New Negro - Locke
where tutelage, even of the most interested and well-intentioned sort, must give place to new
relationships, where positive self-direction must be reckoned with in ever increasing measure. The
American mind must reckon with a fundamentally changed Negro.
The Negro too, for his part, has idols of the tribe to smash. If on the one hand the white
man has erred in making the Negro appear to be that which would excuse or extenuate his
treatment of him, the Negro, in turn, has too often unnecessarily excused himself because of the
way he has been treated. The intelligent Negro of to-day is resolved not to make discrimination an
extenuation for his shortcomings in performance, individual or collective; he is trying to hold
himself at par, neither inflated by sentimental allowances nor depreciated by current social
discounts. For this he must know himself and be known for precisely what he is, and for that
reason he welcomes the new scientific rather than the old sentimental interest. Sentimental interest
in the Negro has ebbed. We used to lament this as the falling off of our friends; now we rejoice
and pray to be delivered both from self-pity and condescension. The mind of each racial group has
had a bitter weaning, apathy or hatred on one side matching disillusionment or resentment on the
other; but they face each other to-day with the possibility at least of entirely new mutual attitudes.
It does not follow that if the Negro were better known, he would be better liked or better
treated. But mutual understanding is basic for any subsequent coöperation and adjustment. The
effort toward this will at least have the effect of remedying in large part what has been the most
unsatisfactory feature of our present stage of race relationships in America, namely the fact that
the more intelligent and representative elements of the two race groups have at so many points
got quite out of vital touch with one another.
The fiction is that the life of the races is separate, and increasingly so. The fact is that they
have touched too closely at the unfavorable and too lightly at the favorable levels.
While inter-racial councils have sprung up in the South, drawing on forward elements of
both races, in the Northern cities manual laborers may brush elbows in their everyday work, but
the community and business leaders have experienced no such interplay or far too little of it.
These segments must achieve contact or the race situation in America becomes desperate.
Fortunately this is happening. There is a growing realization that in social effort the co-operative
basis must supplant long-distance philanthropy, and that the only safeguard for mass relations in
the future must be provided in the carefully maintained contacts of the enlightened minorities of
both race groups. In the intellectual realm a renewed and keen curiosity is replacing the recent
apathy; the Negro is being carefully studied, not just talked about and discussed. In art and letters,
instead of being wholly caricatured, he is being seriously portrayed and painted.
To all of this the New Negro is keenly responsive as an augury of a new democracy in
American culture. He is contributing his share to the new social understanding. But the desire to
be understood would never in itself have been sufficient to have opened so completely the
protectively closed portals of the thinking Negro's mind. There is still too much possibility of
being snubbed or patronized for that. It was rather the necessity for fuller, truer self-expression,
the realization of the unwisdom of allowing social discrimination to segregate him mentally, and a
counter-attitude to cramp and fetter his own living—and so the "spite-wall" that the intellectuals
built over the "color-line" has happily been taken down. Much of this reopening of intellectual
contacts has centered in New York and has been richly fruitful not merely in the enlarging of
personal experience, but in the definite enrichment of American art and letters and in the clarifying
of our common vision of the social tasks ahead. 5
The particular significance in the re-establishment of contact between the more advanced
and representative classes is that it promises to offset some of the unfavorable reactions of the
past, or at least to re-surface race contacts somewhat for the future. Subtly the conditions that are
molding a New Negro are molding a new American attitude.
However, this new phase of things is delicate; it will call for less charity but more justice;
less help, but infinitely closer understanding. This is indeed a critical stage of race relationships
because of the likelihood, if the new temper is not understood, of engendering sharp group
antagonism and a second crop of more calculated prejudice. In some quarters, it has already done
so. Having weaned the Negro, public opinion cannot continue to paternalize. The Negro to-day is
inevitably moving forward under the control largely of his own objectives. What are these
objectives? Those of his outer life are happily already well and finally formulated, for they are
none other than the ideals of American institutions and democracy. Those of his inner life are yet
in process of formation, for the new psychology at present is more of a consensus of feeling than
of opinion, of attitude rather than of program. Still some points seem to have crystallized.
Up to the present one may adequately describe the Negro's "inner objectives" as an
attempt to repair a damaged group psychology and reshape a warped social perspective. Their
realization has required a new mentality for the American Negro. And as it matures we begin to
see its effects; at first, negative, iconoclastic, and then positive and constructive. In this new group
psychology we note the lapse of sentimental appeal, then the development of a more positive self-
respect and self-reliance; the repudiation of social dependence, and then the gradual recovery
from hyper-sensitiveness and "touchy" nerves, the repudiation of the double standard of judgment
with its special philanthropic allowances and then the sturdier desire for objective and scientific
appraisal; and finally the rise from social disillusionment to race pride, from the sense of social
debt to the responsibilities of social contribution, and offsetting the necessary working and
commonsense acceptance of restricted conditions, the belief in ultimate esteem and recognition.
Therefore the Negro to-day wishes to be known for what he is, even in his faults and
shortcomings, and scorns a craven and precarious survival at the price of seeming to be what he is
not. He resents being spoken of as a social ward or minor, even by his own, and to being regarded
a chronic patient for the sociological clinic, the sick man of American Democracy. For the same
reasons, he himself is through with those social nostrums and panaceas, the so-called "solutions"
of his "problem," with which he and the country have been so liberally dosed in the past. Religion,
freedom, education" money—in turn, he has ardently hoped for and peculiarly trusted these
things; he still believes in them, but not in blind trust that they alone will solve his life-problem.
Each generation, however, will have its creed, and that of the present is the belief in the
efficacy of collective effort, in race co-operation. This deep feeling of race is at present the
mainspring of Negro life. It seems to be the outcome of the reaction to proscription and prejudice;
an attempt, fairly successful on the whole, to convert a defensive into an offensive position, a
handicap into an incentive. It is radical in tone, but not in purpose and only the most stupid forms
of opposition, misunderstanding or persecution could make it otherwise. Of course, the thinking
Negro has shifted a little toward the left with the world-trend, and there is an increasing group
who affiliate with radical and liberal movements. But fundamentally for the present the Negro is
radical on race matters, conservative on others, in other words, a "forced radical," a social
protestant rather than a genuine radical. Yet under further pressure and injustice iconoclastic
thought and motives will inevitably increase. Harlem's quixotic radicalisms call for their ounce of
democracy to-day lest to-morrow they be beyond cure.
The Negro mind reaches out as yet to nothing but American wants, American ideas. But
this forced attempt to build his Americanism on race values is a unique social experiment, and its
ultimate success is impossible except through the fullest sharing of American culture and
institutions. There should be no delusion about this. American nerves in sections unstrung with
race hysteria are often fed the opiate that the trend of Negro advance is wholly separatist, and that
the effect of its operation will be to encyst the Negro as a benign foreign body in the body politic.
This cannot be—even if it were desirable. The racialism of the Negro is no limitation or
reservation with respect to American life; it is only a constructive effort to build the obstructions
in the stream of his progress into an efficient dam of social energy and power. Democracy itself is
obstructed and stagnated to the extent that any of its channels are dosed. Indeed they cannot be
selectively dosed. So the choice is not between one way for the Negro and another way for the
rest, but between American institutions frustrated on the one hand and American ideals
progressively fulfilled and realized on the other.
There is, of course, a warrantably comfortable feeling in being on the right side of the
country's professed ideals. We realize that we cannot be undone without America's undoing. It is
within the gamut of this attitude that the thinking Negro faces America, but with variations of
mood that are if anything more significant than the attitude itself. Sometimes we have it taken
with the defiant ironic challenge of McKay:
Mine is the future grinding down to-day
Like a great landslip moving to the sea,
Bearing its freight of débris far away
Where the green hungry waters restlessly
Heave mammoth pyramids, and break and roar
Their eerie challenge to the crumbling shore.
Sometimes, perhaps more frequently as yet, it is taken in the fervent and almost filial
appeal and counsel of Weldon Johnson's:
O Southland, dear Southland!
Then why do you still cling
To in idle age and a musty page,
To a dead and useless thing?
But between defiance and appeal, midway almost between cynicism and hope, the
prevailing mind stands in the mood of the same author's To America, an attitude of sober query
and stoical challenge:
How would you have us, as we are?
Or sinking 'neath the load we bear,
Our eyes fixed forward on a star,
Or gazing empty at despair?
Rising or falling? Men or things?
With dragging pace or footsteps fleet?
Strong, willing sinews in your wings,
Or tightening chains about your feet?
+1 anno fa
Dispensa per il corso di Storia degli Stati Uniti d'America del prof. Daniele Fiorentino. Trattasi del saggio del filosofo americano Alain Locke dal titolo "The New Negro" pubblicato nel 1925, all'interno del quale l'autore analizza la mutata condizione della minoranza afro-americana, ed in particolare delle nuove generazioni, all'interno della società statunitense.
I contenuti di questa pagina costituiscono rielaborazioni personali del Publisher Atreyu di informazioni apprese con la frequenza delle lezioni di Storia degli Stati Uniti d'America e studio autonomo di eventuali libri di riferimento in preparazione dell'esame finale o della tesi. Non devono intendersi come materiale ufficiale dell'università Roma Tre - Uniroma3 o del prof Fiorentino Daniele.
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