: The Myth of a Color-Blind Society. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Carmichael, Stokely, and Charles V. Hamilton. 1967. Black Power: The Politics of Liberation. 2nd ed. 1992. New York: Vintage.
Collins, Sharon M. 1983. The Making of the Black Middle Class. Social Problems 30: 369–382.
Cox, Oliver Cromwell. 1948. Caste, Class, and Race: A Study in Social Dynamics. Garden City, NY: Doubleday.
Darity, William A., and Samuel L. Myers Jr. 1998. Persistent Disparity: Race and Economic Inequality in the United States Since 1945. Northampton, MA: E. Elgar.
Deegan, Mary Jo. 2000. Oliver C. Cox and the Chicago School of Race Relations, 1892–1960. Research in Race and Ethnic Relations 2: 271–288.
D’Souza, Dinesh. 1995. The End of Racism. New York: Free Press.
Feagin, Joe R. 2006. Systemic Racism: A Theory of Oppression. New York: Routledge.
Lyman, Stanford M. 1972. The Black American in Sociological Thought: A Failure of Perspective. New York: Putnam.
Lyman, Stanford M. 1993. Race Relations as Social Process: Sociology’s Resistance to a Civil Rights Orientation. In Race in America: The Struggle for Equality, eds. Herbert Hill and James E. Jones, 370–401. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press.
McKee, James B. 1993. Sociology and the Race Problem: The Failure of a Perspective. Urbana: University of Illinois Press.
Park, Robert Ezra. 1950. Race and Culture. Eds. Everett C. Hughes et al. Glencoe, IL: Free Press.
Rex, John. 1983. Race Relations in Sociological Theory. 2nd ed. London: Routledge.
Smith, Charles U., and Lewis M. Killian. 1974. Black Sociologists and Social Protest. In Black Sociologists: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives, eds. James E. Blackwell and Morris Janowitz, 191–230. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Steinberg, Stephen. 1995. Turning Back: The Retreat from Racial Justice in American Thought and Policy. Boston: Beacon.
Steinberg, Stephen. 2001. “Race Relations”: The Problem with the Wrong Name. New Politics 8 (2) (new series), whole no. 30. http://www.wpunj.edu/newpol/issue30/steinb30.htm.
Thernstrom, Stephen, and Abigail Thernstrom. 1997. America in Black and White. New York: Simon and Schuster.
Wilson, William Julius. 1978. The Declining Significance of Race: Blacks and Changing American Institutions. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
"Race Relations." International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences. . Encyclopedia.com. (February 3, 2019). https://www.encyclopedia.com/social-sciences/applied-and-social-sciences-magazines/race-relations
"Race Relations." International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences. . Retrieved February 03, 2019 from Encyclopedia.com: https://www.encyclopedia.com/social-sciences/applied-and-social-sciences-magazines/race-relations
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"race relations." The Oxford Companion to British History. . Encyclopedia.com. (February 3, 2019). https://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/race-relations
"race relations." The Oxford Companion to British History. . Retrieved February 03, 2019 from Encyclopedia.com: https://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/race-relations
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race re·la·tions • pl. n. relations between members or communities of different races within one country.
"race relations." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. . Encyclopedia.com. (February 3, 2019). https://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/race-relations
"race relations." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. . Retrieved February 03, 2019 from Encyclopedia.com: https://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/race-relations