Fearful Symmetries

Witness a machine turn coffee into pointless ramblings...

29 April, 2008

Blaska: DuBois Was Looking for Hand-Outs

David Blaska continues his demonization of Madison's homeless today with a blog post called "Bumbots and Bill Cosby". Eager to push the Rhonda Byrne-like argument that society's ills can be dispatched with if only everyone were as self-reliant as Henry David Thoreau, Blaska champions Bill Cosby's crusade. The merits of Cosby's Urban II posturing aside, Blaska is now distorting history. To wit:

Essentially, he is preaching the gospel of self-reliance, a return to the philosophy of Booker T. Washington as opposed to the rival platform of reliance on government solutions espoused, at roughly the same time early in the last century, by W.E.B. DuBois.

I missed that part of The Souls of Black Folk where DuBois advocates for the government to do everything while the Negro sat around waiting for its largesse to descend up them.

Head over to this webpage at the Yale site for some info on Washington v. DuBois. Their views from 100 years ago do not fit neatly into Blaska's simple-minded anecdotal view of today where there are those who are self-reliant and those who suckle at the teat of his billfold. Here's a relevant passage:

Washington’s career is full of paradoxes. He advised blacks to remain in the South and avoid politics and protest in favor of economic self-help and industrial education. But he became a powerful political boss and dispenser of patronage, the friend of white businessmen like Andrew Carnegie, and advisor of presidents. Washington publicly accepted without protest racial segregation and voting discrimination, but secretly financed and directed many court suits against such proscriptions of civil rights. He preached a gospel of Puritan morality and personal cleanliness, yet engaged in acts of sabotage and espionage against his black critics. Before whites he was a model of humility and ingratiation; to his staff and students at Tuskegee he was a benevolent despot.



DuBois firmly believed that persistent agitation, political action, and academic education would be the means to achieve full citizenship rights for black Americans. His educational philosophy directly influenced his political approach. He stressed the necessity for liberal arts training because he believed that black leadership should come from college-trained backgrounds. DuBois’ philosophy of the “Talented Tenth” was that a college-educated elite would chart, through their knowledge, the way for economic and cultural elevation for the black masses.


To say that a liberal arts education as opposed to an industrial one is to rely on government is ridiculous. For all the talk of self-reliance, Washington's appeasement of whites brought "substantial contributions from white philanthropists were given to Tuskegee and other institutions that adopted the Washington philosophy." Neither DuBois nor Washington were perfect and the two men certainly had their differences.

Both Washington and DuBois wanted the same thing for blacks—first-class citizenship—but their methods for obtaining it differed. Because of the interest in immediate goals contained in Washington’s economic approach, whites did not realize that he anticipated the complete acceptance and integration of Negroes into American life. He believed blacks, starting with so little, would have to begin at the bottom and work up gradually to achieve positions of power and responsibility before they could demand equal citizenship—even if it meant temporarily assuming a position of inferiority. DuBois understood Washington’s program, but believed that it was not the solution to the “race problem.” Blacks should study the liberal arts, and have the same rights as white citizens. Blacks, DuBois believed, should not have to sacrifice their constitutional rights in order to achieve a status that was already guaranteed.

So where does DuBois say that blacks should rely on government? How is demanding one's civil rights immediately instead of kowtowing to whites until an indeterminate point of economic success in the future indicative of a reliance on government? Did the civil rights movement of the second half of the 20th century rely on government?

Regardless of whether DuBois' plan ever had a shot, it is wrong to just write him off as promoting reliance on government.
|| Palmer, 11:43 AM

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