Our Dearest Antipathies

Why do groups of human beings persist in hating one another for no apparent reason?
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Why do we like one person or race, and dislike another? What is the reason for our racial and personal antipathies? or is there, perchance, no fundamental reason? Is the average antipathy we cherish simply another case of Dr. Fell?

I do not like you, Dr. Fell;
The resaon why I cannot tell.
But this I know and know full well,
I do not like you, Dr. Fell.

It is really a matter that is worth considering; for battles have been fought and dynasties have been established or overthrown, purely on the strength of national or racial antipathies. Such antipathies seem as unreasonable and as difficult to account for as human nature itself, and perhaps the unreasonableness of human nature alone can account for them.

Consider the antipathy to the colored races, on the part of many white nations. It would seem that there is an inherent blood feud, of a mild and usually innocuous sort, between races of different colors; that Ham and Shem hated Japheth, and Japheth and Shem despised Ham, from the day the Ark landed on Mt. Ararat.

But contemporary history disproves that theory. There are today many lands where Ham and Japheth get along very comfortably together. In the island of Jamaica, for instance, where there are some ten thousand whites to more than half a million blacks, or colored people (for there is a distinction as well as a difference in these terms), the races, all three of them, have very few mutual antipathies. We hear of none of the race riots, hangings, and burnings at the stake that constitute the blackest blot on our own national escutcheon. The blacks are treated with justice and consideration by the whites, and the whites are esteemed by the blacks, with true scriptural humility, as 'better than themselves.'

It may be said that in Jamaica it behooves the whites, who are in a minority of one to sixty, to treat the blacks decently, lest intolerance meet its just reward. But Jamaica does not stand alone. There are many other countries where the two races get along amicably. In Brazil, for instance, a streak of black blood is no bar sinister. Half the white people have something of an African tint in their veins. I know a distinguished American religious worker in South America, whose beautiful and accomplished wife had a few tell tale kinks in her hair, and whose four pickaninnies, darker than either of their parents, were a decided handicap to the father when he visited the old folks in 'The States.' So it can scarcely be a matter between Ham and Japheth, since North America and South America are twin continents, and we all live in the twentieth century.

Another conundrum. Why is it that Indian blood is esteemed so much more desirable than African blood? In many cases both are equally tawny. Yet even society queens, if the newspapers are to be believed, are proud to count their generations back to Pocahontas; while no one could be elected to the upper ten who was a forty seventh cousin to Toussaint l'Ouverture or Booker Washington.

Yet the average Indian (I gladly except certain tribes) is far harder to civilize than the average negro. He prefers his tepee, his lousy blanket, and his witch doctors to a university education, though he might have the latter free.

Then there are all the grades of color between the black and the red (so called, although any ruddy tinge is difficult to discover in the Indian). There is the light yellow grading to dark yellow of China and Japan, the seal brown of Java, the dun brown of the New Hebrides, the ècru of Hawaii; to all of them different degrees of antipathy are manifested on the part of the fair haired and blue eyed races.

This antipathy cannot be laid to the intellectual inferiority of these races. Japan and China have their full proportion of intellectual giants and near-giants. Their civilization, though of a different kind, is as high as ours, and their art in some respects is superior.

Wherein, then, does the antipathy lie? It would seem to the superficial eye that it is a matter of pigment. Beneficent Nature, with her usual lavish hand, spilled more coloring matter into some cuticles than into others; therefore the super white races, '99.44 percent cent pure,' like a certain brand of soap, have taken a pregenital prejudice, it would seem, against the races that show on the surface a little more coloring matter. The lily whites of Northern Europe, who constitute our chief racial stock, are antipathetic to the colored races; while the Spaniards and Portuguese and, to some extent, the Italians, with their black hair and eyes and more swarthy skins, have little prejudice even against intermarriage.

Yet this pigment explanation, which has been seriously proposed, is surely a pigmy contribution to the subject.

An innate fear of the final domination of the whites by the colored is more reasonable. Few reason it out, perhaps; but he who really scans the world, 'from China to Peru,' cannot fail to acknowledge that there is some reason, in the future outlook, why the pale face should grow paler still.

The California fruit grower discovers that the Japanese fruit grower is smarter than he is; and he camouflages his objection with the statement that 'the Oriental will lower the scale of American living.' The white American laborer sees the Chinese laundryman working twelve hours a day, burning the midnight oil, and rejoicing in the opportunity, while he desires chiefly to scamp his own eight hour day, work as little as possible, and get, but not earn, his five dollar bill at the end of it. Of course, he objects to 'cheap yellow labor.' Query: which is yellower?

The South African magnate on the gold reef of Johannesburg, or in the great diamond pits of Kimberley, hates the approximation of the black men to the white, - intellectually and educationally, - because he wishes to keep the blacks in contract slavery, and intern them for a year at a time behind his barbed wire stockade. So he scoffs at the missionary and the schoolmaster, and continues to despise the negro because he can exploit him. Otherwise he would fear him.

Even the philosophic philanthropist, when he counts up the nations, begins to shiver in his shoes as he realizes that the more or less colored races outnumber the whites three to one; that they dominate, a hundred to one, the two largest continents, and are in a large majority in yet another continent.

The earlier ages of the world were undoubtedly ruled by colored people, for Egyptians, Babylonians, and Persians were more than slightly tinged with nature's dyes. Only for some three thousand years have the white races been predominant. Will the next three thousand years see the world's sceptre seized again by its former rulers, or their allies in color? If these considerations are well founded, then the antipathy of the whites is really a tribute to their vigor and courage.

But color antipathies are not the only ones we have to reckon with. I have heard the Slays curse the Magyars and the Magyars the Slays, and with equally good, or bad, reason. The Czechs are decidedly persona non grata to the Russians, and all unite in hating the Jews.

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