The Etiquette of Race Relations in the South: A Study in Social Control

By Bertram Wilbur Doyle | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XI
THE NEGRO GETS BY

IT HAPPENS, then, that in the welter and chaos of codes, and amid the changes which have been forced upon him by circumstance, the Negro gets along and occasionally "gets by." One of the ways by which he gets along is by maintaining his faith in "the best white people." He cultivates their acquaintance and good will and, as evidence of it, will occasionally invite them to some special event as a gesture of respect. Moreover, he will go even farther than that:

"White people have attended Negro functions. They know that they have always been given, if not 'special' seats, places where they could enjoy the affair, and seats arranged where all the white folks would be together. When they walk in a function that is apt to be attended by mixed races, they always pause to see where the white people are sitting. This the Negroes know as well as the white people. . . . . The white people know that they will get reserved seats; it is our timeworn custom, and as long as we want them we are going to give them, and contribute every courtesy and comfort of entertainment while they are with us. 1

In general, whenever a Negro convention, or conference, or association, or lodge meets in a city, white officials are invited to give addresses of welcome, or to "extend the keys of the city." Negroes know that the extended key will only unlock such places as those to which they normally go; but they also know that the gesture, by showing respect is effective in building up good will. On such occasions Negroes will invariably treat such persons with extreme courtesy but will feel at a disadvantage until the visitors have gone.

"Not that anything will transpire that has not already

-160-

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