BLM. Frederick Douglass. Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. Du Bois each have an approach to America. Each views blacks in America differently. They exist in a line of succession. The question is becoming: Is it a line of progression?
BLM is a self described Marxist organization. The results of its actions are generally detrimental to the communities in which it is present. Its message is one of intolerance, militancy and division. Even its name is misleading to the casual observer.
The group has done nothing to improve the lot of anyone black, white, red or brown. Burning things down does not feed children. It does not contribute to community stability. It destroys the economic underpinning of society.
BLM is founded by Patrisse Cullors, Alicia Garza and Opal Tometi. Black Lives Matter is a political and social movement producing violent civil disobedience. Nominally the initiation of their action is in protest against police incidents. The narrative is; the actions are in response to racially motivated violence against black people. The outcomes seem to tell a different story.
What came before
BLM is not a movement which respects what has come before. It does not honor earlier leaders such as Frederick Douglass, Booker T. Washington or W. E. B. Du Bois DuBois. BLM lacks leadership. It is a series of childlike tantrums where, enraged it simply destroys its own toys. Is BLM the logical extension of past black leadership?
Douglass penned five autobiographies. He wrote and delivered dozens of noteworthy speeches. Douglass was a protégé of Abraham Lincoln. He achieved despite receiving minimal formal education. Douglass went from slave to abolitionist leader. He was also an advocate for women’s rights and civil rights. Douglass transformed his early anger from acting out to turn of phrase and effective action.
He is responsible for saying, “What is to be thought of a nation boasting of its liberty, boasting of its humanity, boasting of its Christianity, boasting of its love of justice and purity, and yet having within its own borders three millions of persons denied by law the right of marriage?… I need not lift up the veil by giving you any experience of my own. Every one that can put two ideas together, must see the most fearful results from such a state of things…”
Douglass came to advocate integration with white society. But the irony of its actions were not lost on him.
Booker T. Washington
Booker T. Washington too was born into slavery. He too rose to become a leading African American intellectual of the 19th century. He was the founder of Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute (Tuskegee University) in 1881. Washington also founded the National Negro Business League. He is remembered as the most influential African American speaker of his time.
Interestingly Washington placed an emphasis on hard work and moral self improvement. He did so in a way that it recognizes the need for character in the individual. His approach is more than a pick yourself up by your boot straps jingoism. It is a recognition that respect comes from accomplishment.
One must have the willingness to do the work required of success. He spoke about how we build a culture from the foundation we lay. He started with agriculture and education and worked his way up. Among his protégés is George Washington Carver. For Washington the work was about utility.
W.E.B. Du Bois grew up in a relatively tolerant integrated community. He did graduate work at the University of Berlin and Harvard. He was an early, but not the first, African American to earn a doctorate. Du Bois became a professor of history, sociology and economics at Atlanta University. He became one of the founders of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in 1909.
Du Bois was strongly influenced by Alexander Crummell, who believed that ideas and morals are necessary tools to effect social change. By the 1890s, Philadelphia’s black neighborhoods had a negative reputation in terms of crime, poverty, and mortality. Du Bois’ book, “The Philadelphia Negro” undermined the stereotypes with empirical evidence and shaped his approach to segregation and its negative impact on black lives and reputations. The results led him to realize that racial integration was the key to democratic equality in American cities. He has an elitist, trickle down view of culture,
Du Bois presented a paper in which he rejected Frederick Douglass’s plea for black Americans to integrate into white society.
He wrote: “we are Negroes, members of a vast historic race that from the very dawn of creation has slept, but half awakening in the dark forests of its African fatherland”.
In 1901, Du Bois wrote a review critical of Washington’s autobiography Up from Slavery. He later expanded and published to a wider audience as the essay “Of Mr. Booker T. Washington and Others” in The Souls of Black Folk. Later in life, Du Bois regretted having been critical of Washington in those essays.
The point here is not who is most right. Rather, it is recognition of a progression over time. BLM, Frederick Douglass, Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. Du Bois each have an approach to America. Each views blacks in America differently. There is a progression of position, power and change in perspective.
Undeniably these men have made positive contributions to building a better culture and society. BLM builds nothing. It simply wishes to acquire power in the moment. It only knows power comes from the barrel of a gun. We are at a decision point. It’s time to choose. Which side are you on?