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Attitudes Concerning Minority Groups

A minority group is a small group of people usually composed of one to ten per cent of the population of a given country, and characterized by habits and customs differing somewhat from those of the majority of the people in that given country.  The people in this minority group also frequently display different characteristics as a group from those of the majority as a group.

An example familiar to almost all of us is that of the Jewish people who lived in Germany in the World War II years.  These Jews were characterized by a swarthy physical appearance, large noses, dark eyes, etc.  People then, as now, also tend to think of the Jews as being mercenary and also as having a strong feeling of loyalty to their own group.  These things then are the criteria used to describe a minority group.

The Jews, as many minority groups, can also be called an ethnic group because they have distinct group characteristics.  We are more familiar to using the word “race” perhaps, however, the word ethnic group is more correct because it most clearly defines and describes a group of people who possess peculiar characteristics as compared to other groups of people.

Many ethnic groups are the butt of the majority’s hostilities in the country in which they live.  They are blamed for many averse happenings because they are too weak or too small to fight back, easily accessible for maltreatment, in other words someone to placate the majority’s wishes.  This is what the sociologist refers to as scapegoating; when the minority suffers to relieve the hostilities of the majority.

Again referring to the Jewish people, we see a good example of scapegoating in the inhuman treatment suffered by the Jews under the hands of the German Army.  Before and during the Second World War the Jews were blamed for anything and everything, thus shifting the blame from the German political machine or the German Army to a small group of people who could resist only feebly.

One can now understand how people who have the power and the position can, if they desire, use this power as a group to torment and abuse a smaller group at their every wish and whim.  This situation parallels that of the domineering person who will subject a weaker individual to his every wish and whim.  The abuse rendered by this power group takes form not only in physical violence, but indeed, in forms much more subtle and underhanded; such as making the smaller group the butt of their jokes, circulating fallacies about them, and even worse, passing on to their children their own prejudiced feelings concerning the small ethnic group.  In this way a hate campaign is carried on from generation to generation.  Perhaps the reader may more clearly understand this by reading the following true story which is not only stranger than fiction, but even more unrealistic than many tales of fiction.

There exists in the world in which we are living, a freedom loving country, a land of equal opportunity for all, a country which is comparable to the one in which we live.  In this country of equal opportunity, there is present a very much abused and maltreated ethnic group which compromises roughly ten per cent of the country’s population.  Please keep in mind while reading the rest of this true story that this country is one of the more, if not the most civilized countries in the world.  It also, like America, in known as a Christian nation.

Before revealing to you the name of this ethnic group lest you prejudge them on the basis of what you formerly have heard, a few pertinent facts about it would be in order.  This ethnic group arrived in that country hundreds of years ago.  In fact, they were, relatively speaking, one of the earliest arrivals.  They did not immigrate to that country but on the contrary were shipped there as slaves.  Of course civilization being what it is today, we would expect that slavery would not only be forgotten but its opposite achieved and held as a goal.  It is true that in that country liberty is held as a goal to be striven for diligently.  However, it is very shocking to note how close that this ethnic group remains to the bonds of slavery.  For example:  even in the most progressive area of that country the members of this group still have almost no choice in determining where they will live, what schools their children will go to, what vocation they will choose and the like.  This is sad you say, but the worst is yet to come!  Speaking yet of this progressive area, this group of people are as a whole sometimes charged extremely high sums for living space, a sum they must pay because they are very much restricted as to where they may establish residence in the urban community.  In spite of the obstacles experienced in housing, schooling, and vocational fields, some of the individuals of this persecuted group do manage to fight their way at least partly up the social ladder of success.  However, look at some of those whose fight has not been quite so successful.  One individual did manage to purchase a home in a previously restricted area only to have it condemned by the city government to serve as a city park.  This condemnation resulted from a coalition of neighbors who had more social and political power than he.  There is also in this progressive area, a city largely made up of people of Dutch background and the Reformed faith such as there is in the city where this paper is being printed.  One day a few of the people in this city were faced with impending doom.  As is true in much of history, these common people rose to the crisis with great deeds and wise-as-Solomon solutions.  The impending doom?  A person from this despised ethnic group was going to purchase a house in their neighborhood!  The solution?  Purchase this house from the seller before this inferior being could purchase it.  This wise solution resulted in a financial loss but what did it matter as long as the objective was accomplished.  Perhaps this was not a very American or a very Christian act but the important (?) objective was reached.  This action by this group of neighbors would tend to make one think that these people had forgotten or rebuffed their principles of life.  The foregoing cases are but a minute sample of stories which number in the hundreds, all of which can be proved true.

If you are now asking yourself what this has to do with you, please read on.

Going now to the least progressive area of the country in discussion.  The people in this small ethnic group must, in this area, pay a special tax to vote in many cases.  In other cases, they must take a special pre-election test, and in other cases they may not even vote.  All this in a freedom loving, progressive, Christian nation.  All this stands as sheer mockery of the principles that that country was founded on and the principles it vowed to keep and teach to others.

This persecution in housing, voting, and almost any other area of life one could mention, causes the people in this group to become either apathetic or aggressive, two very natural reactions.  However, by becoming one or the other this ethnic group only serves to cause the majority to nod their heads in assent, clucking in shame, very seldom in pity, saying, “All the stories we hear about them must be true, for notice how they act, those despicable people!”  More fallacies are circulated and re-circulated.  For example, take note of these stories, all of which have been proven untrue and yet are told and re-told with much relish:  those people smell different, are sexually more aggressive, sexually more potent than others, they are lazy by nature, innately prefer jazzy music and loud clothing and a host of other tales which may seem to be true on the surface but under the scrutiny of common sense and scientific knowledge these theories fall apart at the seams.

You may be asking yourself what these people did to deserve all this, and well you might, because we all have a part in this.  As you have probably surmised by now the country this takes place in is not only comparable to our own, it is our own.  America, the land of the “free.”  The city mentioned above is Grand Rapids.  The more progressive area is known as the North, and the less progressive area its counterpart, the South.  The persecuted ethnic group is comprised of the American Negro.  Yes, the Negro as he is today, blackens the eye of every American and every Christian living in America.

One often feels that perhaps anti-Negro feelings may even be at higher level in areas of the country inhabited by people of traditional Dutch, Reformed background; more so than other more secular areas.

This brings up the discussion of the Christian’s calling – regarding the Negro, a much more important topic than the introductory material presented in this article.  Have you thought about this?