Thoughts On Michelle, Booker, and W.E. B. Dubois

The more I think about events across our country, the more I think the Cheshire Cat, from Alice in Wonderland, was right, “Oh, you can’t help that, we’re all mad here.” Many of us are a little nutty and many of us are just plain angry, and I keep asking myself why? Why are people rioting, why are the young in this country responding to the recruitment of hate organizations in other countries? Why are the youth of our inner cities rioting and burning down the very areas they live?

These actions are not new. These activities have happened throughout history, and it is absolutely normal for young people to rage against the machine, but the rage of today is leading to more violence than every before. Why? And what can be done about it?

Today’s blog may seem a little fragmented and rambling, but it will reflect my thoughts on actions that I think are needed to deal with the level of anger in this country. First of all, I want everyone to know that I am a Christian and I believe for true and meaningful change to occur there needs to be revival; revival of our love for God instead of the love for comfort. Even though I plan on dealing with what I think are required actions to deal with the anger, I really believe in the power of Jesus Christ to make the ultimate difference.

That said, I am also a realist and recognize that not all will respond to that message, but the anger still needs to be addressed. I do not think using hate tactics on either side of the political continuum is beneficial. I believe in constructive dialogue.

A good example of this is the criticisms leveled at First Lady Michelle Obama concerning her commencement address at Tuskegee University about continuing racism in this country. Conservatives, according to Harvey Mansfield, “wonder why she said nothing of the problem of black criminality.” These same conservatives “scorn her unwillingness to acknowledge the privilege she enjoyed from attending Princeton and Harvard.” These conservatives, in my opinion, are too busy looking at the forest that they missed the many wonderful trees within the forest.

Although I have not heard her commencement address, I have heard news reports and have read various articles that state she did a good job of reflecting the historical elements of racism in this country. In fact, Harvey Mansfield uses her references to Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. DuBois to identify the fact that “who can deny the road ahead for Blacks is not going to be easy.” Liberal and conservatives can argue over the how, but the fact is we need to talk.

Thursday I had coffee with a new friend. He is the director for the Portland Community Cycling Center. He is also a graduate of the Tuskegee University. This young man truly is incredible, and gave me a very positive opinion of Tuskegee. Booker T. Washington founded Tuskegee in 1881, and , according to some, Washington was known as “the most conservative of black thinkers.” I have no idea if that is true or not, but I do know this about his university, “it was not built with government funding or private donations but by Blacks themselves under Washington’s direction.”

According to Harvey Mansfield, “Booker T. Washington’s central thesis was that Blacks should not depend on the white majority to improve their lives.” In his autobiography, “Up From Slavery,” Washington argues that Blacks should rise up from slavery on their own, and make themselves fit for freedom “through stages of self-education and hard work.”

On the other side of the coin is W.E.B. DuBois another great Black philosopher. “DuBois despised the passivity of Washington’s approach, blaming his isolation from politics and lack of courage.” DuBois did not promote earn your rights, he promoted demand your rights. I find this juxtaposition a little similar to Martin Luther King and Malcolm X.

As a White-Old-Man (WOM) reflecting on this I have to say I agree with Harvey Mansfield that conservatives are being too hard on Michele. I agree that we should not “throw up our hands and give up.” And you have to notice I said we. The issues associated with racism in this country do not just affect those who are Black, Latino/a, or Asian. The affects of racism dehumanize all of us. Now is not the time to say it’s their problem, or point our fingers at the other while proclaiming an “I-It” philosophy. Now is the time to take an “I-Thou” perspective where we see the value of the other. Instead of criticizing and blaming, it is time to listen and change.

And that is my thought for the day!


One thought on “Thoughts On Michelle, Booker, and W.E. B. Dubois

  1. I did notice you said “we”! What a beautiful word, it is the core of how our future is being built. Reading Kropotkin’s Mutual Aid one can read about many ordinary examples of the concept of ‘we’ through evolution contrary to what some have interpreted form Darwin in support of the “I”.

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