In a 1921 essay, an Atlantic author asks, "Why do we like one person or race, and dislike another?"
This early 20th century lithograph asks "The immigrant. Is he an acquisition or a detriment?" / Library of Congress
Why do people of different races and ethnic origins dislike one another?
That's an enormous (and loaded) question, and it's one that eludes an answer. But such a question is appetizing fodder for armchair columnists, and in a 1921 essay, Atlantic author and New England clergyman Francis Edward Clark tried to explain what he saw as an inconsistency in human behavior. When he looked around the globe, and within America, he saw no coherent patterns in the ways people hated one another.
For one, he reasoned that skin pigmentation alone could not be the basis for hate. It seemed arbitrary that black skin was considered unfavorable, but "red" (Native American) skin was seen as dignified:
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. ... 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
And it wasn''t intelligence either that divided the 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," Clark inquired, "does the antipathy lie?"