Within human life two impulses press forward to control the affairs of men. One is self-assertive, self-centered, and dominating, considering only gain in wealth and power. The other is self-denying, seeking justice and mercy, ever ready to consider the interest of the other fellow, the other group, or the other race. There are varying shades of motives between these two impulses, and both are active in American life to-day. One wants abolition of war; the other seeks foreign trade even if it involves war. One is after money and has few scruples about when or how it is got so long as it is obtained and there is little publicity. The other seeks the brother-liness of the Kingdom, knowing that these things will be added.
Both these currents of the common life touch and work within the Negro's life and his world. With the drawing apart of the two races, the Negro sees and feels less and less of the kindlier side and knows less of the ideal side of the white world. The races do not meet as much as formerly in home and church and school, where altruistic service flows. Their contacts now are more in the rough and tumble of work and trade, where mainly profits are sought, or in the affairs of government, where struggles for power are waged. It is necessary, then, for a clear view of the whole situation to sketch the sides of the white world that touch the Negro world, however incomplete and inadequate such a description and analysis may be. At the outset it should be pointed out that it is difficult to summarize the ideas and arguments involved without seeming to argue debated points. The purpose here is not to argue and render judgments on these ideas, attitudes, and ways, but to set them forth clearly and to set over against them the facts that should be weighed with them as an exposition of a national situation.
1The author is indebted to Mr. Will W. Alexander for assistance in gathering some of the material in this chapter and for suggestions as to certain points contained in it. Mr. Alexander should not, however, be held responsible for the treatment of the subject.