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Political Power or Self Development (3rd thing holding blacks back)

Now that we have seen two major self-imposed limitations that Blacks put on themselves, I want to do a little history lesson. This history lesson will look at the origins of the Black mind and hope for the future. Before reading this book, I had no idea of these things (that this article contains), but once I did, my mind was blown. At the same time, all the current things we are dealing with today made historical sense in light of this conversation.

In Black communities, there are two camps of thought on how to gain power and influence as a people. One comes from a man called W.E. Du Bois, and the other comes from Booker T. Washington. Before we get into the fork in the road of their ideas, I want to go back a bit further to a quote by Jason Riley (the author of the book we are studying in this series, Please Stop Helping us: How Liberals make it harder for Blacks to Succeed) When slaves first gained their freedom, there was much debate about how to help them transition well to being free and thus having to provide for themselves, which also implied they might not succeed in this since they had never done this before. It had been many generations since their ancestors were free, and all they knew was slavery. In the middle of this debate, Frederick Douglas drops a controversial principled opinion.

In April 1865, one hundred years before Johnson addressed Howard University graduates, the abolitionist Frederick Douglass spoke at a Boston gathering of the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society on a similar theme. ‘Everybody has asked the question, and they learned to ask it early of the abolitionists, ‘What should we do with the Negro?’ said Douglass. ‘I have had but one answer from the beginning. Do nothing with us! Your doing with us has already played the mischief with us. Do nothing with us! If the apples will not remain on the tree of their own strength, if they are worm-eaten at the core, if they are early ripe and disposed to fall, let them fall.…And if the Negro cannot stand on his own legs, let him fall also. All I ask is, give him a chance to stand on his own legs!”

Coming out of slavery, Douglas and other former slaves knew that they had a duty to be ready to rise up to take on opportunities as they started to becoming respected for their skills on a more even footing. Jason puts it like this. “Douglass was stressing the primacy of group self-development, a not uncommon sentiment among Black elites in the decades following the Civil War.” Douglas’ quote set the precedent. Whites were asking what to do with the newly freed Blacks, and their leader said, “go away.” From that day forward, Blacks and White Liberals debated amongst themselves the best way to get ahead. Jason summarizes it like this. “For more than a century, Black leaders have tangled with one another over whether to pursue economic independence or focus their energies on integrating political, corporate, and educational institutions.”

Du Bois vs. Washington

In retrospect, if one does not understand the debate we are going to study, one cannot really understand Black culture at all. All of these other points we are going to study come into this conversation. We could do a Venn Diagram and say which person any of these 10 things that hold people back would fall under…a little hint, all of them side with Du Bois. If the Blacks had rejected Du Bois all those years ago, their lives would be so much different, especially when “the Great Society” came and offered the perfect political power offer in the welfare state; like Douglas, they would have said, “ go away,” we do not want your help nor your money. Unfortunately, later generations did not have the same experience of being dependent on other people’s money to pull from to keep them from wanting to take the hand out. A famous Ronald Reagan point puts it well, “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn't pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children's children what it was once like in the United States where men were free.” This quote is really long, but it is the paradigm at which we see everything that Black people do as a culture, so pay attention.

For more than a century, Black leaders have tangled with one another over whether to pursue economic independence or focus their energies on integrating political, corporate, and educational institutions. W. E. B. Du Bois, author of the groundbreaking 1903 treatise The Souls of Black Folk, argued for the latter, while his contemporary, Booker T. Washington, said “political activity alone” is not the answer. In addition, wrote Washington, “you must have property, industry, skill, economy, intelligence and character.” Where Washington wanted to focus on self-determination through independent Black schools and businesses, Du Bois argued that civil rights are more important because political power is necessary to protect any economic gains. Much has been made of this rivalry—maybe too much. What matters most is that the two men differed mainly in emphasis, not objectives. Washington never renounced equal rights, and Du Bois acknowledged the need for vocational education as a means to self-improvement.

Washington inherited the mantle of Black leadership from the abolitionist Frederick Douglass, who gained fame through his slave memoirs and oratory and ultimately helped persuade President Lincoln to sign the Emancipation Proclamation. In 1881, Washington founded Alabama’s Tuskegee Institute, which trained recently freed slaves to become teachers. He became a national figure in 1895 after giving a speech in Atlanta in which he called for racial conciliation and urged Blacks to focus on economic self-advancement. For the next two decades, Washington would be America’s preeminent Black leader. He advised presidents, and wrote an autobiography that was translated into seven languages and became the best-selling book ever written by someone Black. Andrew Carnegie called him the second father of the country. John D. Rockefeller and J. P. Morgan were major benefactors. Harvard and Dartmouth gave him honorary degrees. Mark Twain was an admirer.

After the NAACP was established in 1909 and as Du Bois’s prominence grew, Washington’s power base weakened. But even after his death in 1915, Washington remained widely appreciated within the Black community and elsewhere. Schools and parks were named in his honor. His likeness appeared on a U.S. postage stamp. In 1942, a Liberty ship was christened the Booker T. Washington. And in 1956, marking the one-hundredth anniversary of Washington’s birth, President Dwight Eisenhower created a national monument to the former slave.

But Washington’s legacy would come under assault in the 1960s, when civil rights advocates turned in earnest to protest politics. Washington had stressed self-improvement, not immediate political rights through confrontation. The new Black leaders dismissed such methods, along with the man best known for utilizing them. Du Bois’s vision, by way of the NAACP, Malcolm X, and Martin Luther King Jr., had prevailed. By the 1960s, “Blacks throughout the United States increasingly condemned [Washington] as having acquiesced in the racial discrimination that so many were now challenging in restaurants, waiting rooms, and courthouses,” wrote Washington biographer Robert Norrell. John Lewis, the 1960s civil rights activist, who would later become a congressman, suggested that Washington deserved to be “ridiculed and vilified by his own people for working so closely with white America.”

The Black left today continues to view Washington not as a pragmatist, but as someone who naively accommodated white racism. “This distortion of Washington contributed to a narrowing of the limits Americans have put on Black aspirations and accomplishments,” wrote Norrell. “After the 1960s, any understanding of the role of Black leaders was cast in the context of Martin Luther King Jr.’s leadership, with the implication that African Americans can rise in American life only through direct-action protests against the political order.” Not only has Washington’s legacy thus been maligned, but several generations of Blacks have come to believe that the only legitimate means of group progress is political agitation of the NAACP-Jesse Jackson-Al Sharpton variety. If you are more interested in Black self-development than in keeping whites on the defensive, you’re accommodating racism.

In a January 2014 interview with the New Yorker magazine, Obama invoked Washington’s name unfavorably to push back at liberal Black critics who accused the president of being insufficiently concerned with white racism. “There have been times where some thoughtful and sometimes not so thoughtful African-American commentators have gotten on both Michelle and me, suggesting that we are not addressing enough sort of institutional barriers and racism, and we’re engaging in sort of up-by-the-bootstraps, Booker T. Washington messages that let the larger society off the hook,” said Obama.

“Washington’s style of interracial engagement has been all but forgotten, and when remembered, usually disparaged: he put a premium on finding consensus and empathizing with other groups, and by his example encouraged dominant groups to do the same,” wrote Norrell. “He cautioned that when people protest constantly about their mistreatment, they soon get a reputation as complainers, and others stop listening to their grievances. Blacks needed a reputation for being hard-working, intelligent, and patriotic, Washington taught, and not for being aggrieved.”

The most important thing to do when doing any study or forming an opinion is to see if anyone has attempted said theory or ideology before. In our case, Jason has found groups who have stayed away from politics and been successful and groups that attempted to do the political route as a means of advancing (like the Du Bois camp wants) and been detrimental by it. Two groups that chose to stay away from politics are the early American Germans and Asians throughout all of American history; thus, they chose Booker T. Washington’s way of self-development.

“The economist Thomas Sowell has spent decades researching racial and ethnic groups in the United States and internationally. And his findings show that political activity generally has not been a factor in the rise of groups from poverty to prosperity. Many Germans came to the United States as indentured servants during colonial times and while working to pay off the cost of the voyage, they shunned politics. Only after they had risen economically did Germans begin seeking public office, culminating in the elections of Presidents Hoover and Eisenhower. Today, Asian Americans are the nation’s best-educated and highest-earning racial group. A 2013 Pew study reported that 49 percent of Asians aged 25 and older hold bachelor’s degrees, versus 31 percent of whites and 18 percent of Blacks. The median household income for Asians is $66,000, which is $12,000 more than white households and double that of Black households. Yet Asians have little political clout in the United States. There have been a handful of prominent Asian American politicians, like Governors Bobby Jindal of Louisiana and Nikki Haley of South Carolina, but Asians have tended to avoid politics, compared with other groups. Between 1990 and 2000, the number of elected officials grew by 23 percent among Blacks but only by 4 percent among Asians. Even Asian voter participation lags behind other groups; in 2008, Asians were significantly less likely than both Blacks and whites to have voted.”

In my opinion, the fact that Asians do not seek political power nor political assistance and yet have become the highest income earning ethnic group in America is the ultimate debunk of the whole political power myth. I remember talking to one of my Black friends about the performance of Black students. I happened to know that Asians made the most money out of all races before I read this book. Back then, it seemed like a trump card, even before I understood all of this. I told him that the teachers were not the only problem, but instead, if we look at the Asians it is the culture and mindset towards self-government and self-improvement. I did not have all this data, but to me, the Asians messed everything up, for the white is the rich oppressor, and Blacks are the poor paradigm because the Asians made more money than us because they are more educated. If becoming more educated makes you an oppressor, then we might as well give up on fixing anything. On the other side of these two groups, we have the Du Bois party, aka the Irish. They sought out political power and got it just like the Blacks are and have been seeking, but it did not help them become more wealthy; instead, it was not until they gave that up that they started progressing. Riley puts it like this:

“Moreover, in those instances where the political success of a minority group has come first, the result has often been slower socioeconomic progress. The Irish immigrants who came to the United States in the mid-nineteenth century arrived from a country where 80 percent of the population was rural. Yet they settled in industrial centers like New York, Philadelphia, and Boston and took low-skill jobs. Their rise from poverty was especially slow—as late as 1920, 80 percent of all Irish women working in America were domestic servants—despite the fact that Irish-run political organizations dominated local government in several big cities with large Irish populations. “To most Americans today, it is not immediately obvious that the Black migrants who left the rural South for the industrial cities of the North starting in the 1940s resemble the Irish immigrants who left rural Ireland and crossed the ocean to the great cities of the Atlantic seaboard starting in the 1840s,” wrote political historian Michael Barone. “Yet the resemblances are many.” . . . “Yet it was only after the decline of the famed Irish political machines that average Irish incomes began to rise.”

The Germans and Irish are both considered white and thus the oppressors in the woke ideology, yet one was poor because they followed one line of reasoning (namely the W.E. Du Bois political power reasoning) while the other one respected the fact that they needed to accept delayed gratification (the act of resisting an impulse to take an immediately available reward in the hope of obtaining a more-valued reward in the future. The ability to delay gratification is essential to self-regulation or self-control. in order to cooperate and better themselves. A hand out is not respectable and is unmerited. It only condescends and is a form of favoritism. The free market does not pick out the worst person for the job over the best person, so the government giving the low-performing players a free pass (whether in schooling or in finances) does not incentivize them to better themselves. Why would they better themselves if they can receive free stuff if they do not? If someone tells their kid that they will get candy if they do not do their homework and that they will forfeit their candy if they do their homework, what do you think they will be enticed to do? The question that we will see in the leftover points will answer the question, does political power and political favor/help actually help Black people or hinder them?

Tim Bankes II

Tim is a Christian author. His worldview that informs his writing is Calvinist, Baptist, and Libertarian. His main series is his Christian picture book series, "About God for Kids", where he discusses the attributes of God in a way kids can digest. He also wrote a Christian Romance novel, libertarian book for beginners, and Christian coloring books. He graduated with a Bachelor's in Biblical Studies from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.

He has written a book on freedom called “Are You Free” (If you are into listening to books I have it in audio also, Are You Free Audiobook )and he has written multiple children’s books about God. Be Sure to check out the podcast version of the blog, Labor for Truth Podcast. And check out “The Truth About” YouTube Channel. You can find his works at his amazon author page, He even has a free digital ebook on how God is the creator. Get your free copy today at, Greater Creator .Also If you are into Christian Fiction, he has made his first book in his Futuristic Christian Fiction series free, Her Dying Wish

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