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A. H. Currier, The Present Day Problem of Crime.
THE toleration of negro slavery was, of course, the great crime, the great inconsistency, in a nation founded upon the principle that "all men are created equal.” That crime was atoned for by the blood and tears of the Civil War, and ended by the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments to the Constitution. Now Lincoln, the Emancipator, is known and reverenced by the poorest child who earns or is given a copper cent.
Scarcely less serious a stain upon our record has been our treatment of the natives of our land, the American Indians. They were subjugated with comparative ease by the superior numbers and weapons of the European settlers, and thereupon denied citizenship, banished to the far West, cooped up upon Reserves, and treated in a way that justifies the title of a recent volume, A Century of Dishonor. A commission appointed by President Grant to report upon Indian affairs published this conclusion: “The history of the Government connection with the Indians is a shameful record of broken treaties and unfulfilled promises. The history of the border white man's connection with the Indians is a sickening record of murder, outrage, robbery and wrongs committed by the former, as the rule, and occasional outbreaks and unspeakably barbarous deeds of retaliation by the latter, as the exception."
The nation has now generally recognized the wrong that was done the negro and the Indian. What remains of the latter race seems in a fair way to be absorbed into the common American stock. But the negro race remains a sharply distinct race, whose intermarriage is not usually regarded as desirable. Human nature being what it is, a certain racial antipathy seems unconquerable; and the presence of eleven millions of negroes in this country gives rise to a very serious problem.
It is not that the negroes are an "inferior" race. Modern biology has been undermining that complacent assumption of innate superiority which the white man has until recently taken for granted. Recent investigations seem to indicate that there is no very great difference in average mental ability between the members of the white, red, yellow, brown and black
It may be though it has not yet been decisively proved—that the average of negro capacity is somewhat below the average capacity of the white race. But in any case, the range of capacity within each race is so great as compared with any average difference that there may be between the races, that no difference in attitude toward any race as a whole is justified because of different mental capacity.
It would seem, if these biological investigations are trustworthy, that the apparent lower capacity of the negroes, as of every backward race, is to be explained mainly, if not altogether, by the absence of an environment favorable for development. Give the negroes equal educational and cultural advantages, and in a generation there will be no more problem of a backward race there than there is with the Japanese, who, in a generation, have leaped from a semi-civilized status to be one of the world's great
Powers. The poetry of Paul Lawrence Dunbar, the great educational achievement of Booker Washington -possibly the greatest educational achievement of the past generation, the undisputed genius of many negroes in this and other countries, reveals the potentialities in a hitherto cramped and suppressed race. The problem of the negro is not so much the problem of the negro as the problem of the white man who does not want to extend to him equal advantages.
It is easy, of course, for a Northerner, who sees few negroes, to preach equality of treatment. It is quite another matter for a Southerner who lives in a region where, perhaps, the blacks outnumber the whites, to practice such equality. But it should be unnecessary to insist that the denial of equal rights and privileges to any race is fundamentally un-American. The negro in many parts of the country does not get equal justice. He is brutally treated by the police. If there is a quarrel between whites and blacks, it is usually the blacks that are arrested. In the recent Chicago race-riots—which started with the shameless murder of an innocent colored boy-twenty-three colored and fifteen white people were killed; but the arrests and indictments of negroes were five times as numerous as those of whites. The lynchings that disgrace our land have usually negroes for the victims, although the statistics show that the negroes are a comparatively law-abiding race. More cases of rape are recorded annually as committed by white men in a single Northern city than by all the negroes in the South.
Apart from this flagrant injustice, the petty indig. nities to which the negro population is subject in many parts of the South show how undeveloped the sense of human equality still remains.
waiting-rooms and railway cars which negroes must use, the discourtesies of conductors and ticket-agents and hotel men, make travelling for the refined negro extremely disagreeable. Employers cheat their negro helpers, storekeepers insult them, politicians indulge in coarse jests and vituperation at their expense, venal press fans the flame of race prejudice by misrepresenting facts and exploiting whatever cases of negro criminality come to hand. There is a widespread effort to keep the negro in a position of inferiority; and to justify this injustice, there is a continual stream of abuse poured upon him, to prove that the discrimination is deserved.
Most serious of all is the denial of educational privileges. The recent constitutional amendments in most of the Southern States with hold the ballot from the illiterate blacks; and there is therefore a widespread desire to keep them illiterate in order to prevent their obtaining political power. No Southern state permits white and negro children to attend the same public schools; four states prohibit even mixed private schools and colleges. One state goes so far as to forbid whites from teaching negroes! In many parts of the South the sums available for negro educa. tion are shamelessly small-far less than the sums available for white children, though the negro children may outnumber the whites. Figures available some years ago showed that although the negroes constitute eleven per cent of our population, they get the benefit of but two per cent of the school funds of the country. As a result, ignorance still prevailsamongthe negroes; and it is no wonder if poverty, crime and vice, the concomitants of ignorance, too largely prevail.
Thus, instead of solving the problem by helping the negro to rise to a higher level, many of their white