chapter  5
30 Pages

Selectionism: A Sociology of Race and Gender, 1900–1920

WithSean H. McMahon

The roots of modern American nativism, and the individual race consciousness of Edward Ross, lay in competition. In a capitalist system, forces of selection pitted all races against one another and some naturally emerged as superior. One classic study of American racial thought called Ross “one of the most race-conscious of American social scientists.” His race consciousness developed from two sources. As an economist, he believed that immigrants imported as cheap labor undermined traditional American industrial and farm labor. Such accusations cost him his job at Stanford. As American sociology turned to increasingly scientific methods, Ross's racial thought took a similar turn. He supported eugenics, the scientific study of racial selection which sought to perpetuate the most efficient races. His analyses of human “breeding” persuaded him that immigrant families were rapidly overtaking smaller “native” white families in a condition he called “race suicide.” As early as 1896, the young scholar noted the racial stratification of American society.