Monday, August 19, 2013

W.E.B. DuBois on class, race, and the obligations of privileged black folks

"so long as American labor is more conscious of color and race than it is of the fundamental economic needs of the whole laboring class, just so long the development of labor solidarity is impossible." —W.E.B. DuBois, "The Nucleus of Class Consciousness"

"Some years ago I used the phrase "The Talented Tenth," meaning leadership of the Negro race in America by a trained few. … Very gradually as the philosophy of Karl Marx and many of his successors seeped into my understanding, I tried to apply this doctrine with regard to Negroes. My Talented Tenth must be more than talented, and work not simply as individuals. Its passport to leadership was not alone learning but expert knowledge of modern economics as it affected American Negroes; and in addition to this and fundamental, would be its willingness to sacrifice and plan for such economic revolution in industry and just distribution of wealth, as would make the rise of our group possible." W.E.B. DuBois, "The Talented Tenth"

"My college training did not altogether omit Karl Marx. He was mentioned at Harvard and taken into account in Berlin. It was not omission but lack of proper emphasis or comprehension among my teachers of the revolution in thought and action which Marx meant. So perhaps I might end this retrospect simply by saying: I still think today as yesterday that the color line is a great problem of this century. But today I see more clearly than yesterday that back of the problem of race and color, lies a greater problem which both obscures and implements it: and that is the fact that so many civilized persons are willing to live in comfort even if the price of this is poverty, ignorance, and disease of the majority of their fellowmen; that to maintain this privilege men have waged war until today war tends to become universal and continuous, and the excuse for this war continues largely to be color and race." —W.E.B. DuBois, preface to The Souls of Black Folk, Jubilee Edition (1953, 50th Anniversary)