Booker T , Du Bois, and those revealing Unemployment Numbers

In the African American community , while the Black male population struggles with the stigma of high poverty rates, incarceration rates, and HIV rates, the Black females have  clearly outpaced their counterparts in the field of higher education.  The latest data shows staggering differences in the numbers of   participants in “cap and gown” ceremonies past the High School level.

African American Education Breakout by Gender

This chart[1] by itself would be bad enough, but when one connects the Unemployment dot, and the Earnings dot, the picture becomes much clearer, and dire.


This is not rocket science by any stretch of the imagination. People in the aggregate who have lower levels of education form a greater proportion of the unemployed ranks, and also earn less.[2]

Serious thought has to be given to the curriculum followed by African American males through High School. The real decision to further one’s academic career is not made in the Senior year of High School but is one which is developed several years beforehand.

Lest I sound too anal, let me be clear. A certificate in and of itself can do little; little for society and even less for the individual. What one should learn is a problem solving process, implement solutions with feedback loops, and develop technical (qualitative and quantitative) expertise in specific subject areas. Even with the cost of tertiary education spiraling higher each year, there are community colleges which can confer an Associate degree, and give a good foundation towards a future Bachelor’s degree.

Booker T. Washington, educator, reformer and the most influentional black leader of his time (1856-1915) preached a philosophy of self-help, racial solidarity and accomodation. He urged blacks to accept discrimination for the time being and concentrate on elevating themselves through hard work and material prosperity. He believed in education in the crafts, industrial and farming skills and the cultivation of the virtues of patience, enterprise and thrift. This, he said, would win the respect of whites and lead to African Americans being fully accepted as citizens and integrated into all strata of society.

W.E.B. Du Bois, a towering black intellectual, scholar and political thinker (1868-1963) said no–Washington’s strategy would serve only to perpetuate white oppression. Du Bois advocated political action and a civil rights agenda (he helped found the NAACP). In addition, he argued that social change could be accomplished by developing the small group of college-educated blacks he called “the Talented Tenth:” [3]

For far too long these two opposing philosophies have polarized the African American thinking. Thankfully improvements in industrial technology and equal access to educational resources have brought the differences into fuzzy relief. The war for a single cultural American identity is not a war to be fought in the foxholes of either religion, or political conservatism…. The frontline for this war sits squarely in the classroom, and equally in the economic arena.

2 Responses to Booker T , Du Bois, and those revealing Unemployment Numbers

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