Two score and nineteeen years have passed since the Emancipation Proclamation set America free. Since that time modern science and invention and world movements have brought the questions of race relations and democracy to the forefront of public policy, both national and international.
The records of the past have left mainly the experience of conflict and conquest in the dealings of the strong with the weak and the white with the black. Consequently, the world faces the new situations and the rising tide of race consciousness with quite as limited knowledge of whether the principles of racial appreciation and cooperation can be made practicable and how they may be achieved.
Experience in the adjustment of the relations of the white and Negro peoples in America, therefore, has great significance for the world-wide trend of the races. The very issue of whether or not there will soon be a warless world is involved because the problem of the twentieth century is the problem of the contacts of the white and colored races. With such interests involved, no student of American race relations can well dogmatize or scold. What is needed is more light and less heat. Truth has only to be revealed to carry convictions; it cannot be permanently concealed. The light of knowledge and the conviction of truth beget action in the spirit of the Sermon on the Mount.
There is now available a growing body of scientific and religious ideas and principles to guide the feeling, thinking, attitudes, and actions on such social questions. The author has here attempted an introduction to the discussion of the relations of the two races in America in the light asks, "Shall mutual misunderstanding, suspicions, and friction continue, growing more and more acute? Or shall mutual understanding, tolerance and good-will replace them?" This presents the issue perhaps rather too strongly, for there is already more understanding, more tolerance and good-will than the question would imply, and yet his question is the question. In a later part of the book he gives the desired answer in a quotation from the University Race Commission which says: "No fact is more clearly established by history than that hatred and force only complicate race relations. The alternative to this is counsel and cooperation among men of character and good-will, and, above all, of intelligent and comprehensive knowledge of the racial problem".
In 1913 in Atlanta a section of the Southern Sociological Congress held a meeting which was the first of its kind. White men and black men met together on the same floor and spoke to one another with frankness and without ill-temper. From that time down to the present, with the many local groups organized by the fine efforts of the Commission on Interracial Cooperation, there have been meetings of representatives of the two races at which more and more the spirit of understanding and cooperation has prevailed. When I think of this, and when I think of the increasing influences of school and church, in spite of lynchings and other evils of which we hear, I confess myself to have the hopeful note. I see too many good people who believe in what is right and who want to see righteousness practised, not to have the hope that the right alternative of the two ways will prevail. And shall we not have faith in education and religion, both of which great forces are doing their inevitable work? Our education is trying year by year to touch life more closely. Our religion, calling itself Christian, is realizing that it must be so in practise as well as in name if it is to hold the allegiance of mankind. There has never been a clearer challenge to religion, as Dr. Haynes says, than exists to-day the world over in this matter of interracial relations. It was a question of the day in the time of Christ, and we know how he met it.
Surely I think we may have the hopeful note, and meanwhile do the thing which seems right for the day. Dr. Haynes says: "A close observation of opinion among all classes of Negroes discloses a slowly increasing spirit of resistance to injustice and mistreatment." This is true, and it heightens the challenge to all who are wishing and working for good relations. There is no doubt that disappointment has come, especially since the World War. But, as a friend has pointed out, the white people, as well as the colored people, had expectations beyond the realization. The world is still a long way from being safe for democracy. The fact is that great permanent changes, as readers of history know, take time, and are not very much accelerated even by crises. It is natural that there should be disappointment and resentment, and yet I have a profound belief in the practical common-sense of the masses of the Negro people.
An underlying thought of the present volume is given by the author himself. "Through all the chapters," he says, "and implicit in every section is the theme that the relations of the two races finally rest, not upon wealth or poverty, not upon things or lack of them, but upon the mental, moral, and spiritual attitudes and habits of conduct of life that grow out of the experiences of the two races as they have contact in agriculture, industry, education, government, religion, and the like. The great hope of the future is that the ideals of Jesus may determine the conditions of these experiences and the conditions of these contacts." But this general statement is by no means an indication of the contents. The book is full of important facts and opinions. It is a timely and useful book. Its author is a man of education and high intelligence, whose peculiar opportunities of seeing all conditions of life among his people, and of knowing their thoughts, entitle him to be a spokesman and interpreter. I should say that the chief value of the book lies in this, that we have here, from such a man, a frank and philosophical statement and interpretation of "things as they are," as he honestly sees them.