The Sex Question and Race Segregation

Archibald H. Grimke

Excerpt: pages 1-7

One wrong produces other wrongs as surely and as naturally as the seed of the thorn produces other thorns. Men do not in the moral world gather figs from a thorn- bush any more than they do in the vegetable world. What they sow in either world, that they reap. Such is the law. The earth is bound under all circumstances and conditions of time and place to reproduce life, action, conduct, character, each after its own kind. Men cannot make what is bad bring forth what is good. Truth does not come out of error, light out of darkness, love out of hate, justice out of injustice, liberty out of slavery. No, error produces more error, darkness snore darkness, hate more hate, injustice more injustice, slavery more slavery. That which we do is that which we are, ante that which we shall be.

The great law of reproduction which applies without shadow of change to individual life, applies equally to the life of that aggregation of individuals called a race or nation. Not any man individual can they do wrong with impunity, can they commit a bad deed without reaping in return the result in kind. There is nothing more certain than the wrong done by a people shall reappear to plague them, if not in one generation, then in another. For the consummation of a bad thought in a bad act puts what is bad in the act beyond the control of the actor. The evil thus escapes out of the Pandora-box of the heart, of the mind, to reproduce and to multiply itself a hundredfold and in in a hundred ways in the complex relationships of men within human society. And then it returns not as it issued singly, but with its related brood of ill consequences:

"But in these cases, We still have judgment here; that we but teach Bloody instructions, which being taught return 'To plague the inventor: this even-handed justice Commends the ingredients of our poisoned chalice To our own lips."

The ship which landed at Jamestown in 1619 with a cargo of African slaves for Virginia plantations, imported at the same time into America with its slave-cargo certain seed-principles of wrong. As the slaves reproduced after their kind, so did these seed-principles of wrong reproduce likewise after their kind. Wherever slavery rooted itself, they rooted themselves also. The one followed the other with the regularity of a law of nature, the invariability of the law of cause and effect. As slavery grew and multiplied and spread itself over the land, the evils begotten of slavery grew, and multiplied, and spread themselves over the life of the people, black anf white alike. The winds which blew North carried the seeds, and the winds blew South, and wherever they went, wherever they fell, whether East or West, they sprang up to bear fruit in the characters of men, in the conduct of a growing people.

The enslavement of one race by anotilcr neccessarily produces , certain moral effects upon both races, moral deterioration of the masters, moral degradation of the slaves. The deeper the degradation of the one, the greater will be the deterioration of the other, and vice versa. Indeed, slavery is a breedingbed, a sort of compost heap, where the best qualities of both races decay and become food for the worst. The brute appetites and passions of the two act and react on the moral nature of each race with demoralizing effects. The subjection of the will of one race under such circumstances to the will of another begets in the race that rules cruelty and tyranny, and in the one that is ruled, fear, cunning and deceit. The lust, the passions of the master-class, act powerfully on the lust, the passions of the slave-class, and those of the slave- class react not less powerfully on the master-class. The greater the cruelty, and tyranny and lust of the one, the greater will be the cunning, deceit and lust of the other, And there is no help for this so long as the one race rules and the other race is ruled, so long as there exists between them in the state inequality of rights, of conditions, based solely on the racehood of each.

If two races live together on the same land and under the same government as master and slave, or as superior and inferior, there will grow up in time two moral standards in consequence of the two races living together under such conditions. The master or superior race will have one standard to regulate the conduct of individuals belonging to it in respect to one another, and another standard to regulate the conduct of those self-same individuals in respect to individuals of thc slave or inferior race. Action which would be considered bad if done by an individual of the former race to another individual of the same race, would not be regarded as bad at all, or at least in anything like the same degree, if done to an individual of the latter race. On the other hand, if the same offense were committed by an individual of the slave or inferior race against an individual of the master or superior race, it would not only be deemed bad, but treated as very bed:

With the evolution of the double moral standard and its application to the conduct of individuals in the state, there grows up in the life of both classes no little confusion in respect to moral ideas, no little confusion in respect to, ideas of right and wrong. Nor is this surprising. The results of such a double standard of morals could not possibly be different so long as human nature is what it is. The natural man takes instinctively to the double standard, to any scheme of morals which makes it easy for him to sin, and difficult for a brother or enemy to do likewise. And this is exactly what our American double standard does practically in the South for both races, but especially for the dominant race, for example, in regard to all that group of actions, which grows out of the relation of the sexes in Southern society.

What relations do the Southern males of the white race sustain to the females of both races ? Are these relations confined strictly to the females of their own race? Or do they extend to the females of the black race? Speaking frankly, we all know what the instinct of the male animal is, and man after all, is physically a male animal. He is by nature one of the most polygamous of male animal. There goes on in some for among the human males, as among other males, a constant struggle for the females. In polygamous constant countries man obtains as many wives as he can purchase and support. In monogamous countries he is limited by law to one wife, whether he is able to maintain a plurality of wives or not. When he marries this one woman the law defines his relations to her and also to the children who may issue from such a union. But the man-I am talking broadly-is at heart a polygamist still. The mere animal instinct in his blood inclines him to run after to obtain possession of other wives. To give way to this inclination in monogamous countries he knows to be attended with danger, to be fraught with sundry grievous consequences to himself. He is liable to his wife, for example, to an action for divorce on the ground of adultery. He is liable to be prosecuted criminally on the same charge to the state, and to be sent to prison for a term of years. But this is not the end of his troubles. Public opinion, society, falls foul of him also in consequence of his misconduct of his . He loses social recognition, the respect of his fellows, becomes in common parlance a disgraced man. The one-wife country is grounded on the inviolability of the Seventh Commandment. All the sanctions of law, of morals, and of religion collapsee to protect the wife against the roving propensities of the husband, cotnbine to curb his male instinct to run after many women, to practice plural marriages. There thus grows up in the breast of the race, is transmitted to each man with the accumulated strength of social heredity, a feeling of personal fear, a sense of moral obligation, which together war against his male instinct for promiscuous sexual intercourse, and make for male purity, for male fidelity to the one-wife idea, to the one- wife institution. The birth of this wholesome fear in society is the beginning of wisdom in monogamous countries. And unless this sense of moral obligation is able to maintain its ascendancy in those countries, the male sexual instinct to practice plural marriages will reassert itself, will revert, if not openly, then secretly, to a state of nature, to illicit relations. But every tendency to such reassertion, or reversion, is effectively checked in a land where national morals are sound, are pure, by wise laws which a strong, an uncompromising public sentiment makes and executes impartially against all offenders.

This is the case in respect to monogamous countries inhabited by a homogeneous population. In such countries where there exist no differences of race, where there is no such thing as a dominant and subject race, the national standard of morals is single, the sexual problem is accordingly simple and yields readily, uniformly, to the single standard regulation or treatment.


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The Politics of Sex, 1923

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