13 JUNE 1931, Page 16


[To the Editor of the SPECTATOR.] SIR,—After reading the letters that have been appearing in the Spectator on " The Colour Bar," it seems to me that your correspondents have not realized fully all the implications of this very important factor in the mutual relationship between the so-called coloured races and the non-coloured races.

To begin with, at all times, and among all people, variations in the colour of the human skin have attracted a great deal of attention. Now those who believe that all human relationships are largely governed by the " herd instinct," will say at once that it is this instinct which causes a man to feel more at home with another of his species who has the same degree of skin pigmentation as he has himself. But this is by no means the whole problem, for there exists a widespread dislike for a dark skin among people whose skin is naturally dark. Also, the herd instinct does not explain the admiration felt by dark-skinned people for a very fair skin. Lastly, the herd instinct fails to explain why certain negro races of Africa and many of the black aboriginals of Australia believe that a " white " man is only one of them- selves reborn.

For an explanation of these ideas and others akin to them, we must seek elsewhere, and I believe the direction to which we should turn our attention is to that of the relation between blackness and evil, a connotation which is universal. But there is yet another side to the relations between coloured and non-coloured races which has nothing to do with ideas of evil, but with the instinct of sex. That there is nothing new in this idea either, is evident in literature. Take for example the first chapter of the Thousand Nights and A Night. This chapter contains in the guise of fiction a solid piece of fact, namely, the occasional development in women of an overpowering attraction for men of a racially more primitive type. Both in ancient and modern literature many references to this phenomenon are to be found. Seneca, in his Letters to Lucilius, written in the first part of the first century, A.D., mentions that numbers of negroes of both sexes were introduced into Rome at that time for purposes

of prostitution. In Turkey, Persia, and India the negro has played an important part in the sexual life of the in- habitants of these countries.

Bloch in his book, Das Sexualleben unserer Zeit, makes particular reference to the sexual attraction felt by the white races. for the black races of Africa. In the eighteenth century numerous houses for negresses which were greatly patronized were established in Paris. After Napoleon's campaign in Egypt many negroes went to Paris and were much sought after by the Parisians of that time. . The French poet Baudelaire always confessed to a profound admiration for the mulatto type of beauty. In the United States of America sexual intercourse between whites and blacks is by no means uncommon in spite of the strong feeling that exists there against all coloured races. Not so many years ago a com- mission was appointed in South Africa to investigate an outcry about the " raping" of white women by black men. I believe I am right in saying that the commission was con- fronted with some very astonishing evidence.

We have now seen that besides the association of the idea of " blackness " with the idea of " evil," this so-called " Colour Question " is further complicated by the fact that both men and women, but more especially women, of a racially superior type are liable to become the subjects of the strongest attraction for individuals belonging to a racially more primitive type. This fact gives rise to the production in the mind of the racially superior male of a furious hatred bred of sexual jealousy. Indeed it seems to me that it is not unlikely that there probably exists in the Unconscious of most, if not all, of the non-African races, a horror of the negro which can be traced ultimately to sexual jealousy. At any rate throughout the whole world the negro has always been associated in the minds of the non-negro races with certain types of " buffoonery" ; a fact which seems to me to point to an unconscious desire on the part of the non-negro mind to blot out the sinister attributes of the negro by making him appear ridiculous.

The " Colour Question " is one of the most, if not the most, important of the many problems awaiting solution to-day. It is obvious that the happiness and prosperity of the whole human race depend upon its adequate solution. Further, no solution of the problem is possible without a complete awareness of all the factors concerned in it. Not by any means the least of these factors are those bound up with the masses of primitive beliefs and their affective tones which exist in the minds of all of us.—I am, Sir, &C.,


Lieut.-Colonel, I.M.S. Kanke P.O., Ranchi, Bihar and Orissa, India.