On October 28, 2006 when
preparation for the republication of “Race Relations:
Elements and Social Dynamics” began, the time was appropriate for if it
had been attempted in the 1990’s, much of the information on the Internet and
computer technological advancements were not yet available.
Manually researching information in libraries and governmental agencies
would have been laborious and overwhelming and because of this, one cannot help
but be in awe of the abundance of material that Oliver Cromwell Cox read.
Further, the unavailability of the original manuscript made this project
extremely difficult in many instances and in fact, if it had been attempted
prior to the emergence of new technology it would have been impossible.
Why did Oliver devote so
many years to race relations? One of
the many motivating factors was his brother’s abandonment of plans to become a
dentist. The problem was that
Reginald was refused entry to the school of his choice because of the color of
his skin, and he was so discouraged that he spent the rest of his life working
in a factory—a major disappointment to the entire family.
In the past, many West Indian parents encouraged their male children to
become doctors and lawyers.
Not deterred by his
brother’s misfortune, Oliver, a then British Subject, received a Bachelor of
Science Degree in law from Northwestern University in 1928, a Master’s Degree in
economics in 1932, and a Ph.D. in sociology from the University of Chicago in
1938. His education, which was
unsurpassed by any other Black person at that time, was
reflected in the depth and breadth of his writings―the legal, economical
and sociological―and the unintentional spiritual and psychological
aspects are apparent in “Race Relations:
Elements and Social Dynamics.”
Because he grew up in Trinidad, West Indies, he had the distinct
advantage of documenting race relations free from most of the racial experiences
of colored United States citizens.
This objectivity and his relentless determination to present facts
enhanced the credibility of his work.
Clearly, he was not concerned about hurt feelings or trodden toes─he
wrote as it was, and in some instances, as it still is today.
It is obvious that his ethics did not allow picking and choosing and
playing politics in such an important undertaking as recording history.
One may ask whether or not
this final work by Oliver has purpose.
As I read the graphic and poignant description of events from slavery to
the time of his death, they struck me as compelling, familiar and
substantiated—inevitably “aha moments” consumed my consciousness.
When you must look up a word that you have never seen and your mind is
enriched is “an aha moment.” When
thousands of slaves were freed and set upon society without assimilative support
is an “aha moment.” As you begin to
see clearly the toll in human sufferings and the financial losses of both the
victims of racial discrimination and the offending businesses is an “aha
about an incident and recognizing similarities in your own life is indeed an
“aha moment.” When you begin to feel
the pain of the victims and the sadness that it generates, and arrive at the
conclusion that “Race Relations:
Elements and Social Dynamics” is a book that should be read to enlighten all
peoples, and to serve as a historical record of the misery of poor race
relations, is a shocking “aha moment.”
There is no presumptuousness
in thinking that if this book could have a profound effect on me, then the
outcome would be the same for you.
However, it is emphasized that “Race Relations:
Elements and Social Dynamics” is a wonderful educational tool inside and
outside academia; indeed, practicing its ethical lessons will have a positive
impact on race relations particularly in businesses.
In spite of his outstanding
qualifications and worldwide recognition of his work, he was the subject of
disparaging and unjust characterizations.
Oliver, a gentle man, in an effort to defend himself stated, “They have
accused the writer
of ‘economic determinism,’ ‘Marxism,’4 or
of seeking to explain race relations
‘solely,’ ‘only,’ ‘merely,’ ‘exclusively’ on the basis of ‘economics.’
After addressing themselves in this fashion to the economic aspects of
race relations, these scholars usually move on to emphasize certain startling
psychological or political incidents implying that these are at least as
significant for an analysis of the society.”
These very comments, which were made by the then pillars of academia,
eventually became the foundation for teaching sociology.
Until his death in 1974, Oliver bravely and meticulously researched and
documented racial conditions with the utmost integrity thereby making them an
invaluable part of American sociological history, and highly credible as past
injustices continue to recur.
Proving his critics wrong and in recognition of his work on race relations, on
September 29, 1971 the American Sociological Association presented him with this
the american sociological association
September 29, 1971
|Professor Oliver Cromwell Cox
As you are no doubt aware, the American Sociological Association recently
established a new award for excellence; namely, the DuBois-Johnson-Frazier Award
in honor of “the intellectual traditions and contributions” of William Edward
Burghardt Dubois, Charles Spurgeon Johnson, and Edward Franklin Frazier.
This award is to be made every two years “to a sociologist – or
sociologists in the case of joint authors – for an outstanding contribution in
the tradition of these men, or to an academic institution for its work in
assisting the development of scholarly efforts in the same tradition.”
I am pleased to announce formally what you surely heard informally.
At our recent annual meetings in Denver (where you were
sorely missed), the American Sociological Association awarded you its first
DuBois-Johnson-Frazier Award. The
announcement was made at the presidential session and included the following
citation from the Committee:
“For his years of
dedicated service as a teacher of sociology and purveyor of sociological
perspectives to black youth; for his sustained scholarly endeavors to
delineate further the class dimension of “race relations” and to direct
the attention of his professional peers to the need to include this dimension
among others when studying race contacts; for his role as intellectual catalyst
for new action programs among black youth; and particularly for his provocative
analysis of caste, class and race the DuBois-Johnson-Frazier award is made to
Oliver Cromwell Cox.”
This year’s selection committee included H. M.
Blalock, Jr., James Conyers, Butler A. Jones, Chairman, Leonard Reissman,
Charles U. Smith, and Ralph H. Turner.
On behalf of both the Committee and the American Sociological Association
as a whole, let me offer utmost congratulations on this award.
You shall be receiving
a check for $500 shortly. The hope
was expressed and widely shared that you will be able to join us at our annual
meetings next August in New Orleans.
| Best personal regards,
1722 N. Street,
N.W. * Washington, D.C.
20036 * (202) 833-3410
—Juliet Awon Uibopuu
Niece of Oliver
Although there is an avalanche of
material on race relations, it is surprising how little there is of general
works on the subject. My motive
in writing stems partly from a desire to fill the gap that causes a problem
to concerned teachers. The
unsystematized data are very extensive.
The present definition of the subject, however, suggests their limits
and scope. I do not approach the
work merely to gather the most recent information, but rather to present a
distinct theory of race relations.
Previously, in other places, I have nibbled at contrary theories:
The Caste Theory, Pluralism, the Matrix Theory, the Black Bourgeoisie
Theory, the Biological Superiority Theories, and their derivatives.
I propose here, however, to present a more comprehensive analysis.
This proposal mostly determines the direction.
A valid theory of race relations must necessarily be universalist; it
attempts to explain and elucidate certain characteristics of a peculiar
culture in context. In “Caste,
Class, and Race” I was interested in conceptual definition and societal
distinction; in the undertaking I was concerned particularly with the
universal manifestation of race relations and their functions, especially in
the United States.
In regard to the economics of
race relations, as crucial economics involve pivotally the differentiating
forces in our type of society, I
attempt to define and analyze them, and to show their elemental relationship
to race relations in the United States.
It is in this context that I expect to demonstrate the critical
aspects of Negro exploitation and discrimination.
It is here that the Negro comes face to face with almost insuperable
barriers to job assignments and to adventures in business enterprise.
His subjection to social discrimination has been built mainly upon
these concrete economic frustrations.
The latter blot out, as nothing else, his “place in the sun.”
There is an apparently singular
social-class problem arising among members of the race—problem unknown to
other American subcultures. It
seems to emerge from forces of racial rejection in the larger society and
from the relatively static nature of the Negro social status structure.
The relatively larger lower-status base with its tradition of
permanence has engendered elements of lower-class cultural idealism which
establish their own vicious circle inimical to efforts toward inclusion in
the mainstream culture. I have
sought to examine the social ramifications of this tendency.
Sometimes the fact that neither
capitalism, democracy nor communism is centered in lower-class ideals may be
overlooked. The major social
movements of the world have little if any creative interest in lower-class
culture. In no country does
social equality mean a leveling of the social status structure of the major
society to meet the cultural accommodations and demands of the lower
classes,1 and the Soviet Union would be the most unlikely place to look for
such a tendency. The independent
nations are cool toward it.
The leadership of the subcultures of other American Immigrants has
lost respect for it—if indeed that leadership ever countenanced it.
The attempt, therefore, by some
spokesmen of the Negro lower class to work within the social penumbra of the
Black middle class to perpetuate lower class traits and purposes seems
doomed to ultimate disillusionment.
In the United States it must eventually be
a dead-end movement. The lower
class, according to American tradition, should be uplifted and become
preoccupied with values of the larger society as a birthright, not
encouraged to be smug and obstinate in degradation—the latter frequently
referred to as “our Black culture” to the gratification of the group’s most
determined White detractors, who exclaimed triumphantly to White liberals,
“I told you so.” The advanced
nations of the world have become increasingly dedicated to a functional “war
on poverty.” The social
situation of the “hard core” unemployed in the Black Ghetto has now been
recognized as a national scandal.
Rapidly, since 1954 especially,
the Negro problem has assumed a dominant place in the thinking of American
people. The country has
consciously passed the crisis point of no turning back.
The problem has “surfaced.”
Both government and business have now openly admitted their share of
responsibilities for the consequences of cultural subordination.
They have thus taken the initiative in developing plans for racial
betterment. The major civil
rights groups have been willing to cooperate with the central powers in
organization and execution of these problems.
There are, however, alienated Negro groups and individuals who are
understandably vexed and confused, and who are explicit in their
determination to make the society, both Black and White, pay or suffer for
past wrongs—all the way from fire, looting, and gunshot, to the blackmail of
I have attempted to show—and
the government seems now to realize it—that the years of racial repression
and exclusion have severely limited the capacity of Negroes to compete for
the newly available opportunities.
Compensatory assistance, therefore, in education, job training, and
business enterprise becomes an urgent obligation of the state.
The programs should include deprived Whites as well as Blacks.
The road has been tortuous and long but it has been dynamic,
exciting, and promising. Indeed,
the future of race relations is now visible and encouraging than ever
There can hardly be an
explanation of race relations unless one is able to understand or at least
to identify the culture and the societal system from which these
relationships emerged. It is a
sociological fact that racial discrimination constitutes collective, not
essentially individual, behavior.
Thus I accept in principle Emile Durkheim’s approach.
To understand conclusions about the collective aspects of the belief
and practice of a group, one must be able to comprehend the social functions
which they fulfill. Different
social systems are constituted differently; and major social processes, such
as contemporary race relations, must be sought in the elementary
constitution of the society.
The various constituent
elements of a society—economic, political, religious, familial, moral—tend,
more or less, to be integrated differently in different social systems.
“For the sociologist as for the historian, social facts vary with the
social system of which they form a part; they cannot be understood when
detached from it. This is why
two facts which come from two different societies cannot be profitably
compared merely because they seem to resemble each other; it is necessary
that the societies resemble each other.”2
The patterns are
recognizable by the relative structural significances of their subordinate
systems, which constitute a hierarchy of relevance.
Furthermore, we should guard
against attributing the importance of component systems to judgments about
their dispensability. A given
component may be indispensable and still assume a quite subordinate function
in the total societal organization.
In fact, given certain essential constituents, supplementary systems
and institutions may be expected to follow logically.
William Graham Sumner’s observation that there is a strain toward
consistency in the elements of a society emphasizes these salient
characteristics. Once the
societal patterns become established, they also become culturally limited.
It does not, therefore, assimilate or reject cultural traits
indiscriminately. Some traits,
compatible to one society, may remain forever alien to another.
The meaning of any social system or institution, therefore, tends to
be determined by the pattern of society.
The ubiquitous religious function, for example, tends to be defined
differently among different social groups, varying from predominance in some
to subsidiary in others, and with widespread variations in beliefs, ritual,
Societies’ major social
systems are historical products.
The factors determinative of change in them are both internal and
external. Simple, relatively
isolated tend to be static; complex societies, ordinarily in communication
with others, tend to be dynamic.
But change may involve even growth or decay; it may be gradual or
revolutionary. It may be
predictable or peculiar open to the vicissitudes of history.
Contemporary Western society is so distinct from all preceding forms
of social organizations and relatively so recent that it seems necessary not
only to indicate the pertinent differences but also to explain European
involvement in it. We shall hope
in this way to help clarify the mysticism that largely permeates most
discussions of race relations.