The Riots of 1964 — Chapter 14

Research Director’s Report
Manning Van Nostrand, Director of Research

Characteristics of the “Loner.”

We observed in the analysis of the arrested and non-arrested group that there was a group of between twenty and thirty-five percent of the youngsters who expressed negative and/or hostile attitudes. The question arises as to whether or not there is a concentration of these negative traits in the particular sub-group, or whether these characteristics are evenly distributed through the group as a whole. Because the Irritability-Deviancy Test results indicate that there may not be as much animosity toward authority as was originally suspected at the outset of the Project, it was decided that this particular question was not an adequate measure of a group’s negative tendencies. The group which perceived adults belittling toward youth was so large that we might almost regard this as a kind of norm among the young people on the beach. The questions pertaining to the school situation were added too late to be of much help in the determining of a particular group’s cohesiveness. It was decided that the question, “How many people can you talk things over with?” had the properties of distribution which reflected the size of the group in question. It was reasoned that young people who did not have too many people to whom they could relate would be more prone to develop the kinds of negative traits which concern us. There was done a cross-tabulation on those young people who had indicated that they had either no one or just one person with whom they could talk and those individuals who responded in ways indicating that they had many people with whom they could talk things over (8 – 10 people, and over 10 people).

The following indicates those characteristics which tend to describe differences along key items in the “random” interview. Again, we are not attempting to describe everything or everybody but simply what the salient features of these sub-groups are.

Physical characteristics. Two details require our attention in this category. The first is that of the approximately twenty-one percent of the local youngsters interviewed, 13.1 percent were in this low relationship group. The second detail has to do with the father’s occupational prestige. Those in the low relationship were from homes with lower economic and social benefits than were the youngsters in the high group. Fifty percent of the young people in the low group were from prestige groups five, six and seven while thirty-four percent of the high group were in the same social rank.

Beach Behavior. The low relationship youngster tends to hang around in larger groups than the high relationship youngster. Eleven percent more of the low group clustered in groups of eleven or over, and over eight percent fewer of the low group members clustered in the small groups of youngsters consisting of from three to five. Their entire range of activity seems to take them into those situations in which they hope they can meet people, we suspect. They are the ones who attend the dances on Friday night, but on Saturday night they are back out on the boardwalk hanging around in greater proportion than are the high relationship youngsters. The high relationship kids are found in greater numbers dancing on Saturday night. While this may not seem particularly important, it does suggest that the low relationship youngster is seeking some kind of companionship on Friday nights. Not finding it, apparently, the next night finds him hanging around. While with the high relationship youngsters it would seem that something approaching the reverse tendency is true. Sunday night our low relationship youngster has managed, at least more than the high relationship youngster, to find a date. And a date is what he came for. For all practical purposes, considering the high percentage of “other” responses among the high group, we do not really know why he came to the beach.

Both of the groups are sensitive to the new rules and the presence of so many police on the beach, but the low group seems a bit more sensitive. This sensitivity is heightened by their comments on the changes at the beach. They are very much more aware of the police and the notice of an increase in tension is slightly more prevalent among the low group than it is among the high.

There is no appreciable difference between the high and the low group in their participation in C.A.V.E.-sponsored events. But, they certainly appreciate what C.A.V.E. is doing for them in their suggestions about what ideas could be implemented for the summer. Dancing on the beach and beach parties are particularly high requests among this low group.

Attitude Toward Adults. The difference between the responses on the question related to the local police is interesting. The low group scores higher, on a percentage basis, than the high group on the response “do their job;” but the high group is quite a bit stronger on the “friendly” response. This seems to begin a trend of a rather impersonal perception of the adult world – at least where the adult world is not overly threatening. But, apparently the adult world is quite threatening when seen in the form of the State Police. There were a little over fifteen percent of the high relationship group which perceived the State Police as being friendly and nice, and not one of the low relationship group. The low group perceived them as being aggressive, big and tough – in a word, threatening. Other than a suggestion that there may be some corrupt police in general, the low group is not particularly negative toward police in general.

Again, on explaining how adults describe the position of kids, we find the usual “belittling” response. But, there are some interesting sidelights to this one. There seems to be a greater tendency on the part of the low group to mention such characteristics as adults using their own childhood as a criterion and that the actions of today’s youth, as perceived by adults, are the results of changing times. This would seem to lend a bit of weight toward the possibility that the parent or other significant adult had seen the youngster as having some very real emotional and social distance from him. This is a kind of role expectation in which the youngster can begin finding justification for his feeling of isolation; indeed, this may be part of the cause of how he finds himself in the position of not having anyone to talk with.

This trend is reinforced by this youngster feeling that very few people (himself included) know where they are going. Contrasted, as all these are with the high-relationship group, we see the trend toward a negative, alienated life-style by these youngsters affirming that very few people are happy (at least there is more in this group than we might otherwise expect.) The air of impersonality, of indifference we noted earlier seems to come more to the surface when we look at the comments these groups make about why people are either happy or unhappy. A vague feeling that a greater quantity of something more, a limp “some are happy, some are not” flavors the outlook of the low relationship youngster with the cool indifference of a person insulated against his world. This is partially reflected by the answer to the question, “What do people value most?” In all categories but one, social recognition, we find the response of the low group lower than the response of the high relationship group.

Their perceptions of people are colored by their own inward-looking life. People are selfish, confused and unhappy. The high group on the other hand, while not painting a picture of the human race in glowing optimism, is decidedly more hopeful.

An interesting correlation of factors may be seen by matching the arrested in this group with their description of how they were treated.

Here those arrested young people who had either one person to talk things over with or no one were equally divided between having no feeling and being somewhat impartial about the whole thing, or feeling that their treatment had been rough. On the other hand, the high relationship group said by a ratio of two to one that their treatment had been rough. Obviously such figures as these cannot be conclusive. But, there is the tendency for them to reinforce some of the other pieces we have elaborated. The low relationship group seems to react with indifference toward the harshness of the world. Under conditions as stressful as these it is conceivable that there would be some real suppression of hostility. On the other hand, the high relationship group tends to perceive the situation and feel strongly about it. More importantly, their feelings can be ventilated. we might be able to presume that the differences in treatment between arrestees tend to balance out.

Self-Orientation; We begin to get into some very real differences between the two groups in this category. The most dramatic difference is found in response to the question, “What do young people worry about most?” The high relationship group is worried about the future, about themselves. But, the low relationship person is virtually preoccupied with his concern over social recognition. Nearly half of this sub-group (in contrast to less than a fifth of the high relationship group) is concerned about social recognition. This characteristic is magnified by their ideas of how to change the world. They would alleviate “separatism” and “social pressures.” As over against the high relationship group, the low relationship youngster yearns for general security. This, ironically enough, he places far out in front of social recognition as a life goal. The chances for achieving this? Most of them feel that the chances are good, but, in contrast with the high relationship group, there is a greater percentage of the low group who feel that their chances are poor. Generally, they do not see much need (or perhaps they do not perceive themselves as having the ability) to change themselves. The high relationship group sees education as having a genuine bearing on whether or not they are going to be able to change themselves. The reaction that the youngsters in the low group tend to give toward their educational opportunities is decidedly pessimistic. They feel that their education is only fair, that they really do not get a fair break in school, are markedly unsatisfied with their personal gains from education and place “academic” far out in front in terms of that which is most difficult for them.

SUMMARY. More than the high relationship group, the low group tends to be flavored with youngsters who are from the lower socio-economic class. They come to the beach in search of companionship and mingle with large groups of youngsters. They experience some real frustrations in their socializing activities, we may suppose. They are quite sensitive to the presence of so many police and the strictness of the new rules and regulations. One would guess that these “loners” might very well see C.A.V.E. as a kind of protective association for adolescents. They like the activities C.A.V.E. sponsors and probably hope to see more of them. Their perceptions of the adult world seem to be complex. We suggest that the figures we have on the “random” interview are indicative of a kind of insulated, suppressed, indifferent individual who sees adults not only as belittling the youth, but setting him apart in other ways with the effect that the young person begins to feel estranged from the adult world even more keenly than the average teenager. We have suggested certain factors which seem to reinforce this picture of the low relationship youngsters. His picture of himself is one of low aspiration and an inability to function with great effectiveness in the world in which he is living. Reading this data, of course, leads one to wish that we had a great deal more material concerning the dynamics of these youngsters. It would seem that what we are dealing with here is a very deep-level personality impoverishment, the king which Erickson talks about when he describes “basic trust.”

One does not get the feeling that these are deeply hostile youngsters. Rather, they seem content to watch the world by and they are really watching. But, undoubtedly, there is a latent hostility there that could be stirred up. With this tremendous hunger for recognition and general lack of inner security(they actually put general security ahead of recognition in terms of life goals), there is enough drive to become actively and immediately engaged in any kind of social disturbance, and enough frustration with their general world to make it seem that it would not make any difference whether or not they acted with violent hostility, Finally, one can comment that they probably would never be the leaders in any social disturbance; their lack of genuine personal security, their lack of focus in terms of their own frustrations would not give them the clarity of purpose to bring genuine leadership to a riot. But, the could follow with a vengeance.