April 28, 2015

W.E.B. versus Booker T.

All the world is but a stage. And we are watching theatre of the highest caliber play out. "The play? A tragedy called 'man' and it's hero: the conquerer worm." The actors should know how it ends and never forget that this is a union house and they are not to touch anything with out a member of the local stage hands guild. Just do as you are told and everything will be fine. It is sundown in America tonight. Are we brave enough, smart enough, humble enough and committed enough to renew her promise so the next generation can greet the morning in America once again?

Thus ends today's pointed, potent, and defeatist commentary on the Baltimore "race riots" by Glenn Beck who asks, "When will we stand up against the madness?" At least one Baltimore mother did exactly that on Monday. But before ending the madness like what is now transpiring in Baltimore, and previously occurred in Ferguson and other cities this year and last, more of us need to clearly understand its cause. To paraphrase one tweet of the current news cycle:

"White America needs to understand - until we get justice, we be thuggin."

Months ago we were told by a hip hop activist what "justice" is, when she said that capitalism "is the oppressive force."

"And the police are actually in my opinion - and we have a lot of theory that proves this - are that force that are keeping us as particularly working class people from achieving this idea of, you know, economic justice."

Today I found the best possible rebuttal to this idea, and it is over 100 years old - in the words of African-American spokesman and leader Booker T. Washington (not to be confused with Booker T. Jones and the MG's, as Rush Limbaugh inexplicably did today.) In 1895, Washington addressed the "Cotton States and International Exposition" in Atlanta. Please read every inspiring word but I will highlight the preamble to his conclusion:

The wisest among my race understand that the agitation of questions of social equality is the extremest folly, and that progress in the enjoyment of all the privileges that will come to us must be the result of severe and constant struggle rather than of artificial forcing. No race that has anything to contribute to the markets of the world is long in any degree ostracized. It is important and right that all privileges of the law be ours, but it is vastly more important that we be prepared for the exercise of these privileges. The opportunity to earn a dollar in a factory just now is worth infinitely more than the opportunity to spend a dollar in an opera-house.

Before King. Before Rand. Before jk and this blog, Washington's conclusion shows that he was the first Prosperitarian. But instead of building on Booker T's message, the NAACP has taken the alternate path advocated by its founder W.E.B. Du Bois that was less "accomodating to white interests."

W. E. B. Du Bois advocated activism to achieve civil rights. He labeled Washington "the Great Accommodator". Washington's response was that confrontation could lead to disaster for the outnumbered blacks. He believed that cooperation with supportive whites was the only way to overcome racism in the long run.

More than 100 years later, how is Du Bois' plan working out? Not so well for overcoming racism. Just fine though for career activists.

Current Events Egalitarian Socialism History Philosophy Politics Slavery Posted by JohnGalt at April 28, 2015 3:46 PM

The comparison rang a bell and (Thanks, Bing!) I found it in Review Corner. (Insert Taranto gag "it's always the last place you look...")

Jason Riley highlighted the tension between Du Bois and Washington:

An interesting and original subordinate point is the tension between W.E.B. Du Bois and Booker T. Washington. Du Bois sought political power to right the wrongs of oppression and Washington sought economic power. Modern leaders chose political power, which is surely defensible after slavery and Jim Crow, but Riley suggests that they should not have abandoned Washington. He highlights minority groups in America that have little or no political power yet do extraordinarily well. Asians, Italians, Scandinavians acquired economic power first, then they entered the political realm. African Americans and Irish turned first to politics and were both poorly served.

This remains true, but I suggest that Riley and my blog brother have a long road ahead to repair racism (though someday, maybe if there were a black President...)

Like Ferguson, without providing a smidgen of quarter to looters and thugs who disrespect their overwhelmingly-minority neighbors' property rights, I call for a reduction in illegality.

I do not have a clue what happened to Freddie Gray, but the dribbling in of his rap sheet is rife with minor drug possession, and he was picked up for having a knife?

The thuggish protesters require the ecosystem of the peaceful protesters in a free speech versus personal and property endangerment calculus I find difficult to reconcile. I suggest that had most of the protesters not been hassled for minor offences, most of the protesters would not be out. Without those legitimate, peaceful protesters, the looters would be manageable.

Not making excuses for lawlessness, but you can't fix people and you cannot easily fix police. You can fix law, and extend liberty and respect to people. I think that is the best path forward.

Posted by: jk at April 28, 2015 4:58 PM | What do you think? [1]