Race And Racism: A Historical Look (13 of 15)

(If you want to read the full version you can go HERE,)

Two Radical Views

Both Washington and Du Bois were brilliant thinkers but they had radically different perspectives on Reality. To show this let me again cull from my life experience. My short career in the Army I was an enlisted soldier, my bosses were officers. I had mostly good officers above me, an occasional bad leader, but the best of all officers were those who came up through the ranks as enlisted soldiers who went to OCS and became an officer. What made the difference in their leadership? They understood what we who were below them, the ones who really did most of the work, the fighting, and from that experience knew how to lead us because they experienced what we experienced. That was Booker T. Washington, himself a slave. Du Bois is like those idealistic officers who only have “book learning” and lead from ideals that more times than not don’t match reality. Don’t get me wrong, here, because not every such officer was a bad leader, most learned to temper their idealism with reality. The bad ones didn’t.

It really didn’t serve Du Bois well to go to Germany for his PhD. Having read this far into this study you’ve already walked through the intellectualism of Europe in their search for the causes of their decline landing on “others” as the problem.

In his book The Idea of Decline in Western History, Arthur Herman lists four characteristics of racial thinking in America Du Bois faced:

  1. A color line . . . applied to all slave-owning societies not only the American South . . in which a hierarchy of skin color defined social status. A gamut of traditions and taboos secured these color caste societies, with whites on top and those with the darker skin on the bottom.

  2. Race science claimed to prove that white and Negro, and hence master and slave, were in fact distinct species, as distinctly superior and inferior as monkeys and man. This pre-Darwinian “proof” of white supremacy remained largely theoretical.

  3. Racial thinking was exemplified in the racial theories of conquest and expansion borrowed from Europe and transplanted onto American soil which tended to divide nations or “races” (both white and nonwhite) into the categories of stronger and weaker, and inevitably of superior and inferior. As Rousseau wrote: “every patriot hates foreigners.”

  4. A racial pessimism derived from Gobineau (France) and his German followers, and now sharpened by Darwinian and degeneration theory.

While Du Bois tangentially felt some racism, he was educated among “sons and daughters of affluent African-American mulatto families, who received a humanist education in Greek and Latin, science and mathematics, and thought of themselves as much the members of a social elite as any Boston Brahmin or New York Knickerbocker. As the Fisk Herald proclaimed in 1889, ‘We are not the Negro from whom the chains of slavery fell a quarter of a century ago. We have learned what the privileges and responsibilities of citizenship are.’”

Du Bois stepped out of an American South that was racially divided into a Germany transitioning into a new kind of socialism that while it’s intellectuals were arguing an “us versus them” politics had not yet hit upon hard racial divided lines that would come in Hitler’s reign. Even then it wouldn’t be an African divide but an Aryan divide that was more intent on sweeping out of society Jews and Christians and the mentally and physically disabled to recreate that Teutonic Aryan people. So Du Bois had found, he believed, heaven and he felt released and Herman quotes from his diary of February 1893:

“Is it egoism—is it assurance—or is it the silent call of the world spirit that makes me feel that I am royal and that beneath my scepter a world of kings shall bow. The hot dark blood of that forefather—born king of men—is beating in my heart—I am either a genius or a fool.”

While in Germany he came under the influence of socialists Schmoller and Wagner who “rejected laissez-faire liberalism and called for a new ‘ethical economics.’ They view entrepreneurial capitalism as the amoral ‘pursuit of Mammon,’ devoid of any sense of social responsibility or moral uplift.” Why am I going through this? Because Du Bois would bring back from Germany an anti-capitalism and an anti-white philosophy that would further divide the African-American culture from American society leaving fewer connecting points for any unity. If any of this intrigues you I suggest you get Herman’s book and read particularly the chapter “Black over White”, but understand as I go a little bit deeper that walls of thought are built on blocks underneath the new ones being laid, meaning you’ll need to also read the preceding chapters.

Du Bois agreed with Oswald Spengler (if you read the book you’ll get to know Spengler) that “a free market economy produced more material wealth, more goods and services, than any of its predecessors. The most important objections were social and cultural.” Two leading ideologies were being debated at this time: Zivilisation and Kultur. Civilization and culture in English. Zivilisation was “the world of politeness and sophistication, but also of commerce and urban society . . . constantly changing, materialistic, and even superficial.” By contrast, Kultur“was permanent and spiritual . . .stressing national differences and group identities and histories.” Out of this Du Bois “became convinced that for the Negro and other nonwhite peoples, notions of Volkgeist [folk-spirit, the spirit of people] and racial solidarity could be useful counterweights against ‘the whiteness of the Teutonic today’ and point the way toward a new black nationalism.” There is much more to learn from the chapter “Black over White” but let’s go from here.

Booker T. Washington, despite his experience as a slave, understood that slavery was an aberration of American life mostly limited to the South, that the American dream outlined in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution including the Bill of Rights applied to him and his fellow former slaves. He accepted the ideology and philosophy America was founded upon that would now be theirs (the former slaves). He didn’t believe America should be torn down to pay for the sin of slavery, he believed it was a worthy place to live and he wanted to help his former slaves achieve that through their individual work. Naïve? No. He knew it wouldn’t come easy, too many parts needed fixing, but it could be achieved making the hard work on both sides worth it.

In contrast Du Bois “became convinced that for the Negro and other nonwhite peoples, notions of Volkgeist and racial solidarity could be useful counterweights against the ‘whiteness of the Teutonic today” and point the way toward a new black nationalism.”

Herman writes, “Du Bois never saw the wealth of the industrial society in economic terms, as the result of increased productivity. He saw it only in cultural terms, as the fruit of a process that violated human creativity and ruined happiness.” Agreeing with what he was learning from German socialism, “The attitude,” he wrote, “is to subjugate, to exploit, and if necessary exterminate the weaker peoples with whom they come in contact . . . If empire was the enduring mark of an expansive civilization, then the Negro, too, must ‘become imperial’ and construct a ‘racial empire’ on which ‘the sun will never set.’”

Du Bois didn’t want a reconciliation with the white culture, the larger culture in which the slave culture operated, he wanted to create a separate, not equal because he now saw the Negro culture to be superior to “white” culture, and dominant. There was a popular movement at the time, and he was for a time part of it, for former African slaves to go back to Africa and create that superior culture there.

Washington wanted former slaves to pull themselves up by their bootstraps. Du Bois wanted former slaves to bludgeon their former slave holders, and all Americans, to their death. While in Germany, Du Bois swallowed Marxism hook, line, and sinker. It was no longer individual Americans who were bad, it was the system, the American system that was evil and should be undone. We’re still fighting that battle today with increased fervor on the Democrat Party’s side.

It seems there wasn’t much redeemable going on for both “whites” and “blacks.” Certainly not in the South. If you listen to Du Bois the American capitalist system was gamed for the “white man” to keep the “black” man (and all people of color) in poverty. The playbook used by Du Bois and others was right out of European socialism and Marxism. So the only way for the black man to make it was to tear down the white man’s system, condemn everything of that system because it was inherently (or systemically) racist. We were then as we are now, swallowed up in politics, with an us versus them, and real humanitarian solutions were off the table because the table itself needed replacing.

In October 2002 Thomas E. Woods, Jr. wrote in FEE: Foundation for Economic Education, in an article titled: “Race, Inequality, and the Market, The Free Market Is Not the Source of Black Underachievement” these words:

“Not long ago I found myself in a debate with colleagues about the economic status of black Americans vis-à-vis whites. Naturally, their presumption was against the free market. The logic, such as it was, ran as follows: (1) we live under a market system (more or less); (2) in a variety of areas blacks have not performed as well as whites; and therefore, (3) the free market is the source of black underachievement.

“Let us consider, first, the corollary assumptions that only political action could have made black economic advancement possible, and that such political action has constituted the unambiguous source of black prosperity. It is routinely asserted as established fact that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 represented a major turning point in the fortunes of black employment seekers. Today’s so-called civil-rights spokesmen have a vested interest in perpetuating the idea that political solutions are always the most desirable and effective. But as Thomas Sowell points out, black employment was improving before 1964: ‘In the period from 1954 to 1964, for example, the number of blacks in professional, technical, and similar high-level positions more than doubled. In other kinds of occupations, the advance of blacks was even greater during the 1940s–when there was little or no civil rights policy–than during the 1950s when the civil rights revolution was in its heyday.’ He also notes that the increase in the number of blacks in professional and technical occupations in the two years following passage of the 1964 Act was actually less than in the year from 1961 to 1962.”