Saturday, June 9, 2012

Flat-out fratricide

In the early 1990s Jesse Jackson addressed a group of black government workers: “We talked 30 years ago about genocide.  It’s now fratricide.  At this point, the Klan is not nearly the threat that your next-door neighbors are.”

Dinesh D’Souza has plenty of captivating material in The End of Racism.  He reminds us that, back when John Kennedy was elected president, almost 80 percent of black families were headed by married couples.

The ever-moderate Spike Lee is quoted as ripping a senior black official in the Bush Sr. administration who pushed race-neutral scholarships: “[He’s an Uncle Tom who should be] dragged into the alley and beaten with a Louisville slugger.”

But the reason I picked up D'Souza's book was to check out the chapter on the chasm between the philosophies of Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. Du Bois (the first black to receive a postgraduate Harvard degree).  Du Bois dismissed the proponent of industrial education and personal discipline as the original Uncle Tom!

Booker Washington knew that political agitation would not save the black man:
"Back of the ballot, he must have property, industry, skill, economy, intelligence and character.  No race without these elements can permanently succeed… Whether he will or not, a white man respects a Negro who owns a two-story brick house."
[Picture in your mind the thousands of white customers over the decades who harbored disdain for the "yellow race" – who, nevertheless, chose to walk into Chinese take-out restaurants and pull greenbacks out of their wallet.]

D’Souza says that Du Bois – who spoke French and German, and sported gloves and a cane – was an unabashed elitist: “The Negro race is going to be saved by its exceptional men.”  But even he, at times, had to admit the obvious:
"A little less complaint and whining, and a little more dogged work and manly striving, would do us more credit than a thousand civil rights bills."
Though it hasn’t worked out very well in practice, Du Bois was convinced that “the rights we are clamoring for are those that will enable us to do our duties.”

Booker Washington wanted to transcend the identification with race; Du Bois embraced it.  Both men "emphasized the impediments of white racism, [but] Washington also considered the defects of black culture."

The chapter ends with a quote from Martin Luther King, Jr.:
"We must not let the fact that we are the victims of injustice lull us into abrogating responsibility for our own lives.  We must not use our oppression as an excuse for mediocrity and laziness.  Our crime rate is far too high.  Our level of cleanliness is frequently far too low.  We are too often loud and boisterous, and spend far too much on drink.  By improving our standards here and now, we will go a long way toward breaking down the arguments of the segregationist… The Negro will only be free when he reaches down to the inner depths of his own being and signs with the pen and ink of assertive manhood his own emancipation proclamation."

[To find out which state leads the nation in black-on-black murders, go here.]

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