Sometimes, perhaps more frequently as yet, in the fervent and almost filial appeal and counsel of Weldon Johnsonís:

O Southland, dear Southland!

Then why do you still cling

To an 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 authorís "To America," an attitude of sober query and stoical challenge:

How would you have us, as we are?

Or sinking Ďneath 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?

     More and more, however, an intelligent realization of the great discrepancy between the American social creed and the American social practice forces upon the Negro the taking of the moral advantage that is his. Only the steadying and sobering effect of a truly characteristic gentleness of spirit prevents the rapid rise of a definite cynicism and counter-hate and a defiant superiority feeling. Human as this reaction would be, the majority still deprecate its advent, and would gladly see it forestalled by the speedy amelioration of its causes. We wish our race pride to be a healthier, more positive achievement than a feeling based upon a realization of the shortcomings of others. But all paths toward the attainment of a sound social attitude have been difficult; only a relatively few enlightened minds have been able as the phrase puts it "to rise above" prejudice. The ordinary man has had until recently only a hard choice between the alternatives of supine and humiliating submission and stimulating but hurtful counter-prejudice. Fortunately from some inner, desperate resourcefulness has recently sprung up the simple expedient of fighting prejudice by mental passive resistance, in other words by trying to ignore it. For the few, this manna may perhaps be effective, but the masses cannot thrive on it.


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February 2001