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E.A. Ross and the Difference in Races

Source: E.A. Ross, discussing ‘Social Darwinism’  in American Journal of Sociology 12 (March 1907), 715.

Strongly attracted as I am by the hopeful and noble views that have been expressed, I cannot but feel that Dr. Wells’s is right.  The theory that races are virtually equal in capacity leads to such monumental follies as lining the valleys of the South with the bones of half a million picked whites in order to improve the condition of four million unpicked blacks.  I see no reason why races may not differ as much in moral and intellectual traits as obviously they do in bodily traits.  Among those of the same race I think I detect great differences in capacity.  Of course, the worth-grading of people is not to be identified for a moment with actual social rankings; but nevertheless they are there.  In my classes, among students of equal opportunities, I am struck with the contrasts in character and in intellectual power.  If such worth-differences exist, the recruiting of stock from the worthier elements of a population is a supreme desideratum, and any practice that interferes with this presents a social problem.  Consider the higher education and employment of women.  A class of girls finishing a high school or normal are examined.  Those that win high marks receive first-class certificates, get well placed, and are quite likely not to marry.  Those with low marks find the extra-matrimonial path barred, and so nearly all marry and perpetuate their mediocrity.  Is not this something to think about?  Our girls used to marry men in order to reform them.  I rejoice that this practice is passing away; for those who need reforming are probably less fitted for fatherhood than those who need it not.  I am glad, also, that men of uncontrollable thirst are inexorably being eliminated from the more desirable employments, and dropped to the rank of unskilled or casuals where they are little likely to mate or breed.  On the man who is the victim of his own evil inclinations we squander much sympathy and effort that ought to be reserved for the worthier persons who are the victims of the evil inclinations of others.  We war feebly against sin because so energetically against vice.  As regards hell, there is something to be said for the open-door policy.

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