Thursday, February 25, 2010

A Black History Month - or any month - Tragedy

Not long ago I was lecturing on Adam Smith's view of Capitalism to approximatley 160 students in three different classes. At one point I began a side discussion on whether Capitalism overcomes racism.

In passing, I asked each of my classes if they knew who Booker T. Washington was. Out of all of these students - many of whom are African-American - only three students indicated that they knew of Mr. Washington. Two of them thought he had "something to do with peanut butter" and one said, "Wasn't he some sort of educator"?

What a shame.

Even though it should, it never ceases to amaze me how pathetic our K-12 schools are at teaching young people about some the world's all-time great leaders in the fight for liberty and free markets.

Booker T. Washington, a former slave who endured inumerable obstacles in his desire to become educated, championed the cause of liberty and capitalism for America's black citizens in the late 1800s and early part of the last century. He traveled the country lecturing on the need for black Americans to rely on themselves to overcome the vestiges of slavery, rather than rely on government for assistance.

In 1901, speaking on the future of black Americans, he said, "When a negro girl learns to cook, to sew, to write a book, or a Negro boy learns to groom horses, or to grow sweet potatoes, or to produce butter, or to build a house, or be able to practice medicine, as well or better than someone else, they will be rewarded regardless of race or color. In the long run, the world is going to have the best, and any difference in race, religion, or previous history will not long keep the world from what it wants.

I think that the whole future of my race hinges on the question as to whether or not it can make itself of such indispensable value that the people in the town and the state where we reside will feel that our presence is necessary to the happiness and well-being of the community. No man who continues to add something to the material, intellectual, and moral well-being of the place in which he lives is long left without proper reward. This is the great human law that cannot be permanently nullified."

As Black History comes to a close it would be refreshing to meet more people - black and white - who not only know who Booker T. Washington was, but what he stood for so that our nation could move away from the politics of victimization to the concept of personal responsibility.