The Mixing of Races and Social Decay

Posted in Articles, Caribbean/Latin America, Health/Medicine/Genetics, Media Archive, Social Science, United Kingdom, United States on 2011-06-22 03:39Z by Steven

The Mixing of Races and Social Decay

Eugenics Review
Volume 41, Number 1 (April 1949)
pages 11–16

The Right Rev. E. W. Barnes, Sc.D., F.R.S. (1874-1953)
Biship of Birmingham, England

I have chosen to address you on a subject of great importance. With regard to it strong differences of opinion exist. As we consider various aspects of the subject we grope our way uncertainly.

Let us begin with statements that all will accept.

Some Facts of Inheritance

First, the various races of mankind interbreed freely with one another. International enmity, racial prejudice, cultural differences all seem, speaking generally, impotent to prevent interbreeding.

Secondly, the extension of world trade and of transport facilities is steadily increasing the mixture of races and in consequence the likelihood of interbreeding.

I add a further statement that is steadily winning acceptance; physical and psychical qualities are inherited by the same laws of inheritance. As an illustration of this statement we may say that from a tuberculosis parent a tendency to tuberculosis can be inherited; likewise from a drunken parent a tendency to drunkenness can be inherited. In either case, in mating, the dangerous gene or genes may be rejected, or they may be handed on as recessives; but, if rejection or subordination does not take place, the evil tendency will show itself when the environment gives it a chance.

What we have to insist upon in addition to the above fundamental facts is that the complex of desirable qualities, or modes of behaviour and of appreciation, which we call civilization, is a recent acquisition of humanity: it may easily be destroyed or, at least, injured. Our civilization is a fragile thing, which can only be preserved by the education of each successive generation.

And the most careful education, painstaking and thorough though it be, at times fails. Such failure is, it seems, especially likely to occur when the type of civilization which the education aims at producing differs markedly from that which may be called ancestral.

Unsatisfactory “Pockets” in our Society

It is much to be regretted that we lack authoritative knowledge which will enable us to forecast such failure. There is general agreement that in our industrial areas, and in some of our villages, “pockets” of feeblemindedness exist: the children from families in these pockets are expected by elementary teachers to be-and in fact often are backward at school. It seems certain that mental dullness is inherited more often than not. But though “pockets” are formed by half-breeds, if we may for convenience so describe children who are the offspring of different racial stocks, and though children from these “pockets” fairly often prove unsatisfactory to their teachers, it is difficult to know how far their defects are due in innate limitations rather than to harmful home influences. As we put the inquiry we sometimes receive over-confident opinions: colour prejudice, which in Britain is instinctive and strong, tends to distort judgment.

There is no doubt that grave social decay often appears in places like seaports where races mix. But we must remember that, when there is no race mixture, if war leads to conditions under which children run wild, or defective housing creates circumstances leading to immorality, even good stocks will tend to decay. The best we can say is that, when conditions improve, recovery can be rapid. But, I repeat, civilization is fragile: it is a pattern of lving more easily broken than repaired…

…Mixture of Races in South Africa and West Indies

I have left until the end of my survey the most important and difficult of all aspects of the mixing of races, the problem of the Negro in South Africa and in the U.S.A. In each country the ” colour problem ” is a domestic political issue of the first magnitude. Dislike of intermarriage and fear of Negro domination show themselves in white attempts at restrictive legislation. Anxiety is greater in South Africa because there the white man is an intruder; and developments in the West Indian islands suggest that ultimately a partially coloured population will be universal. Descendants of Dutch settlers naturally wish to retain a racial heritage of which they are rightly proud. Their civilization is far higher than that of the Negroes among whom they live and distinctly higher than that of the Indians who seek admission as traders. Without Negro labour in the gold mines the industry could not be carried on as at present; and, in fact, climatic conditions make it natural that manual labour should be supplied by the Negro. We have, in fact, a situation which has recurred throughout history. Two races live side by side: the one of higher culture is dominant but increases slowly in numbers: the other becomes increasingly necessary because it supplies manual labour; it has also the higher birthrate. Inter-breeding takes place and in the end a mixed race with a lower civilization is evolved.

The Negro Problem in the U.S.A.

In the U.S.A., as is well known, the outcome of the Civil War was freedom for the slaves coupled, theoretically, with full civil rights. The actual denial of the franchise in the Southern States has been notorious. Of recent years Negroes have been migrating to the north, where their political influence is being felt. Such migration is leading to further racial admixture. In thirty American States legislation to prevent marriage between whites and Negroes exists—in one instance a Negro has been defined as one in whom there is more than three sixteenths of Negro blood. The California Supreme Court has recently declared such legislation unconstitutional. Americans, whether they like the prospect or not, must accept the fact that a Negro strain in the population is spreading. How should this outcome be regarded?

The earlier stages of disreputable intercourse between white and black belong to the past. Coloured people in all but remote areas of the United States of America have acquired a mixture of white blood. Whenever a so-called Negro makes his mark in public life, inquiry almost always shows a mixed ancestry. In fact, the American “Negro” is already of a different race from the African from whom he is partially descended. This fact is probably the cause of the wide divergence of American opinion as to the right attitude towards “black” citizens. Those who live in Southern States where the Negro strain in the coloured population is strong are prejudiced against any form of political or social equality. Those who know the qualities and potentialities of what we may call the “new” Negro have no such prejudice. The “new” Negro is already developing a characteristic culture. His religion is a form of Christianity which, though intellectually primitive, is emotionally strong. For “Negro spirituals” a musician of the quality of Walford Davies had great admiration. Some plays and stories due to “new” Negroes show the beginning of new forms of art…

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