It's about our community and our spirituality!

W.E.B. Du Bois Or Booker T. Washington

There’s a new video on YouTube called FOX Attacks Obama Like Kerry by Robert Greenwald and Brave New Films that illustrates the similarities between the FOX network’s attacks against Senator John Kerry back in 2004 and the attacks against Senator Barack Obama in 2008.  The similarities were so precise.  The video shows a collection of outtakes from various FOX News broadcasts.  The video speaks for itself.  Click the link above to see it in its entirety.

One of the arguments these people used against Mr. Obama and Mr. Kerry is that they are appreciated by the Europeans.  Mr. Kerry was accused of being a French appeaser and the popularity of Mr. Obama in Europe was off the charts.  Europe loved Mr. Obama, so how could that be good for America?  When I originally heard this argument I thought it was pretty lame.  It should be obvious that Europe is ready to work with a President that actually has a clue about how to work with other countries and not just how to dictate to other countries.  Of course, this can’t be good for the ego of many Americans.  We prefer to be in the position to demand subservience and be the shining beacon of freedom for the entire world.  So a candidate that looks good for the people of Europe cannot be good for America.

America and Europe are not supposed to be adversaries.  If anything, we’re supposed to be trading partners and allies.  A strong trading partner makes for a potentially strong trading relationship.  While I don’t agree with the logic that a President that’s good for the world cannot be good for America, I do understand the reasoning.  If I was in an adversarial relationship with Person A who didn’t respect me and Person B came along and Person A just loves him, why in the hell would I follow Person B?  If Person B endorses all the programs of Person A, all the programs that just so happen to keep me in a place of subjugation, what incentive would I have to follow such thinking?

This is the very situation I find myself when comparing the beliefs and values of William Edward Burghardt Du Bois and Booker Taliaferro Washington.  Both men developed philosophies in an honest effort to help our black ancestors in the perpetual quest for black equality with the rest of humanity.  But the two approaches could not be more different.  Mr. Washington proposed that people tolerate the subjugation of the black community while working their hardest and suffering without rights in order to earn the respect of white people who would eventually warm up to the idea of black being equal and eventually giving black people their god given rights at white people’s discretion.  Mr. Washington wanted black people to assimilate and abandon their culture.

But Mr. Du Bois proposed that black people not wait for white people to see the light and suggested that the black community demand their equality.  The very idea of white people having the option as to when black people are actually considered people was just as intolerable as the actual subjugation of the black community.  Besides, if white people have the option as to when black people are considered equally human it stands to reason that white people would probably have the option of reversing their decision as well.

It shouldn’t be too hard for people to guess which philosophy the white community would endorse.  The white community hailed Mr. Washington as the key to the black community’s salvation while Mr. Du Bois is considered the progenitor of the black community’s continued subjugation even with full civil rights.  People will insist that black people would have had it all if they were just patient and did the work necessary to establish a stable economic foundation to build the rest of the black community on.  Of course, the majority in the white community would have supported such a move.  The white community would have loved for black people to stop their struggle for equality and instead, work to establish a separate system for us by us and accepting second class citizenship along the way.  This methodology would keep the dominant culture from having to lift a finger to keep black people in line.

But the greatest single flaw that both philosophies have in common is that they failed to take into consideration the dominant community’s inherent need to control every aspect of the black community.  It was Marcus Garvey who said that in the relationship between black people and white people, black people will forever be considered second class and subjugated.  Black institutions designed to promote black unity, community, pride, and self identification have been and are and forever will be systematically destroyed by the dominant community.  Individual blacks doing well out of the massive pool of black people is acceptable.  But the black organization that does well and then wants to teach other black people how it’s done will be investigated, followed, studied, and examined under a microscope until the slightest infraction is found so it can be magnified to justify the organization’s destruction.

A system to assure that every black person does well is not acceptable and must be dismantled at all cost.  It’s why Martin Luther King, Junior and Malcolm X were killed.  It’s why Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale were arrested on trumped up charges and the rest of the Black Panther Party was attacked by the establishment and left just a faint shadow of its former self.  Any system that runs contrary to black subjugation and is immensely successful at it cannot exist in America.  It doesn’t matter if the black community embraced the philosophies of Mr. Du Bois where the black community actively fights for equality or if the black community actually made the choice to tolerate subjugation with the philosophies of Mr. Washington the black community is doomed to perpetual suppression.

The question as to who was more correct in this debate between Mr. Washington and Mr. Du Bois is a subterfuge.  Had black people accepted Mr. Washington’s philosophy as a course of action the end result would still be the same.  Many black people would still find themselves living on the outside of what most people would consider an acceptable standard of living.  All things considered it really doesn’t matter who was more right and who was more wrong.  A few blacks will do extremely well.  A large number of black people will be able to achieve middle class status.  But if the dominant community has anything to say about the makeup of the black community, a large pool of black people will always be at the bottom of the social ladder.

Monday, September 8, 2008 - Posted by | African Americans, Black Community, Black Culture, Black People, Life, Racism, Thoughts


  1. Interesting post. I know I asked you aout this a while back…do you have any other sources of study on these two, besides what I had found that initially sparked my interest?

    Comment by Mike Lovell | Monday, September 8, 2008 | Reply

  2. Thanks for the feedback Mike Lovell,

    I have to admit that your query actually gave me the incentive for this post. I read your post on the subject and have to admit that I found it somewhat typical of the dominant community’s sentiment about what is happening in the black community and what should have been happening in the black community to maintain a sustainable black middle class economy.

    However, but the argument of whether or not black people chose path X or path Y is pointless. A choice was made and now people want to point to the current conditions of much of the black community as evidence that the wrong choice was made.

    No one would ever say that the Jewish community should have sat back, relaxed, take it easy and let the Nazi Party of Germany become comfortable with the idea of having Jews in their midst. If the Jews worked hard the German people would have eventually warmed up to the idea of having the oppressed people around. It would be ridiculous to suggest that the Jewish community should have tolerated their subjugation in order to earn the trust of the rest of the German population.

    But when we talk about black people being suppressed, we actually entertain the idea that black people would have been better if they would have just given up and allow the dominant community to warm up to the idea of black people being equal. And since the black community didn’t want to take such a track, it’s the black community’s own fault that the conditions in many black communities are the way they are.

    Let us blame the victim for being oppressed.

    But to answer your question, based on my own experience in the study of the arguments between the two, I find that most people who enjoy the dominant community’s benevolence will support Mr. Washington while most black people who recognize disparity will support Mr. Du Bois. I spent the past few weeks trying to put how I felt about the two and my feelings about the question into context.

    Personally speaking I thought Mr. Washington was a man who wanted to see black people assimilate and integrate into the dominant community and abandon our own black cultures. I think Mr. Du Bois was fooling himself thinking that the entire black community or even the majority of the black community would ever be accepted by the dominant culture. They both had good points. They both had their issues.


    Comment by brotherpeacemaker | Monday, September 8, 2008 | Reply

  3. Just a note, and I dont know if you were already aware, but the author of the essay was black…

    Comment by Mike Lovell | Monday, September 8, 2008 | Reply

  4. Mike Lovell,

    Actually, I figured as much. He also sounds like he was a big fan of Mr. Washington. I would not be surprised if I found this essay out on the Booker Rising website. A lot of people who post essays there share the philosophy that black people need to stop resisting and just assimilate. The black community simply needs to pick itself up by its boot strap.

    But if I may offer an analogy. Back in the days of our enslaved ancestors, how many field Negroes would have been able to pull themselves up by their boot strap and become house Negroes? If every field Negro got a tuxedo and white gloves and learned to say “yes sir boss” with a toothy grin how many would be allowed to move up the plantation ladder of success? There’s only so much work to be done in the house. Somebody had to go into those fields and do whatever labor that needed to be done there.

    The same thing is true today. Every black person can get a degree and we will find that there are only so many jobs available for people from the black community. There will always be a reason to keep black people in their place.


    Comment by brotherpeacemaker | Monday, September 8, 2008 | Reply

  5. BrotherP,

    Great post! I agree that we are damned if we do and damned if we don’t. Just like you said there are only so many positions open in the big house. The rest of us will end up out in the fields laboring away.


    Comment by theblacksentinel | Monday, September 8, 2008 | Reply

  6. I’m not sure your assessment did Washington much justice. While he did believe in accommodation W.E.B also did too just in a different manner and was rather negative towards darker Blacks. I respect both of them but tend to find fault with much of what they promote. I find Alexander Crummell and Marcus Garvey’s positions more in tuned with my beliefs.

    Comment by cosiar | Wednesday, November 19, 2008 | Reply

  7. Thanks for the feedback cosiar,

    I agree with your assessment. I think the final paragraph of my first comment (comment #2) sums up my position…

    Personally speaking I thought Mr. Washington was a man who wanted to see black people assimilate and integrate into the dominant community and abandon our own black cultures. I think Mr. Du Bois was fooling himself thinking that the entire black community or even the majority of the black community would ever be accepted by the dominant culture. They both had good points. They both had their issues.


    Comment by brotherpeacemaker | Wednesday, November 19, 2008 | Reply

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