Wednesday, July 23, 2008

I think I should return to Booker T. Washington

During year one of this blog, I wrote a post about another black leader from the past, Booker T. Washington. Washington was head of the Tuskegee Institute (well it's now a university these days). I bought his book a while back, Up from Slavery.

So far I'm still in the first chapter. I wanted to talk a little bit about the book on this blog as I read it. Unfortunately I only managed to talk about the introduction written by author Ishmael Read.

I don't know how I came across this old, almost forgotten post. Perhaps I was doing a search of some type and it brought me back to that post. And I saw that grammar and spelling was out of whack so to bring this back to your attention I had to edit it a little bit. What a difference two years can make!

Anyway since I didn't read Washington's philosophy directly from his own voice all I have to go on is the bits and pieces I have heard over time. Washington certainly was of the school of work your way into equality. He certainly had the belief that learning a trade was important to establishing black Americans as an integral part of America.

Anyway I want to share something with you and hopefully I can get back to his book that I've sat on for over three years and haven't even started in earnest reading. A blog named for him, Booker Rising, had this interesting post that I saw yesterday:
Mr. Jackson was always a challenger. He confronted American institutions (especially wealthy corporations) with the shame of America's racist past and demanded redress. He could have taken up the mantle of the early Martin Luther King (he famously smeared himself with the great man's blood after King was shot), and argued for equality out of a faith in the imagination and drive of his own people. Instead -- and tragically -- he and the entire civil rights establishment pursued equality through the manipulation of white guilt. Their faith was in the easy moral leverage over white America that the civil rights victories of the 1960s had suddenly bestowed on them. So Mr. Jackson and his generation of black leaders made keeping whites 'on the hook' the most sacred article of the post-'60s black identity. They ushered in an extortionist era of civil rights, in which they said to American institutions: Your shame must now become our advantage. To argue differently -- that black development, for example, might be a more enduring road to black equality -- took whites 'off the hook' and was therefore an unpardonable heresy. For this generation, an Uncle Tom was not a black who betrayed his race; it was a black who betrayed the group's bounty of moral leverage over whites. And now comes Mr. Obama, who became the first viable black presidential candidate precisely by giving up his moral leverage over whites.
An interesting perspective. If this was over "moral leverage" then I wonder if someone like a Booker T. Washington would have been dismayed. At the same time, I like what an Obama candidacy means perhaps the black candidate needs not tell America how unfair it has been. Perhaps a good candidate should talk about opportunity available not necessarily pull out the worst about America.

Anyway I don't want to sound like a rambling fool when I post about Mr. Washington again so I'd like to offer you another post to read about him. Hopefully you might read Up from Slavery and perhaps you can come back here and offer your thoughts.


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