African-Americans faced more deeply embedded stereotypes,
as shown in How the Other Half Lives, in which
Jacob Riis struggles to point out inequities while passing
along a racist and paternalistic attitude toward blacks.
He says of southern blacks who have immigrated north: "Trades
of which he had practical control in his Southern home are
not open to him here."1 Riis
notes that an inquiry made by Real Estate Record said real
estate agents were "practically unanimous in the endorsement
of the negro as a clean orderly, and 'profitable' tenant.
. . We would rather have negro tenants in our poorest
class of tenements than the lower grades of foreign white
people. We find the former cleaner than the latter, and they
do not destroy our property so much. We also get higher prices
. . ."2 Even while
complaining that blacks suffered from price gouging, Riis
buys into the tired southern vision of the happy darky: "Poverty, abuse, and injustice alike the negro accepts with
imperturbable cheerfulness. . . . With all his ludicrous
incongruities, his sensuality and his lack of moral accountability,
his superstition and other faults that are the effect of
temperament and of centuries of slavery, he has his eminently
talks about other ethnic neighborhoods in a similarly near-sighted
manner, however, noting for example that "The tenement,
especially its lowest type, appears to possess a peculiar
affinity for the worse nature of the Celt, to whose best
and strongest instincts it does violence, and soonest and
most thoroughly corrupts him."4 He
manages to sound condescending and reformist at the same
time when describing the causes of racial problems: "If,
when the account is made up between the races, it shall be
claimed that he falls short of the result to be expected
from twenty-five years of freedom, it may be well to turn
to the other side of the ledger and see how much of the blame
is borne by the prejudice and greed that have kept him from
rising under a burden of responsibility to which he could
hardly be equal."5 Riis's weak attempts at liberality and sympathy in turn reveal
the prejudiced landscape Outcault and other writers and artists
1 Riis, Jacob A. How the Other Half Lives. New York: Penguin Books, 1997. 112.
2 Riis 115.
3 Riis 117-118.
4 Riis 187.
5 Riis 119.