The Yellow Kid on the Paper Stage
Introduction Origins of the Kid Class Warfare on the Urban Stage Race and Ethnicity Selling the Kid The Death of the Kid
"A Black-and-Tan Dive in 'Africa.'"
A Downtown 'Morgue
"Back to the Old Home."
"Go to Sleep My Honey."
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Exploiting Race and Ethnicity


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 good points."3

"Correct."Riis 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 operated under.
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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.