Source Book for Sociology

Author: E. B. Reuter  | Date: 1934

53. Racial Mixture and Culture5

In the contact of peoples whether it comes about through the infiltration of immigrants into a settled area or through the imposition of a powerful exploiting group on a relatively helpless native population, the basic facts and the pattern of the subsequent processes are the same. There are differences in detail, variations with peoples and forms of cultures and accidental circumstances, but in general outline and in the long run there are certain consequences of universal incidence.

The first of these universals to be mentioned here is the biological mixture of the races that come into contact. There seems to be no historical exception to the rule that when peoples come into contact and occupy the same areas there is a mixture of blood that results, ultimately, in the establishment of a new or modified ethnic type.

When the peoples in contact are relatively friendly and not too wide apart in physical appearance and social status, intermarriage commonly goes on easily and without exciting opposition or comment. In the United States immigrants from the various European nations and nationalistic groups have married with each other and with members of the older population groups throughout the period of immigration. Even in the remarkably short period represented by the few generations of American life, several of the immigrant groups have been more or less completely merged in the general population. In the case of various immigrant groups of shorter residence in America, the amount of intermarriage is such that their biological incorporation into the general population is a question of sufficient time only. . . .

In those areas of contact where one group by virtue of its superior military power imposes itself upon another, the difference in social status is such as commonly to prevent any considerable amount of intermarriage. This, however, does not prevent the amalgamation of the races, perhaps does not even retard the pace of racial intermixture. In a slave régime there is a more or less open appropriation of the women of the subject group to serve the needs of the master class. It presently comes to pass that the servile women welcome or even seek association with men of the free group because of the special consideration that such association may bring them in other relations, because as mixed bloods and relatives of the ruling group their children may have a higher status and an easier path of life, or for other reasons that may in the circumstances appear sufficient to the slave women. This voluntary association with men of the slave 158 holding caste is in general more marked as the mixed bloods increase in number and come to have a status superior to that of the unmixed members of the servile group. But quite apart from any question as to the attitudes of the serving women, the mixture of the races goes on continuously, and generally with rapidity, in a slave régime. As a result of this infusion of foreign blood, the physical characters of the servile group are progressively modified and in each new generation approach more nearly to those of the slave-holding caste. If, as is sometimes the case, the mixed bloods or some of them are brought within the society of the ruling group, there is a present modification of the physical type of the slave-holding caste.

In the areas of contact where representatives of a powerful nation impose themselves as a ruling group, exploiting the native resources without enslaving the native people, the mixture of races generally goes on more slowly than in immigrant areas or under a régime of personal slavery. Friction tends to be chronic; antagonistic attitudes and traditions of suspicion and avoidance become an integral part of the heritage of succeeding generations. Formal intermarriage is at a minimum but "squaw families" and clandestine and extramatrimonial relations result in an ever-increasing number of mixed-blood individuals. The contacts of American Indians and the Europeans in the United States have never been cordial and the amount of intermarriage has never been great. Nevertheless, the racial intermixture has been so general that many tribes no longer contain any individuals of pure Indian blood and only a few . . . have preserved anything approaching purity of racial stock. At the present time about 50 per cent of the Indian population of the United States is of mixed blood and over 90 per cent of these are Indian-white crosses.

In the contact of established culture groups, even in the presence of strong sentiments and social rules favoring endogamy, there is a continuous intermixture of blood. The Jews are such a group whose history is known from the beginning. In the beginning they were probably a mixture of Amorites, Hittites, and Semites. Throughout their history there have been appreciable infiltrations of foreign blood from every people among whom they have lived and to whose culture they have become in a degree assimilated. There is a multitude of Jewish types; they vary greatly from country to country, tending always to approximate the physical types among whom they live. Over one third of the English, German, and Austrian Jews have light hair and nearly one half have light eyes; some 10 per cent of the European Jews are blonds, fully 40 per cent are of mixed type. The Jews have long since ceased to be a racial type. Their identity is maintained on other grounds. What is true of the Jews is in general true of other sectarian groups of endogamous tradition.

5 From E. B. Reuter, "Introduction," Race and Culture Contacts (ed. by Reuter), 1934, pp. 7–10. By permission of McGraw-Hill Book Company, Inc., publishers.


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Chicago: E. B. Reuter, "53. Racial Mixture and Culture," Source Book for Sociology in Source Book for Sociology, ed. Kimball Young (Cincinnati: American Book Company, 1935), Original Sources, accessed July 20, 2024,

MLA: Reuter, E. B. "53. Racial Mixture and Culture." Source Book for Sociology, in Source Book for Sociology, edited by Kimball Young, Cincinnati, American Book Company, 1935, Original Sources. 20 Jul. 2024.

Harvard: Reuter, EB, '53. Racial Mixture and Culture' in Source Book for Sociology. cited in 1935, Source Book for Sociology, ed. , American Book Company, Cincinnati. Original Sources, retrieved 20 July 2024, from