thumbnail of Last citizen; Prejudice
Hide -
If this transcript has significant errors that should be corrected, let us know, so we can add it to FIX IT+
Old there all right but I wouldn't want one of them to move into my neighborhood it's just a matter of keeping them in their place. My my mate told me only yesterday that she doesn't want to send her daughter to a white school I tell you to give them a finger and they're going to take the whole law I want you to know that I'm not prejudiced. Why is some of my best and Reihan says that once a race is mixed it's going to mongrelized the white race. After all you wouldn't want one of them to marry your daughter. The voices of prejudice. Who are they. Are they you. Your neighbor. Are they in fact most of us. Listen as we answer these and other questions in discussing the last citizen. The last citizen the Negro in America a series of programs devoted to the extension of our knowledge of the largest minority group in the United States its life its problems and the problems it poses to all Americans. The last edition is produced by Radio Station WB A producer university under a grant from the Educational Television Radio Center in cooperation with the National Association
of educational broadcasters. Here now is the producer of the series E-W Richter to introduce today's program. Well this again today is Dr. Louis Schneider professor of sociology at Purdue University to help us find out about prejudice what it is how it works and who the prejudiced person is. A few days ago I was thumbing through a book of quotations and found these on prejudice Voltaire wrote that prejudice is opinion without judgment. William Hazlett defined prejudice as the child of ignorance. And the American author Ambrose Bierce called prejudice a vagrant opinion without visible means of support. I then turned to Webster's Collegiate Dictionary which defines prejudice as preconceived judgment or opinion. Unreasonable predilection or objection especially an opinion or leaning adverse to anything without just grounds or before sufficient knowledge.
And all of these definitions. There is an emphasis on lack of knowledge yet on the basis of my own experience. They're incomplete they fail to take into account the emotional factors of prejudice. But what do you say about it. Has one psychologist put it. Prejudice involves an attitude of favor or disfavor. And it incorporates an overgeneralized belief. Thus prejudice becomes a combination of things the overgeneralized the belief suggests the factor of ignorance and the attitude of favor or disfavor brings in the emotional disposition which is certainly also a part of prejudice. Now many people feel that prejudice and discrimination are the same thing. They are related to be sure but they're still distinct phenomena. Well I had the pleasure some time ago a little speaking with a man who discussed this very point. Ed Houghton executive director of the San Francisco commission on equal employment opportunities a man who has spent many years working in the area of intergroup
relations there's a common and widespread assumption that discrimination flows from prejudice. Well in the end they terms of a popular song it ain't necessarily so. You can have. Let us assume complete freedom from personal prejudice you are an informed individual you know the facts of modern anthropology you know innate differences between races no innate differences and inherent mental capacity etc. etc.. So that you don't hold any of these mythological tribal notions and yet you and of course I'm using this highly impersonally Mr Ector may be a homeowner on a block who has been told presumably on very good authority what happens to property values and. A lot of things of that sort and therefore in a given situation you may be uncertain as to how to act toward what some people in the block seem to feel is quite a
threat to the neighborhood if this nonwhite family is about to buy or move in. Suppose you're about to sell your home and you'd like to sell it on a nondiscriminatory basis and suddenly you find yourself deluged with pressure from neighbors who don't like this idea. This hasn't changed. Your lack of personal prejudice your views on those subjects haven't changed. Your behavior might change under under pressure. Conversely a person may be deeply prejudiced and yet he may be functioning let us say in an employment situation in which the top management says we're not going to have any of this stupidity of employment discrimination in this firm and all of our supervisors and foremen and department heads are going to comply with a policy of merit employment we're going to hire people according to what they can do NOT according to what they look like or what their ancestors. Are characterized as and so on.
And so you may retain and cherish your private prejudicial notions to which you have a perfect right but in your functioning as a let's say a department head in this particular firm. You'd better conform to that policy in your behavior or presumably you won't be with the firm very long so that it can work in all kinds of combinations across the scale. The primary difference that as Mr Howden explains that between prejudice and discrimination is that discrimination involves action whereas prejudice is an internal personal attitude or state of mind. But why is it that so many people are prejudice a little nice people in fact I'd say that most of us are in some way prejudiced. I think you've suggested an important point Walt. The point that some very nice people are prejudiced and that is important to understand is you see prejudice is not necessarily an attribute of what we might consider an evil or bad
person but it is often an attribute of nice people in given situations they are prejudiced because they are nice. I'm afraid I don't quite follow you. All right. You might remember that gone almost all in a study of the American Negro entitled The American dilemma makes a great deal of what he calls the American creed that creed which emphasizes justice and equality under the law and democracy the eternal verities of life in America as we're taught them no more at all and evaluating the position of the Negro in American society uses this creed as a yardstick even though he realizes that conduct based on this creed does not always prevail in American life that Americans don't always live up to the creed. The writer Lillian Smith made quite a point of this when we visited her at her home in Clayton Georgia. But even when I was very young that I was allowed herself to be and protected I became aware of the fact that I lived in a time where there were invisible walls. And that
those walls meant a great deal to everybody in the time. I think I found it out in church. And when I was quite small when I realized that my little college playmates and every Seldon child had colored playmates at that they didn't go to my church that in my nice big church. Well only white people white faces no I didn't talk to myself about it in would I don't think a child does that. I I felt it. And I wondered about it. Ow so realized that these invisible walls when after playing with my little colored friends as freely but always in the back yard. I was told that I was too old to have little colored friends and I were aged sicker. Oh it must have been about 9 or 10 I'd say. And I remember saying to my mother
why Dad why does this advice is true. And always the answer was You are too young to know. But some day you will understand that it is impossible for you to continue to see your little playmate. And this this deeply troubled me. It heard on OWN a very personal level of my life the level of friendship. And I didn't understand I didn't know what it was about. Because at the same time that these invisible walls were being constructed between me and the world or much of the world I was also being trained to be a good little American. I was always told that democracy is a wonderful thing and I was also told that you must. Treat everyone decently and with courtesy because all people are human beings. And although I was told that and also that as a Christian one believes in
kindness and brotherhood. And so I was learning the lessons of the Christian religion and the lessons of democracy. But at the same time. I was learning the lessons of segregation between the two races. I think Miss Smith makes the fact of a certain joy ality in American life quite vivid for us against the background of this duality. On the one hand complete adherents to the American creed and on the other a complete rejection of it with most of us falling in our behavior somewhere in between. Let me try to extend what Murdo has to say about the American creed in relation to types of personality and in terms of prejudice. This is why perhaps we can understand why it is that nice people are prejudiced. Let's first of all consider the one side of the U ality the unequivocal acceptance of the values expressed in the American creed. Now if we could find a person who gave these values on equivocal acceptance he want ideally be incapable completely incapable of prejudice. If
someone were to present this person with a theory a racialist think theory replete with proofs supposedly showing beyond a doubt that the negro was inferior. This person wouldn't find any attraction in such a theory even though it might appear to justify prejudice and discrimination. He might well respond by saying if a Negro does not have all capacities it's our duty to see to it that our Unfortunately handicapped brother is given special opportunities and protection going to the other extreme of the year while we find the person who is in no way involved with the values of the American creed. He takes from life on the world what he wants and can get with no regard to what anyone else and with no qualms of conscience whatever justice democracy. Such words have absolutely no meaning for this person. In the case of the Negro he will make whatever gains he can of the negroes expense. It's convenient enough to say economic sexual and prestige gains but regardless of what gains he makes or what he does to make those gains he does what he does without a single thought about the
rightness or wrongness of his acts. Now would such a person if such a person existed be at all attracted by the racialist theory we spoke of earlier. The theory that purports to show that the negro was born to be the white man's servant and subordinate. The answer I think is No. He has no need for such a thing. To make my point clearer let's compare this conscienceless exploitative person with a great jungle cat that makes a fine living from the hunting of deer. One day this cat is visited by a man a man who has written a book and the book proves that all antelopes were created for the special purpose of providing sport and nourishment for the great cats. What's the reaction of a cat. He's simply not interested. He reflects blue briefly that the deer do make good sport and are good to eat. But then he feels hungry and without wasting time on justifying himself by a supposed philosophy either pounce on the next deer that comes along or for want of deer eats them on to him. Fresh meat is fresh meat and that's
something like the case of our second category of persons who without the slightest qualms of conscience exploit the negro or anyone else that comes along in all ways possible with no attempt to rationalize behavior by insisting on the supposed inferiority of their victim. Your point then Lou is that most of us fall somewhere between the two extremes that you just draw on. We may be exploited but we have a need to justify this exploitative behavior exactly. Our third category of individuals is made up of the nice people the people who are at least partially imbued with the values of the American creed who believe in justice and democracy. But are at the same time willing to make the gains we spoke of at the expense of the others. In the case of our discussion going to grow Well I think perhaps you might clarify what it is what you mean by again. I'll give brief examples of each type. An economic gain made at the expense of a negro might come in the form of greater profit to a plant or one manufacturer who hires Negroes for less pay than he called anyone else. Or it may be that a housewife can afford to have negro servants because
she doesn't have to pay negroes much. A prestige guy is made again by way of example by the Southern poor white because he can feel superior to negroes all Negroes regardless of their accomplishments sexual gain is probably declining now but certainly in the past no Southern white man needed to fear legal action or even censure if he molested a negro woman. All right assuming for the moment that people in our third category the nice people do make such gains. What's your argument about them. Well if they were like persons in our first category they would repeal what he ate prejudice and discriminatory behavior as being counter to the American creed. And they'd have no use for racial mystic theories. If I were like persons in our second category they would feel that nothing of value or importance was to be found in a racialist of theory. The Great Cat remember was completely uninterested in the man's philosophic theory. His only interest was in food and sports. But it's a racialist that theory is likely to be extremely attractive to the
members of our third category of persons. Why. Because to an appreciable degree they are nice people. People with conscience as people who have some degree of faith in the American creed they need and can definitely use such theories and philosophies to vindicate their ways and to smooth our ruffled consciences. Hence I might add the Negro not only finds that people like these are making gains at his expense but in addition that they grasp of views and theories which support supposedly show his the negro's inferiority. Instead of making gains and then leaving the negro alone these people as it were pile insult on injury by a spouse in views and theories which give easement to their consciences. Would you mind giving us a case in point take the Southern planters who in the past and even today have been and are taking advantage of Negro sharecroppers or even white sharecropper as one possible the croppers share as in the first place likely enough to be a rather meager one than the planter also acts as a storekeeper and banker for as crabbers he advances money
and goods throughout the year to keep them clothed and fed. At the time of reckoning in many cases the planter will deliberately falsify his accounts in order to keep the crop were indebted to him and on the land. Now our planet has been to school is perhaps a member in good standing in his church. He has a family to which he's devoted and he is recognized as an outstanding citizen by his neighbors. How can we reconcile with these things the dishonesty in keeping from the share cropper his due. Oh money can't simply exploit the croppers and let it go at that. His whole trading his background in church and school demand that he justify his behavior and so he does. He may insist that his actions are solely for the good of the sharecropper. He'll point out that a cropper is ignorant The only work is fit for his work on the soil. He'll tell you that a cropper isn't prominent. He doesn't know what to do with money even when he hasn't. But in fact he the plantar is being protective of the negro or poor white by seeing to it that he always has a roof over his
head and food on the table. Thanks that these improvident followers would be unlikely to insure for themselves and so on. In other words all kindly religious well brought up Saddam planted must prove to himself the inferiority of his crop of thoughts not only does he take advantage of them but he also feels compelled to degrade them. Of course I don't argue that all planters will be this way. Only the relatively nice. Well according to your argument a little if people were nice enough they wouldn't tolerate prejudice in themselves if they were not nice at all they would be predatory rather than prejudice but since so many fall in between the ordinary nice person tends to be prejudiced to present his victim in an unfavorable light at the same time that he doesn't enjoy it. But one thing bothers me a little your examples have all been extreme examples of prejudiced people but what about the ordinary person who may rarely if ever come into contact with a negro in a situation from which game. What about those of us who are prejudiced simply because we were brought up taught to be
prejudiced. I don't mean to say while that prejudice invariably has the kind of background I've indicated I am suggesting however that the background which I've been developing is a crucially important one. More important than any other I feel partly because prejudice that lacks the springs or backgrounds of the various kinds of Guinea is relatively easily combative and without such sprains would more readily disappear. Project is not only has a certain place within the framework of our thinking but we must learn to look upon it as performing certain social functions. Prejudiced attitudes give crucially significant justifications to discriminatory behavior. Suppose we do simply learn prejudice from contact with others and there were no where in the United States even a hint of these gains made at the expense of the Negro to which I've been referring. Sexual prestige economic. I think we can see that prejudice would then be a much easier thing to attack and reduce to just about nothing
because of the existence of discrimination which is the process of gaining in the ways I've indicated prejudice gets on much more powerful lease on life. I might even say that there are now reasons for it. It performs the function of showing discrimination to be right appropriate justified. Perhaps our most important points thus far are that nice people are in certain ways particularly susceptible to prejudice and that prejudice ties in in important ways with certain games made by at least some members of the society in which the prejudice occurs but what about the structure of prejudice itself. And what ways and with what backgrounds are people prejudiced. That's a logic question Walt and I can hope to answer it only partially. I might begin by noting that there is evidence that the educated are relatively less prejudiced than the un educated. One can speak of ignorance prejudice prejudice that is sustained on a foundation of misinformation or lack of information appropriate information can
where prejudice is grounded solely or nearly so an ignorance be enormously enlightening and emancipating. But models are by no means always so simple. For example we have to recognize that there is also such a thing as expedient prejudice. We associate with others whom we like and whose opinions we value. Neighbors for example. Now they have happens are prejudiced and ought not to antagonize them in order not to be excluded by them. We profess a prejudice of expediency prejudice we do not feel ourselves we give an imitation or make a show of prejudice we often do this in a conciliatory way a way which we feel couldn't possibly harm the negro. For example a liberal northerner associating with generally congenial Southerners may find himself acquiescing in opinions and attitudes relating to the negro which he doesn't really believe at all. He doesn't wish to wound his relations with pleasant associates. He may be very self-critical later.
All one has contacts with a particular group have lapsed. He may return to his original non expression of prejudice he does not feel. But what about the person who resists to his utmost all reasoning related to his prejudiced tenaciously in fact clings to his prejudiced beliefs. Well this is a most interesting form of prejudice. Often no doubt people like this will have what we might call psycho dynamically motivated project. One may cling to a prejudice with special tenacity despite all rational arguments in the world because let us say scapegoating is virtually on the subsidy of one's being. First the southern poor white seeks an answer to why he's never been given an even break by the higher echelons of white society above him. He becomes bitter resentful but that resentment made for very good reasons have very limited outlets in many cases the poor white the sharecropper if you wish might express his resentment against more powerful more influential and richer whites. But because of the hard
fact that these others are more powerful the expression of resentment against them becomes only wise and there's likely to be very uncomfortable in its consequences. On the other hand the Negro may represent a convenient target for the resentment we get here the phenomenon of displaced aggression. In other words hostilities resentments animosities are deflected from their original objects because the original objects are dangerous but the hostilities still exist and find a convenient outlet elsewhere. Scapegoats are obviously coming and one can't attack such a powerfully motivated feeling of resentment or a sense of being cheated merely by getting correct information. Right. The sense of being cheated and the resentment persist despite all the correct information along waddled. I'm correct information may not even get a chance for a hearing because people's sheer requirement of something or somebody to hit that is so powerful in the first place and I suppose it's possible for people to be prejudiced not only in one of the three ways mentioned but in many combinations of ignorance expediency or
psychodynamic motivation. That's right. So now we have some understanding of the types of prejudice and the ways in which people are prejudiced but what about prejudice itself. How does prejudice work how does it work by itself. How does it work in combination with discrimination. What are some of the things that build up and sustain prejudice. One of the most evident sustaining factors or even evoking factors in prejudice is the butt sample one can often hear highly sophisticated person saying. I realize that my experience with Negroes is very limited. But this time I was down in Birmingham. Here the parson is in effect telling us that he realizes that his sampling is all off he has an underlying persuasion that the case he's citing all the story he's telling is in some way representative of what typical and it's generally hard to argue with such people about such things. But they have seen and experienced as frequently much more valid to them than the observation and experience of others. And sometimes even then their own subsequent observation of experience it's no use pretending that this is an easy thing to combat.
People will generalize on the basis of very special kinds of data. However the situation isn't hopeless there are some corrective seeping through to the general population through the work of social scientists psychologists and others. But this remains an important front to fight on a front that we can be fairly certain won't disappear overnight. What you say brings to mind a conversation I had not long ago with a man who employs negroes. And his estimation unto him this has been borne out by his experience as a negro as incapable or unwilling to turn out as much work as a white person in the same job. And I believe this man was sincere in this belief. After all he had had negroes working under him for more than 20 years. And I suppose this also could be an example of the bad sample phenomenon. It might well be that all of the way often produce so I hope to produce in the objects of all prejudice and discriminatory behavior. I tributes whose causation we conveniently forget in this connection I'd particularly like us to pay attention to what the sociologist Robert K. Merton has called the self-fulfilling prophecy. You may remember
the general thought Sheridan used to say that the only good Indian was a dead Indian. Suppose white men act on this promise and treated Indians accordingly what happens then. Who had I seen enough westerns to make a good guess whenever a white man comes on an Indian he will immediately want to make him a good Indian and then the Indian finding himself shot at whenever he encounters a white man is going to turn around and try to kill a white man whenever he sees any of them. Yes and thereby Sheridan's observation would seem to be verified that the only good in the US a dead Indian for after all white men would say You see whenever you come across an Indian he tries to kill you. Any man of good sense can tell that the only good Indian is a dead one. This illustrates the mechanism of the self-fulfilling prophecy. Of course what the white man quite overlooks is his own share in making the Indian what he finally appears to be the mechanism is a very widely operative one. We called you is exclusive. Proceed to shun them on the grounds that they will have nothing to do with us and then discover that they seem to be reluctant to associate with non-Jews and indeed they may well have reacted defensively
against the exclusion by us by withdrawing into their own groups and not making themselves susceptible to what they perceive as rebuff or by the same token I suppose that the white man employing negroes starts with the presumption that Negroes are lazy and will not return a good day's work or a good day's pay. Hence he may treat the negro differently from his other employees thereby destroying incentives to do high level work. The final result then is that the negro does appear to be lazy and won't do good work on the job. There's no reason to suppose that the Indian is inherently murderous or the Jew inherently exclusive of the negro inherently lazy. These traits when they exist can be as much the products of the prejudiced and discriminatory person as of the Indian or Jew or Negro. Indeed the traits are the products of interaction. Under different circumstances with different treatment with different promises and the approach made to them Indian or Jew or Negro may show very different traits. Well if the self-fulfilling prophecy works and one direction cannot also work in the
opposite direction when confidence in the Negro employed on the part of the white employer helped promote faithful and conscientious work on the part of the negro I should think so of course a single so called good experience may not be enough in particular cases to wipe out the effect of many past experiences of a different nature. But it is worth noting that if the self-fulfilling prophecy produces some gruesome things in our relations with the negro the process itself is such that it may generate quite different kinds of things which some of us at least might like much about. I don't think this needs any liberation and thus we have touched on at least some of the important aspects of the nature of prejudice. I would like to thank Miss Lilly and Smith and Mr Ed Houghton for their contributions to today's program. Next week we want to extend our understanding of prejudice. So join us then. When Dr. Schneider and I take up the question of the effects of prejudice on the last citizen the Negro in America. Ya
ya. I've been listening. That's the reality of the universe and the program's producer director Governor Rick. Davis got a mass exodus of this program was produced and recorded by a guy would you be with a university. Under a grant from the Educational Television and Radio Shack. Again just for the good of the National Association of education the lockout. Is the end E.B. Radio Network.
Last citizen
Producing Organization
Purdue University
WBAA (Radio station : West Lafayette, Ind.)
Contributing Organization
University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
If you have more information about this item than what is given here, or if you have concerns about this record, we want to know! Contact us, indicating the AAPB ID (cpb-aacip/500-bk16r64f).
Episode Description
This program explores prejudices against African Americans in the United States in the mid-20th century.
Series Description
A series of programs devoted to exploring the problems facing African-Americans and how these issues impact all Americans.
Broadcast Date
Social Issues
Prejudices--United States.
Media type
Embed Code
Copy and paste this HTML to include AAPB content on your blog or webpage.
Guest: Houghton, Ed
Guest: Smith, Lillian Eugenia, 1897-1966
Host: Schneider, Louis
Producer: Richter, E.W.
Producing Organization: Purdue University
Producing Organization: WBAA (Radio station : West Lafayette, Ind.)
AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 59-50-2 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:29:10
If you have a copy of this asset and would like us to add it to our catalog, please contact us.
Chicago: “Last citizen; Prejudice,” 1959-01-01, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed April 20, 2024,
MLA: “Last citizen; Prejudice.” 1959-01-01. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. April 20, 2024. <>.
APA: Last citizen; Prejudice. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from