Thursday, May 23, 2013

Barack Obama and Booker T.Washington- An Uncanny Resemblance

The more closely I scrutinize the words and actions of Barack Obama, the more i am convinced that the figure in African American History he resembles the most is Booker T Washington. Like Mr. Washington, President Obama has a penchant for dressing down working class Black people, holding their culture up to ridicule and insisting they must improve their "behavior" to win respect; and also like Mr Washington, he seems comfortable interacting with, and seeking the advice of, the nation's wealthiest and most powerful people. To be fair, Mr Washington registered major accomplishments and so has President Obama, but neither figure should be regarded as a civil rights or human rights leader in the fullest meaning of those terms, because neither cast their lot with the most disadvantaged and vulnerable section of the African American community or gave much weight to speaking harsh truths about injustice. They are quintessential self-made people who see their accomplishments validating the American Dream. But perhaps there were more casualties along their path to the top than either were willing to recognize


Anonymous said...

A very insightful post, Mark, and readers should look no further than Obama's recent speech to the graduates of Morehouse College for confirmation of what you say.

Anonymous said...

Dr. Naison, this is an interesting comparison. One I can certainly appreciate. Although it is indeed true that Washington held Blacks to a high standard of accountability, many Black leaders of the day also emphasized respectability in their racial uplift platforms. Black leaders in the North were especially no exception.

Although Washington did hold up a mirror to the Black community, he also established countless programs for the benefit of Black southerners. Which is more than can be said of others. If he criticized blacks for being economically dependent, he encouraged them to become self sufficient by creating the National Negro Business League, if he was critical of ministers, then he create the National Ministers Conference, If he was critical of Black sharecroppers, he helped create the National Farmers Conference. Not to mention the thousands of students from all over the country AND from abroad that benefited from his institution and its resources, the same one he used the monies from the "wealthiest and most powerful people" to build Black education.

So can you elaborate as to why you believe Washington never casted his lot with "the most disadvantaged and vulnerable section of the African American community" Washington was indeed self-made, but his success inspired countless others, whether it be Marcus Garvey, J. L. Dube, Henry S. Williams, Robert Church, J. A. Aggrey, Juan Gomez, Mary McLeod Bethune, J. A. Gates, and even W. E. B. Du Bois (who Washington often provided financial assistance to help fight legal segregation).