Days Black People Not Re-Enslaved By Trump

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Folks Taking Shots At Booker T. Washington Again

There are few phenomena that irk me more than people who talk about Pan-Africanism and don't mention Marcus Garvey. Also high on the list are people who dismiss Booker T Washington because of that Atlanta Exposition speech. A post on Counterpunch did the latter yesterday. Ware and Buhle do what a lot of “intellectuals” do, they discuss the economic problems of Black America and then dismiss those who had provided the solution to the problem because it involves work on self rather than obsess about white people.
2: No More Respectability Economically, Black America is in a state of emergency. We have the highest rates of poverty per capita in the United States. A white household has 13 times more wealth than a black one, and as of July 2015, unemployment is at 10% for blacks compared to 5% for whites.

It’s not supposed to be this way.

Why wasn't it supposed to be this way?
A central tenet of the American Dream is that if you work hard you can succeed. Booker T. Washington embraced this idea. He gave his (in)famous “bootstrap speech” at the Atlanta Exposition in 1865. He tells black people:

Cast down your buckets where you are… In all things purely social we can be as separate as the fingers, yet one as the hand in all things essential to mutual progress.

Washington essentially tells black people to accept segregation. Work hard and you will earn their respect. Accept subjugation…for now.

Of course Booker T. Washington said no such thing "essentially" or "literally". Booker T Washington understood a couple of things that escapes most of his critics. I wrote in my earlier defense of Booker T:
With this in mind I had to revisit why Booker T. Washington would say the things he said to white audiences. Imagine, 1881 in Deep South Tuskegee Al.. There are no black billionaires. What black there are in congress will soon be removed. White people control all economic activity in your area and you need to fund a school for blacks. What do you do? You could indeed go and talk about equal rights, equal opportunity and the like but it is highly unlikely you're going to get funding from those people. So you do what you have to to secure your funding. Does that make his speech any more palatable? No. But it puts it in perspective.

Secondly, I find it questionable that Booker T. Washington did not foresee that when blacks in the South or elsewhere obtained economic and institutional self sufficiency that they would not be able to or desire to go enter (or re-enter) politics. In contrast I look at WEB DuBois and see that for all his academic work, he did not build and [sic] institution. Even worse, from my perspective, he lent his great intellect to a white institution, Harvard. To be more critical, DuBois was lobbing his critique of Washington from the relative comfort of the North, where Marcus Garvey noted: they talk a good game, but when the train crosses the Mason-Dixon line and the conductor asks that they (northern black leadership) move to the segregated car, they all do so.

This institution building is what is actually necessary to address the economic issues facing Black Americans. But so called intellectuals who make their living off the largess of white educational institutions (Ware makes his living teaching philosophy and coordinating diversity at Oklahoma State University) feel free to speak ill of Booker T Washington who was trying to run and finance a school in the deep south. Booker T Washington like Garvey understood how power flows and how nations and communities develop: via the Sequential Equation:


The positive intellectual transformation (+I) informs the positive social transformation of society (+S). This is the educational foundation that Booker T was trying lay at Tuskegee.

The positive social transformation(+S) of society informs the economic transformation of society (+E). You cannot have positive economic growth in a community without the +I and the +S. Why does Ferguson have so little employment? -i and -s. the -i manifests as a lack of regard for education, impulse control and future time orientation. This leads to the -s which manifests itself with high levels of crime and general anti-social behavior. Neither of these things lead to or sustain economic growth. This is where the current movements lose. They are interested in the E and P but fail to deal with the I and S, because that would force them to deal with root issues. Continuing:

W.E.B. Du Bois was having none of this. Foreshadowing rap feuds, Du Bois had beef and went to war on paper. He wrote in the Souls of Black Folk:

Mr. Washington represents in Negro thought the old attitude of adjustment and submission…[he] practically accepts the alleged inferiority of the Negro races.

James sided with Du Bois:

Du Bois marked a great stage in the history of Negro struggles when he said that Negroes could no longer accept the subordination which Booker T. Washington had preached.

James, like Du Bois, understood an undeniable existential truth: black people cannot attain collective economic self-sufficiency in a culture stained by white supremacy. To say “bloom where you are planted” is akin to planting a flower in poisoned soil and wondering why it withers and dies. Washington’s statements were a precursor to what we now call respectability politics.

OK lets dispense with the pleasantries and tell the "truf": The negro IS inferior! If the Negro were “superior” the Negro would never have been hauled off in slave ships across the Atlantic. The African would not have seen his homeland carved up by people from thousands of miles away. The inferiority of the negro is and was evident to anyone who's eyes are working. The European and the Asian have put people in space. The African has not. The European has put people on the moon. The African has not. The European and Asian can build their own cities including piping water to various parts of their countries. The African must contract out to the European and Asian to build his stuff (including the headquarters of the African Union! The European and Asian can provide medical care to its citizens, The African has to depend on Europeans to do volunteer medical work for their citizens. I could go on, but to those who notice, we know the deal. In fact most negroes today believe the negro is inferior and show it by not working at Negro colleges and universities (like Ware).

When Garvey said rise up and do what you will it implied a state of inferiority. If we see two teams playing and one team is consistently outplaying the other, we say that the team consistently losing is inferior to the one that is winning. We would not say that the teams are equal. If you want to be considered equal then you do equal stuff. This is what Garvey and Booker T was saying. This is a bitter pill to swallow for many who's ideas of self worth are tied into being seen as equal.

Of course what we are talking about here is a situational inferiority rather than innate inferiority (which is posited by other folks). If the authors are going to write about the economic problems of black people then they are saying that black people are inferior to those groups who are not experiencing economic issues whether they realize it or not.

Booker T Washington understood that as a group the new freedmen and women were incapable of competing in the economic marketplace having very little in the way of assets.

There is another problem with their analysis, what of the non-white, non-blacks? If White Supremacy is indeed the “poison soil” for those deemed “non-white” then the relative success of Asians (who are non-white) would need to be addressed. I suppose it could be argued that the “poison soil” is selectively poisonous. Without that argument it would be impossible argue against:

For years black youth from working class backgrounds have been told: “pull up your pants” and “graduate from college.” They are told to work within unjust societal arrangements. This advice is given as a way for them to circumnavigate an unfair system—not challenge it. The assumption is that if you behave in a respectable manner, your life and livelihood will be safeguarded against a white supremacist culture.< P /> This is untrue.
Untrue for who? These two are seriously arguing that those who “pull up your pants” as in “grow up” and “graduate from college” as in get more than a high school education do not do better than those who do not? Exactly what data do they have to support such an idea? None. It is people like Ware and Buhle, with a shameful assist from Counterpunch why so many black men waste their youths on some “I can't do anything because of racism” bullshit. Nobody said it would be easy but then again, nothing worth doing is easy.

Are there obstacles that even educated/skilled black workers face? Yes. Of course had we been doing what Booker T. and Garvey told us to do: build our own institutions we wouldn't have to worry about it so much. But it's easier to disrespect Booker T when managing diversity at Oklahoma State rather than educating black minds at Tuskegee. Having established the error in judgment about what Booker T was about and the actual issue of economic problems in various (but not all) black communities, lets go back to their first point:

Overt expressions of racism were replaced with hiring practices guided by nepotism. Human resource offices and college admissions departments may not have had “whites only” at the top of their applications, but the makeup of those in the workforce and on campuses expressed that sentiment. Redlining, started in the 1940s, concentrated minorities in impoverished districts thereby diluting the power of the black vote.
Apparently it has been lost on the authors that rigged districts actually created “safe” black seats, thus increasing the number of black representatives. Had these “concentrated minority” districts not existed many black representatives would not exist. If we were to follow their logic and sprinkle minorities into “majority” locations, they would be outvoted (majority rule) at every turn, and these two would be complaining about that.

Also you would think that those involved in colleges and managing diversity would mention the number of applicants that simply do meet entry requirements.

Then began the war on drugs.

Almost overnight communities of color became targets of police officers hungry for drug busts. Instead of policing centered on solving specific crimes, officers began focusing on geographic areas.

Of course the authors fail to mention that is was black folks, both middle class and working class who were the victims of the gun play and other violence that accompanied the drug dealing in their neighborhoods who BEGGED for police intervention in their neighborhoods. Such inconvenient facts go umentioned in the author's need to place blame on anyone but a black person.