Category Archives: Perspective

Why We’re Not Post-Racial … yet.

by Ronald Court

A couple of Wall Street Journal articles, one from last November editorial and one today by Peggy Noonan indicate that the road we’re on to a post-racial society continues to be bumpy.
      Over time, ‘color’ will, hopefully and eventually, become a non-issue. (note: to be ‘color-blind’ is not to be ‘culture-blind.’ It is to acknowledge skin color as irrelevant in matters that count.)
      The common saying, ‘You can’t judge a book by its cover’ applies, as both Booker T. Washington and Martin Luther King, Jr. attested.
      Still, some don’t ‘get it.’
      Last November Alabama Congressman Artur Davis voted against the health-care bill. He probably expected some grief from his fellow Democrats. But he was also accused of selling out his race.
      He was the only black Member to oppose the legislation, and his vote earned him a rebuke from Jesse Jackson at a Congressional Black Caucus Foundation reception. “We even have blacks voting against the health-care bill,” said Mr. Jackson. “You can’t vote against health care and call yourself a black man.”
      When a politician’s skin color is gratuitously invoked in a debate about whether the government should have more control of health care, you have to wonder if some politicians are seriously interested in a color-blind society. Former President Jimmy Carter suggested that whites who oppose the President’s policies are racists; Mr. Jackson said blacks who oppose them are betraying their race.
      And just this past week, Shirley Sherrod was, “smeared by right-wing media, condemned by the NAACP and canned by the Obama administration” (and then offered her job back). Clearly, some folks, left and right, are simply too quick to infuse race into every issue.
      Ms. Sherrod showed real class in informing the folks at the NAACP meeting that it’s “really about those who have versus those who don’t”.
      It is a shame the media pounced on Ms. Sherrod’s out-of-context words. But perhaps even more so that the NAACP leadership and Obama administration were so quick to judge.
      It reminded me of Proverbs 15:14 “The discerning heart seeks knowledge, but the mouth of a fool feeds on folly.

Booker T Washington for the Nobel Peace Prize

Think about it.
The 14th Dalai Lama received the Nobel in 1989. He led 2.6 million – but lives in exile.
The Dalai Lama’s philosophy (meaning of life): “To be happy and useful.”

Booker T. led over 3 million – and never exiled himself.
Booker T’s philosophy was to live a useful life and overcoming adversity.

Of course he won’t get it. But he deserved it nevertheless.

Sobering Statistics for the New Year

By Ronald Court

Only six hours into the new year, Chicago has its first of several hundred annual homicides. Preliminary police records indicate that in 2008, there were 508 Chicago homicides, up from 442 in 2007.

Those numbers don’t speak very highly of the twenty-years of work as Chicago’s vaunted “community-organizer,” soon to be our nation’s President. We sincerely pray that he does better with the vastly more difficult responsibilities he will assume in his new job.

He might consider the lessons taught by an earlier ‘community organizer’ with a far better track record, even while operating under the view of hateful white racists as well as resentful black racialists. Like Barack Obama, Booker T. spoke eloquently and inspired millions, but he placed little faith in government to ‘do the right thing’ – at least for that times’ near and intermediate future. Rather, he exhorted his audience to develop practical skills and improve their conduct in ways that ultimately, he foresaw, would be recognized and valued. History has shown that his approach works.

He spoke out against and tracked lynching rates, which brings me back to Chicago’s homicides, To put it in perspective, the most lynchings ever recorded in one year (1892) was two-hundred thirty (230). Of these, 69 were white, 161 were black. Nationwide. Adjust for population today and control for black-on black homicides, and lynching pales.

In these few weeks before his inauguration, Barack Obama would do well to learn to emulate the life and methods of fellow ‘community organizer,’ Booker T. Washington.

A Glaring Omission

By Ronald Court

On Christmas Day, George Will wrote of a “Small Successful Government Program“ that purports to tell America’s story through some forty American works of art – primarily paint and sculpture. However, Mr. Will failed to note a glaring omission of this otherwise commendable governmental effort.

Yet again, as with so many liberal interpretations of American History, Booker T. Washington is treated virtually as a footnote–and controversial at that, for how else would interpreters of American History find a place to interject WEB DuBois in it? The fact is, the only notable role Du Bois plays in our history today is only as a footnote to Dr. Booker T. Washington’s significant, productive and immensely more constructive one. Indeed, if not for Washington, DuBois arguably, would have been dismissed and forgotten decades ago.
A Ladder For Booker T. Washington (1995)

Herewith is my comment to George Will’s article:
“Any attempt to tell “America’s Story” by “Picturing America” in forty or so images is bound to omit a significant chapter or two.

However, selecting Puryear’s 1995 sculpture “Ladder for Booker T. Washington” does this country’s “other great American named Washington” a disservice.

A better, more instructive and evocative sculpture would have been “Lifting the Veil of Ignorance” (below) sculpted by Charles Keck in 1922.

“Liftting the Veil of Ignorance”

The opportunity to engage students in discussion over differing viewpoints on Dr. Washington’s role in advancing civil rights, given the time and place of Dr. Washington’s efforts, would still be there without reducing Dr. Washington’s legacy to an abstraction that some choose to misinterpret as a ladder leading nowhere.

That American historians have accorded the honor of naming an era (1895-1915) “The Booker T Washington Era” should have clued the designers of this program into BTW’s positive impact on American history. Booker T. deserves much better.

It’s a Crisis of Character, not of Financial Markets

By Reggie Jones

Booker T. is said to have defined character thus: “Character is Power.”

Character is “how you behave when no one’s watching.” The present financial crisis is a wake up call to recognize the importance of character. The so-called leaders of Fannie Mae and Freddy Mac, along with their enabler politicians, are largely responsible for actions that brought us to the financial brink. Yet the media blames it on a lack of oversight and under-regulation, claiming Republicans weren’t watching the store.

But the real question is, “Why the need for oversight?” Don’t responsible people know the difference between right and wrong?

Yet, in today’s society, highly paid people, from athletes to politicians even US Presidents have engaged in illegal and immoral activities and do not hesitate to lie when caught. Oversight? Meaningless when fans and political parties stand behind them.

Finding celebrities without character all too easy, making it all the more difficult for young people to withstand pop culture pressure and develop proper character. Yet the bitter fruit of the lack of good moral character among so many is all too apparent. Skyrocketing out-of-wedlock birth rates among young and younger teens. Rising rates of sexually transmitted disease (STD). families break down.

But speak out against these trends and you are labeled as judgmental. Success is less and less defined as living a constructive, productive life, but more and more by having more ‘bling’ than the next guy.

Booker T. Washington never wallowed in self pity for lack of ‘bling,’ nor for being born a slave. Rather, he used his struggle as motivation to improve himself. He refused to hate white people, choosing to seek common ground through forgiveness. He understood and applied the wisdom of the Judeo-Christian concept of forgiveness.

He showed that character – above all – was essential to attaining success. He also defined character as having a strong faith in God, keeping your word, taking responsibility for your actions, serving your fellow man, exercising thrift in financial affairs, and following the golden rule.

If more people on Wall Street and at either end of Pennsylvania Avenue adhered to Booker T.’s ideal and model of character, our country would not be having to deal with our present moral and financial crisis.

Here we go again

By Reggie Jones (Opinion expressed are not necessarily those of the BTWS).

Rick Warren, pastor of California’s Saddleback mega-Church, asked Barak Obama which US Supreme Court Justice was his least favorite. The senator unhesitatingly replied, “Clarence Thomas.” It appeared to me as if, rather than ponder the question, he pandered for votes.

He said Justice Thomas was not “a strong enough jurist or legal thinker” to warrant a seat on the Court. This, despite the fact that Judge Thomas endured very intense, public scrutiny by the US Senate three times before ascending to the Supreme Court.

Weigh that opinion with his comments on other Supreme Court conservatives, Scalia and Roberts. He said Justice Scalia was “brilliant” and that Chief Justice Roberts was “a compelling person,” while acknowledging that he probably wouldn’t have nominated either.

Why did Sen. Obama single out Justice Thomas for such damning criticism, yet without rationale? OK, so Justice Thomas is a conservative, but so too are Scalia and Roberts. The conclusion I draw is that Justice Thomas is not only conservative, but – gasp – black too.

A conservative black man is, ipso facto, one who thinks for himself. To the left, this is heresy, for it alone considers itself solely and morally qualified to speak for – hence, assumes – minorities will adhere to its collectivist agenda. Independent thinkers like Clarence Thomas are not to be tolerated when straying from this perspective. Worse, Justice Thomas refuses to provide legal cover for a racial spoils tithing system.

Perhaps lawyer and ‘community organizer’ Obama would have fared better had he learned to appreciate the wisdom of another, earlier and far more accomplished ‘community organizer,’ Booker T. Washington: “The Negro has the right to study law, but success will come to the race sooner if it produces intelligent, thrifty farmers, mechanics, to support the lawyers.”

of W. E. B. Du Bois and others

By Ronald Court

For two years, I’ve debated with myself over whether to tackle the 800 pound gorilla in the room whenever anyone seems to mention Booker T. Washington. That is, the prevalent but faulty belief in academia that BTW was inferior to WEB Du Bois. I had concluded that, as Booker T. himself was too busy leading, uplifting and accomplishing to debate WEB in person, neither should I. Until now.

Booker T. died too young and early, leaving a vacuum that WEB never would have filled had BTW lived. Instead, WEB’s bitter world-view went largely unchallenged for the better part of a century so that many who claim to know and teach American History today simply reject Booker T. Washington as a “compromiser,” “accommodationist” “wizard” or head of the “Tuskegee machine.”

Let these teachers and students, mired in WEB Du Bois’s deeply, profusely written feelings of alienation and anger, lift the veil of ignorance from their own eyes.

Let them first rid themselves of the false notion that Booker T. campaigned against Du Bois. No, Du Bois plotted against BTW in forming the short-lived Niagara Movement as well as enlisting others to obtain “every scrap of evidence” to use against BTW.

The archives in The W.E.B. Du Bois Library at UMass quote WEB writing of “another and more bitter controversy. This started with the rise at Tuskegee Institute, and centering around Booker T. Washington, of what I may call the Tuskegee Machine.”

So Du Bois coins a disparaging term to describe BTW’s effectiveness and historians who should know better parrot it and thus become complicit in besmirching BTW’s good name. It is dishonest.

Further, Web disingenuously writes, “There came a controversy between myself and Booker T. Washington, which became more personal and bitter than I had ever dreamed.”

Really? What an interesting way to acknowledge an issue while implicitly disavowing responsibility. It ranks right up there with today’s currently politically popular, “mistakes were made” and “absent any controlling legal authority…”

Two-time BTW biographer Louis Harlan is hard put to find evidence that BTW entertained personal or bitter thoughts towards WEB. But that didn’t stop him from characterizing BTW as “devious” or labeling his speeches as “banal” and “hackneyed”. I’ve posted several speeches here. Judge for yourself.

I’ll say it again: BTW was too busy doing good to bother much with WEB… with one exception: Washington secretly financed Du Bois and others to challenge Jim Crow in the courts. Does that seem “personal and bitter” to you?

BTW was, however, not without fault. I believe Stephen Mansfield gets it right in his bio,
Then Darkness Fled” The liberating Wisdom of Booker T. Washington:

    “It is necessary to acknowledge what is true in the charges against him. It is true that Washington entrusted the future of his race to the goodness of America and was betrayed. He felt this himself all too keenly in the closing years of his life. Washington taught his people to invest in America for a harvest of respect, equality and prosperity. They received instead the Jim Crow fruits of a racist land…
    It is true also that Washington misunderstood the nature of racial prejudice. He assumed that those who hated his people did so because of who his people were, either because they were black or poor or illiterate or uncultured. In other words, he assumed that racial hatred was rational. Therefore, if he could change what his people were, he could remove the object of white hatred.
    The truth is, … racial hatred is irrational. It is simply hatred for the sake of hatred and rarely has any reasonableness about it… there is often little the hated can do to assuage the hatred against them… In 1915, it seemed that Washington, who believed in whites more than whites believed in themselves, had simply been deceived.”

Today however, is much different than 1915. Impediments to equality – at least as a matter of written law – are no longer, so anger and alienation no longer serves the purpose they may have “back in the day.” Today, they have become simply impediments to further progress. Du Bois no longer has a tenable solution to the problem of the color line. Rather, Washington’s approach, properly understood and updated in today’s context, is far more promising.

Six Inconvenient Truths

By Ronald Court

First, let me start with a little off-topic, I’ll assume you back up your data regularly. OK, but what about all the programs you’ve downloaded and customizing tweaks you’ve made over several months or even years? I recently discovered the hard way that this is about as big a shock to the system as losing data. So, get yourself some “ghosting” software or a 2d hard drive to “mirror” all that stuff. Someday, you’ll thank me.

This recent column by Michael Medved, “Six Inconvenient Truths about the U.S. and Slavery” is so worth reading, I am giving my space today over to it.

Considering BTW’s Atlanta Address

By Ronald Court

Some time ago, I sent an e-mail to Gale-Thompson Inc., bibliography publishers, to object to their reference of BTW’s 1895 speech at the Atlanta Exposition as the Atlanta “compromise.” The company recently acknowledged that it will no longer use that pejorative term, which was, after all, coined years later by WEB DuBois in disparaging Booker T’s advocacy of a non-confrontational approach to solving “the race problem.”

Booker T. spoke of much more in that famous speech. Read it for yourself, along with an excellent interpretation of it by Gloria Y. Jackson, Booker T. Washington’s own great grand-daughter here.


By Ronald Court

While in North Carolina last week, my son and I saw Ratatouille, a delightful Pixar animated film that really is for all ages. It’s about a rat who becomes a chef. The villian (every film has one, you know) is a food critic aptly named, “Anton Ego.”

Ego’s monologue about being a critic is as ageless as it is priceless:

In many ways, the work of a critic is easy. We risk very little yet enjoy a position over those who offer up their work and their selves to our judgment. We thrive on negative criticism, which is fun to write and to read. But the bitter truth we critics must face is that, in the grand scheme of things, the average piece of junk is more meaningful than our criticism designating it so.”

It’s too bad DuBois couldn’t recognize the bitter truth instead of simply being, well, bitter. His literary prowess, such as it was, is nothing when measured against Booker T’s. accomplishments. It had to grate. Consider: Here’s DuBois, the first Negro with a genuine Harvard PhD, barely recognized for his work while this Southern (read “poor and poorly educated”) Negro gets high praise North & South, including an honorary degree from Harvard. So to get attention (why else?) what does he do? He praises Booker T., then seeks to work for him, then takes an opposite tack by criticizing him. Honest historians today would label DuBois a “flip-flopper.”

Continuing Anton Ego’s monologue from the film:

“…only now do I truly understand … Not everyone can become a great artist, but a great artist can come from anywhere. It is difficult to imagine more humble origins than those of the genius now cooking at Gusteau’s, who is, in this critic’s opinion, nothing less than the finest…”

Too bad DuBois failed to achieve the epiphany that Anton Ego did.