Albert Einstein – The Negro Question (1946)


Albert_Einstein_1947a

This article was posted on FaceBook today by Pastor Matt Jones (of Del Rey Church). He found it on someone’s blog, posted about 2010. Obviously, Dr. Einstein wrote this during a troubled period in our country. Our culture, it seems, has not advanced very far since that time though. I will add my comment to the article below this. It should provoke a similar response in any person who is saved by the grace of God I should think.

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ALBERT EINSTEIN: THE NEGRO QUESTION (1946)

I am writing as one who has lived among you in America only a little more than ten years. And I am writing seriously and warningly. Many readers may ask:

“What right has he to speak about things which concern us alone, and which no newcomer should touch?”

I do not think such a standpoint is justified. One who has grown up in an environment takes much for granted. On the other hand, one who has come to this country as a mature person may have a keen eye for everything peculiar and characteristic. I believe he should speak out freely on what he sees and feels, for by so doing he may perhaps prove himself useful.

What soon makes the new arrival devoted to this country is the democratic trait among the people. I am not thinking here so much of the democratic political constitution of this country, however highly it must be praised. I am thinking of the relationship between individual people and of the attitude they maintain toward one another.

In the United States everyone feels assured of his worth as an individual. No one humbles himself before another person or class. Even the great difference in wealth, the superior power of a few, cannot undermine this healthy self-confidence and natural respect for the dignity of one’s fellow-man.

There is, however, a somber point in the social outlook of Americans. Their sense of equality and human dignity is mainly limited to men of white skins. Even among these there are prejudices of which I as a Jew am clearly conscious; but they are unimportant in comparison with the attitude of the “Whites” toward their fellow-citizens of darker complexion, particularly toward Negroes. The more I feel an American, the more this situation pains me. I can escape the feeling of complicity in it only by speaking out.

Many a sincere person will answer: “Our attitude towards Negroes is the result of unfavorable experiences which we have had by living side by side with Negroes in this country. They are not our equals in intelligence, sense of responsibility, reliability.”

I am firmly convinced that whoever believes this suffers from a fatal misconception. Your ancestors dragged these black people from their homes by force; and in the white man’s quest for wealth and an easy life they have been ruthlessly suppressed and exploited, degraded into slavery. The modern prejudice against Negroes is the result of the desire to maintain this unworthy condition.

The ancient Greeks also had slaves. They were not Negroes but white men who had been taken captive in war. There could be no talk of racial differences. And yet Aristotle, one of the great Greek philosophers, declared slaves inferior beings who were justly subdued and deprived of their liberty. It is clear that he was enmeshed in a traditional prejudice from which, despite his extraordinary intellect, he could not free himself.

A large part of our attitude toward things is conditioned by opinions and emotions which we unconsciously absorb as children from our environment. In other words, it is tradition—besides inherited aptitudes and qualities—which makes us what we are. We but rarely reflect how relatively small as compared with the powerful influence of tradition is the influence of our conscious thought upon our conduct and convictions.

It would be foolish to despise tradition. But with our growing self-consciousness and increasing intelligence we must begin to control tradition and assume a critical attitude toward it, if human relations are ever to change for the better. We must try to recognize what in our accepted tradition is damaging to our fate and dignity—and shape our lives accordingly.

I believe that whoever tries to think things through honestly will soon recognize how unworthy and even fatal is the traditional bias against Negroes.

What, however, can the man of good will do to combat this deeply rooted prejudice? He must have the courage to set an example by word and deed, and must watch lest his children become influenced by this racial bias.

I do not believe there is a way in which this deeply entrenched evil can be quickly healed. But until this goal is reached there is no greater satisfaction for a just and well-meaning person than the knowledge that he has devoted his best energies to the service of the good cause.

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My response:

So, one should naturally ask, what have you, or any of us “White folk” done for our brothers and sisters of darker complexion today to demonstrate that the age-old bias of our culture is a myth rooted in lies and depravity (sin)?

As we learned from Promise Keepers, we must be INTENTIONAL about smashing barriers, and reaching across to speak those words “I love you” simply by our actions and deeds.

I do not say these things as an innocent man, but rather one who recognizes the flaws in himself and tries hard everyday to overcome them through the power and grace of Jesus.

7cOlrKf

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2 thoughts on “Albert Einstein – The Negro Question (1946)

  1. I wouldn’t say that our culture bias is a myth. I think it’s very real, and that’s why it’s important for all of us to address it constructively and- for believers- to do so Biblically. When I have opportunity, I always trying to be friendly to everyone I meet, but it’s not always easy for everyone to understand our intentions. This past Saturday, when I was in Baltimore, I said “hi” to the parking attendant, who happened to be black. She said “Hello” in an annoyed tone. But then, once I paid my $8.00 parking fee, she said, “Aren’t you going to say ‘hello’ to me?” I was taken aback because I thought I had said hi when I pulled up to her, but apparently she hadn’t heard me. So I said hello again in as friendly a voice as I could muster and joked that I said hi to her before she said hi to me, and she seemed okay with my response.

    I tell this story because it seems so hard to be a positive influence and make a positive impact in race relations. I want to see the kind of world that Martin Luther King dreamed of where we don’t judge people by the color of their skin. But often it seems like we’re up against forces (spiritual, perhaps?) that work against healing and true progress. I’m not sure what the answer is, but I hope this culture of division we’re facing will get better and not worse. It’s a very sad time we live in right now.

    • Excellent point. What I actually meant was that the racism is real, but the underlying principles upon which it is based is a myth, that there are differences that make one race inferior and so on and so on. I also am intentional to try to mend race relations, to go over and above when dealing with members of another race. We must take every opportunity to heal and mend those divides, taking the time to listen to one another and show honest compassion, no matter what or where or who.

      We all have issues, mine are really no different, at the core. All of life is a spiritual battle. And Jesus has already won it – for all of us!

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