The Rising Tide of Color Against White World-Supremacy

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The Rising Tide of Color Against White World-Supremacy is a book by Lothrop Stoddard, published in New York in 1920. Some historians argue it typifies nativist attitudes in the U.S. of the sort that produced immigration restriction laws.[1] The book played on nativist and racist themes to warn that white supremacy was in jeopardy world-wide, as the colored races (especially the Asians) would soon revolt against white rule. Stoddard warns against what he saw as dangers to the white, "Nordic" domination of the world from other races and from "inferior" white or "mongrel" races. Stoddard urged the white empires to leave Asia and Africa and allow independent nations to form (as happened after 1945). The main dangers to white supremacy, he argued, were immigration and competition in the marketplace by Asian factories manufacturing cheaper goods using cheaper labor.

The book sold well (10 printings in two years), but there were few favorable reviews in serious journals;[2], and few scholars incorporated his ideas. The few citations to it in the scholarly literature use the book as an example of racism. Historians have argued the extent to which it wither shaped or reflected popular nativist sentiment in the 1920s.[3] There is no doubt, however, that Stoddard's book was well received by black nationalists, especially followers of Marcus Garvey, who saw it as confirmation that white intellectuals correctly foresaw the post-Imperial future of Asia and Africa. Stoddard corresponded with and influenced Harlem intellectuals such as Hubert Harrison (1883-1927), who was known as "the father of Harlem radicalism."[4] The book was better researched and written than Madison Grant's similar book, The Passing of the Great Race (1916). Grant wrote the preface to Stoddard's book.

Stoddard saw the main danger for the white race domination over the world as coming from the "Yellow race" and especially from the Japanese. He was echoing a concern raised by the German Kaiser in the 1890s. The threat from the 'brown' and the 'black' he saw as less likely. He predicted that overpopulation in India would lead to "such a cycle of strife as would devour its human surplus and render distant aggressions impossible." [5]. a "black 'renaissance'" was, he thought, even less likely, unless the white race stops holding firm and show weakness. South and central America, Stoddard predicted, "will be neither red nor black. It will ultimately be either white or yellow. The Indian is patently unable to construct a progressive civilization. As for the negro, he has proved as incapable in the New World as in the Old." [6]

Stoddard condemned what he saw as the unjustified optimism of the "whites" regarding their continued world domination. The Russo-Japanese War where "the legend of white invincibility was shattered" was to Stoddard a watermark in human history. As a result of the Industrial revolution, which forced people to live in proximity to one another the Nordic race , he claimed, had allowed itself to be "invaded by hordes of immigrant Alpines and Mediterraneans, not to mention Asiatic elements like Levantines and Jews."[7]

This undesirable development, says Stoddard, can still be corrected. The situation "is not yet irreparable... Decisions - firm decisions - must be made. Constructive measures - drastic measures - must be taken."[8] The white race, who lost his solidarity because of on-going disputes between whites, is even more "hampered by Versailles, and harassed by Bolshevism." It may have to abandon "the outer dikes" (areas where there are no white settlements) but must hold firm to "the inner dikes" where there are such settlements. Most importantly, it must fight immigration: "migrations of lower human types like those which have worked such havoc in the United States must be rigorously curtailed." [9]

Stoddard's book expressed a popular notion of cultural despair following the horrors of the World War. Oswald Spengler, the German historian, was much more influential in reflecting the pessimism and seeing the 19th century as unduly optimistic in its views regarding progress. In line with widely held pessimistic views about the future of European dominance and 'the white race' after World War I Stoddard warns against what he saw as the 'dangers' of racial mixing.

Literature

Traces of Stoddard's influence can be discerned in Tom Buchanan's view in F. Scott Fitzgerald's 1925 novel The Great Gatsby. Tom Buchanan explains the argument of a book Fitzgerald calls The Rise of the Colored Empires by a man he calls Goddard: "The idea, is that that we're Nordics.... And we've produced all the things that go to make civilization, [but that] if we don't look out the white race will be...utterly submerged [by] these other races" (pp. 13-14). Tom's paraphrase, though crude, is essentially accurate, but is not critical to the novel. In the late 1930s an echo of some of Stoddard's racial warnings can be seen in Charles Lindbergh's essay Aviation, Geography, and Race.[10]

Stoddard's book was forgotten, but recent years some white supremacists and black nationalists have touted its prophetic merits.

notes

  1. Congress repeatedly passed immigration restrictions beginning in the 1890s, but the presidents vetoed them. Finally in 1917 Congress passed restrictions over Woodrow Wilson's veto. John Higham, Strangers in the Land: Patterns of American Nativism, 1860-1925 (2002), 104, 191, 193, 203, 324.
  2. The only review in the JSTOR journals is Ellsworth Huntington , "The Racial Problem in World-Politics," Geographical Review, Vol. 12, No. 1. (Jan., 1922), pp. 145-146. in JSTOR
  3. See Michaels (1995); Thomas A. Guglielmo, White on Arrival: Italians, Race, Color, and Power in Chicago, 1890-1945 (2003) online edition; and Jean Bethke Elshtain, Jane Addams and the Dream of American Democracy: A Life (2002) pp 204-5, believes the book had a major impact.
  4. See Matthew Pratt Guter, The Color of Race in America, 1900-1940 (2001) p 138; Hubert H. Harrison, A Hubert Harrison Reader ed. by Jeffrey Babcock (2001) pp 305ff online
  5. Chapter 3.
  6. Chapter 5.
  7. Chapter 8.
  8. Chapter 8.
  9. Chapter 12.
  10. The essay, from the 1939 Reader's Digest is online