Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Confab: Blacks must embrace Booker T. Washington’s view of self-reliance

Not being a voracious reader I failed to even finish Booker T. Washington's book Up From Slavery. There are those who would no doubt believe that Mr. Washington would have a home in the modern conservative movement. His vision for black America said to be self reliance has currently lost out to a more aggressive program for equality mainly through protest and activism.

It's amazing what a century will do. There is a guy by the name of Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson who considers himself the modern day Booker T. Washington. Then in the Chicago Defender a panel discussion on Mr. Washington at Northwestern University Law School. This discussion was on the third and final day of the 150th anniversary symposium of Booker T. Washington.

“If Booker T. Washington were alive today, he would be saying, ‘Black America, have you lost your minds?’,” said Carol Swain, professor of political science and law at Vanderbilt University during the “Left, Right and Black: Where to go in the Political Arena” discussion.

High rates of out of wedlock births and abortion would send Washington into despair, Swain said.

“Booker T. Washington would be urging us to return to our religious morals and right living,” Swain said.

Sociologist Frank Harold Wilson, associate professor at the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee, said Washington was bi-partisan at a time when many other Blacks identified themselves as Republicans.

“He was aligned with the Republican Party, but at the state and local level, he had to deal with Democrats,” Wilson said.

If he were alive today, Wilson said Washington would be disappointed, but not disenfranchised, and demand the community take more responsibility for its actions.

But, the basic needs of the African American community have not changed since Washington’s time, he added.

“We still need credit and business loans. There is usually a consensus around economics, but how we get there has a lot of differences,” Wilson said.

Some issues facing the Black community, Swain said, could be solved if the country were to look at the way a particular issue affects the entire nation and not just African Americans.

“We have made felony disenfranchisement a racial issue. People who have paid their debt to society should be allowed to vote. If we de-racialized (the issue) we would have many more people supporting it,” Swain said.

I think I need to crack open that book and this article was quite interesting.

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