The history of human civilizations always assumed some differences between people that led to conflicts, specific relationships in the sphere of power, and so on. The concept of the ‘otherness’ grounded on the human ignorance and limitations of the communicative devices of the previous centuries caused different cases of exploitation of one group that belongs to the minority in a particular society by another group that constitutes the majority. The reasons of such relationships were mostly explained by racial, national and gender aspects of a society. It is clear that in fact the prevalence of one group of people over another one is just the situational result of the former group’s dominance in some aspect of the social life that makes the latter group obey. Besides, with the social, cultural, economic and political development of the Western society, the general tendency in that became oriented on the seeking of some strategy to achieve the social equality. The concept of multiculturalism, however, became the result of such seeking for the equality conceptualized in different theories by the leading thinkers concerned with the issue of equality and diversity. To such theorists belong the thinkers who worked at the end of the 19th century as B. Washington and W. E. B. Du Bois. They proposed different ways to overcome the racial inequality in the USA and achieve the state of racial diversity. Both Washington and Du Bois tried to reconsider the concept of race. Though, while Washington proposed the African Americans to work hard in order to achieve the equality with whites through the economic success, Du Bois considered that the best way to the equality lays through the political struggle for those.
Booker Washington was one of the first African American activists who did his best for the racial equality between the Americans. The thinker was born in a family of the former slaves who became free due to the reform provided during the Civil War (Washington 25). Thus, his philosophical views reflected some aspects of the experience connected with that: Washington understood that despite the legislative abolition of the slavery, the racial inequality in the USA remains the social reality, and thus the period of the Reconstruction in fact was oriented on the adaptation of this inequality to the new legal conditions. Thus, the main intention of Washington was to ensure that racial equality in the USA does exist.He considered that the central cause of any inequalities between the American blacks and whites is the lack of education of the former. For Washington, despite of the natural equality of all people, the African Americans had to become equal to the majority through the education and economic development. Thus, he underlines: “it is important and right that all privileges of the law be ours, but it is vastly more important that we be prepared for the exercises of these privileges” (Washington 114). The main purpose of Washington concerned the construction of some new social status for those African Americans who became legally free, but could not use this freedom because of the lack of knowledge and skills needed. Thus, he claims: “it is well to bear in mind that whatever other sins the South may be called to bear, when it comes to business, pure and simple, it is in the South that the Negro is given a man’s chance in the commercial world” (Washington 112). To make the African Americans able to compete with the white majority in the realization of their American Dream, Washington founded the Tuskegee University to provide the needed education to all of them, and promoted the importance of the latter as the main condition for the real equality.
Du Bois differed from Washington greatly, because the former one was born in a family of the African Americans who never were slaves. He also had a good education and achieved the Doctor’s degree in philosophy. Thus, his approach was more modern and radical, than that of Washington. As stated by Du Bois, the program of the African Americans’ goals should require “first, political power, second, insistence on civil rights, third, higher education of Negro youth” (Du Bois). In other words, for Du Bois, the political power was the main condition of the social and economic equality. Conforming to the ideas of Du Bois, all the African Americans had to unify their intentions to achieve this result through the creation of the African American elite called by Du Bois “The Talented Tenth”. This group of the most talented people should be chosen from the majority of the African Americans in order to achieve good education (as Du Bois himself) paid by the majority in order to lead the struggle against the white elites for the political influence. Thus, for Du Bois, the main goal of the African Americans was to overcome the indisputable political dominance of the white majority that made possible the exploitation and segregation of the African Americans even after the Civil War. As a sociologist, Du Bois believed that the political confrontation is the only one way to any social transformations because the elites never let voluntarily other groups of people get some part of power in the society.
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Through the details mentioned concerning both thinkers, it is evident that Washington considered that the African Americans have to transform themselves to ‘deserve’ the real equality, while Du Bois believed that they have already deserved it, and the only one point is to make the majority agree with that. The approach of Washington looks like one oriented on a soft way of compromises. Also it seems like Washington did not take into account the desire of the majority to keep the power under their control, and believed that the question concerns only the African Americans’ ability to use the freedom guaranteed them legislatively. In contrast, as a sociologist, Du Bois saw in people no natural ‘goodness’ Washington believed in, and admitted that the society is rather governed by the eternal conflicts between different groups of people, such as the dominant whites and the humiliated blacks. Thus, there was no way for Du Bois to achieve the racial equality in the USA except the open the struggle against those who possess the political and social power. It seems that the approach of Washington is more naïve, while that of Du Bois is more realistic. Thus, as a result, the theory of Du Bois became proved when the Civil Rights Movement in the middle of 20th century won and provided racial equality to the American nation.
Therefore, through the brief analysis of the central ideas of B. Washington and W. E. B. Du Bois, the main tenets of their theories become clear. As a child of the former slaves, Washington expressed the ideas of those African Americans who could not overcome the concept of the racial inequality constructed and propagated by the white exploiters before the Civil War. On the contrary, as a child of free people who had a perfect education, Du Bois expressed the views of the enlightened African Americans who fully neglected the idea of any racial inequalities between the Americans. The difference between the conservative approach of Washington and the radical one of Du Bois may demonstrate the general gap between different theorists of the equality whose positions concerning the need of open political struggle against the majorities differ greatly.