The Chicago Race Riots, July 1919by Carl Sandburg
To record the background of an event, infinitely more disgraceful than that Mexican banditry or Red Terror about which we are all so virtuously indignant, is sufficient reason for republishing these articles by Carl Sandburg. They are first hand, and they are sympathetic, and they will move those who will allow themselves to be
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Introductory note to the book:
To record the background of an event, infinitely more disgraceful than that Mexican banditry or Red Terror about which we are all so virtuously indignant, is sufficient reason for republishing these articles by Carl Sandburg. They are first hand, and they are sympathetic, and they will move those who will allow themselves to be moved.
Moved not alone to indignation, though that is needed, but to thought. It is not possible, I think, to examine this record without concluding that the race problem as we know it is really a by-product of our planless, disordered, bedraggled, drifting democracy. Until we have learned to house everybody, employ everybody at decent wages in a self-respecting status, guarantee his civil liberties, and bring education and play to him, the bulk of our talk about "the race problem" will remain a sinister mythology. In a dirty civilization the relation between black men and white will be a dirty one. In a clean civilization the two races can conduct their business together "cleanly, and not until then.
Certainly the idea must go that in order to segregate the races biologically it is necessary to degrade and terrorize one of them. For those who degrade and terrorize are inevitably themselves degraded and terror-stricken. It is only the parvenue, the snob, the coward who is forever proclaiming his superiority. And by proclaiming it he evokes imitation in his victim. Hence the peculiar oppressiveness of recently oppressed peoples in Europe. Hence the Negro who desires to be an imitation white man. Hence again the determination to suppress the Negro who attempts to imitate the white man. For so long as the status of the white man is in every way superior to that of the colored, the advancement of the colored man can mean nothing but an attempt to share the white man's social privileges. From this arises that terrible confusion between the idea of social equality and the idea of social mixture.
Since permanent degradation is unthinkable, and amalgamation undesirable both for blacks and whites, the ideal would seem to lie in what might be called race parallelism. Parallel lines may be equally long and' equally straight; they do not join except in infinity, which is further away than anyone need worry about just now. We shall have to work out with the Negro a relationship which gives him complete access to all the machinery of our common civilization, and yet allows him to live so that no Negro need dream of a white heaven and of bleached angels. Pride of race will come to the Negro when a dark skin is no longer associated with poverty, ignorance, misery, terror and insult. When this pride arises every white man in America will be the happier for it. He will be able then, as he is not now, to enjoy the finest quality of civilized living—the fellowship of different men.
Walter Lippman. Whitestone, Long Island. August 26, 1919.
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