ENCOUNTERING THE NEGRO PROBLEM 1
W HEN we say that there is a Negro problem in America, what we mean is that the Americans are worried about it. It is on their minds and on their consciences. To begin with, the Negro is a problem to himself. If a multitude of first-hand random observations, such as we have made over the whole country, are any evidence, the contented Negro, whose mind is at peace on the race issue, is a rare phenomenon. As a generalization he is definitely a myth. Whether the myth was ever wholly true in the past, I cannot say. It is evident, however, that for a long time the Negro protest has been rising. This trend became sharply accentuated during the First World War. The present War will, in all probability, increase the Negroes' discontent with their status in America.
The Negro problem is working on the white man's mind too, even, and not least, when he wants to convince himself and others that it is settled for all time. The problem has varying degrees of importance in different regions, depending partly on their historical backgrounds and on the relative proportion of Negroes in their populations, as also in different social classes and under different religious, educational and ideological influences. Over large areas of America where there are few or no Negroes, the Negro problem is of minor importance to the people living there. To these ordinary white Americans, the only reason why the Negro problem has a higher salience than, say, the problem of British imperialism in India, or, earlier, the Irish question, is their citizenship in the United States, and consequently, their feeling of national responsibility. The____________________