As America looks out upon a war-torn world, she hears the Macedonian cry of the nations. Peace conferences and disarmament conferences may set up the framework; only the good-will of the Master can create the spirit of neighborliness and regard for common rights. If America is to contribute a large part to the new spirit of the times, she must come into the concert of nations with a basic harmony among her own racial and national groups and classes. Her physical, economic, political, social, and spiritual health is inseparably bound up with the welfare of all her citizens, especially her Negro citizens, who constitute one out of every ten of her people and who have shared in all the toil and sacrifice of her past progress.
The present problems and future prospects make it imperative that all work together for mutual ends. We need, as never before in our national history, to cherish our mutual inheritance of common ideals. The first of these is justice in law and in everyday dealing among all, especially between white and Negro peoples. This is the special responsibility of the white people, as the making of the law, and custom, as well as the control of community life, are more largely in their hands. In the many daily dealings between tenant farmer, farm hand and planter; between landlord and tenant; between employer and employee; and between man and man, there are many painful experiences for the ignorant and the defenseless of all classes and races. They fall most painfully upon the Negro, who stands at the margin of our democracy. A higher ideal of practical justice is one of the greatest needs of the whole situation.
In the assurance of justice to Negroes is involved the whole question of respect for law and order. All Americans need more and more to learn that their only safeguard for democracy is profound respect for and obedience to the organized methods of government which they and their ancestors have established. He who takes the law into his own hands to avenge what he considers a violation of law is himself the greater law-breaker. Those who because of race or wealth or "pull" think they can violate the law with impunity and who undertake to do so are undermining the very structure that assures them protection and liberty. For, underlying the ideal of justice is the ideal of American democracy. Taxation without representation applied to black men in 1921 is dangerous to democracy and as unjust as when applied to white men in 1775. Government by consent of the governed as a just principle includes Negro Americans, or it is not just. Freedom of speech, of the press, and of assembly must apply to all, or they are secure for none. The full right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness has to be assured for all, even the humblest and blackest, or none are safe.
Closely related to the ideals of justice and of law and order is that of courtesy. Until white newspapers and persons learn to place the ordinary appellations before the names of Negro men and women, one of the first steps in practical ideals of courtesy between the races will not have been made. Furthermore, the use of disparaging names such as "little Africa," "dark-town," and "black bottom," to describe neighborhoods where Negroes live and the common habit of applying the name "darkey," "nigger," "boy," and "auntie" to Negro men and women belong to a past generation and have no place in courteous intercourse to-day. "What's in a name?" some one asks. All the feelings and attitudes associated with past ways of acting.
Courtesy requires that Negro girls and women, as well as other women, be given due consideration from all gentlemen. The blight of race prejudice presses upon them as upon no others. Their own men are often powerless to protect them, and white men seem often to act upon the assumption that Negro women have no bars which a white man is bound to regard. Negro women and girls go out to work, largely in domestic and personal service. Both the homes from which they come and the homes into which they go demand that they shall not be overborne by designing men. The modern community which allows the youth, the beauty, and the honor of these sable women to be blasted with impunity can no longer find excuse in their susceptibility, when neither law nor custom offers them protection or redress. And other women reap the whirlwind of what is sown among them. In the Day when the Searcher of Hearts shall ask an accounting, He will regard as His own the treatment which white men and women have given to the least of these.
A word needs to be said also for the Negro man of refined sensibilities who spontaneously shows deference to white women in street cars and other places with no thought other than the gentlemanly consideration which all men should show to womankind. On the other hand, white men and women who show courtesy and respect for character and culture in color should be able to do so without the condemnation from their own group that they are Negrophiles.
Another ideal that needs mutual inculcation is the obligation of the strong to the weak. If Christian principles are to have practical application in American life, this ideal so strongly set forth by Paul is a corner-stone. The world is just awaking from the horror of a war brought on by a repudiation of this ideal. In the long turn of the years, America may find her salvation in the strength of the strong ministering to the weakness of the weak.