Gunnar Myrdal : "The Negro Problem As Moral Issue"

Myrdal, Gunnar. (1944) "The Negro Problem as a Moral Issue" [249-51] from the book An American Dilemma: The Negro Problem and Modern Democracy.

[Quoting Dewey, Freedom and Culture] Anything that obscures the fundamentally moral nature of the social problem is harmful, no matter whether it proceeds from the side of the physical or of psychological theory. Any doctrine that eliminates or even obscures the function of choice of values and enlistment of desires and emotions in behalf of those chosen weakens personal responsibility for judgment and for action. It, thus, helps create the attitudes that welcome and support the totalitarian state. (p. xlvii)


  1. All Americans are aware of their "Negro problem."
  2. Different depending on where/who you are. But for all "a trouble."
  3. Attitudes are sufficiently internally contradictory that even the most simple minded will sometimes recognize strain on and threat to moral integrity. (249.5)
  4. The strain is increased by space left open for activism.
  5. America is "moralist" culture — values matter. And Americans are not comfortable with intellectual "tensions."
  6. Hard for the native to notice his own similarities, but the stranger can see it. One notices that the American is a rationalist, a measurer who wants to study himself.
  7. American as dual: moralist and rationalist. The situation must be disturbing to the moralist, but can be "ignored" by the rationalist who believes it will all be worked out. (250.6)
  8. The American dilemma rests in the American heart: the ideals of the nation — the highest values of the American creed — are at odds with everyday practice.
Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License