Sunday, August 26, 2007

George S. Schuyler - A Different But Important Perspective on the Civil Rights Movement

George S. Schuyler, All-American

But his criticism of the Civil Rights Movement may have been what most endeared him to some and alienated him from others. To Schuyler, the Civil Rights Movement undermined any programs among African Americans that might foster what he had advocated since the 1930s: self-help capitalism. Much like Booker T. Washington, Schuyler had encouraged blacks to start businesses not only to provide services to the African-American community but also to gain the respect and business of whites. He also criticized Civil Rights Movement leaders as charlatans as he had portrayed race leaders in Black No More (Schuyler’s atheism had always fostered doubts regarding ministers’ sincerity). He also believed the Civil Rights Movement fostered a dependency on the government to solve all financial and societal problems. Here is an excerpt from Schuyler’s typically controversial Pittsburgh Courier column in which he harshly criticized the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the organization in which Martin Luther King, Jr., played a vital role: "What sort of image has been presented by the organized rowdies, with their deceitful hymn-singing and praying, and indictments to civil disobedience and Hitlerian street-fighting? These tactics led to golden opportunities for Southern cops to manhandle, mistreat and jail thousands of Negroes who should have been in school, learning how to make a decent living."

It is important that we not mistakenly believe that all of our "civil rights heroes" were gods and that there was no legitimate criticism of their tactics. Brother Schuyler provided a value analysis of the movement in real time.

Those who are inclined to attack Schuyler for his criticism of King fail to realize that Malcolm X was also a critic of King. Few would discredit Malcolm X on the grounds for his criticism. Likewise there was a flow of criticism about Malcolm X from Dr. King. In essence there was a triangle of criticism between these three individuals as they all chose to achieve the same end via three different methodologies.

While some may further attempt to discredit Schuyler by asking "what protests marches did he lead" as these other two did, as a WRITER few would ask the same question of the modern day pen men - DeWayne Wickham, Derick Z Jackson, or Cynthia Tucker.

I have read at least 3 of Mr. Schuyler's works and I found them to be valuable critiques of a movement and of men that who collectively worked hard to bring our community the opportunities that we have today. Such criticism when it leads to CORRECTION and a "checking of power" is a valuable resources to keep us operating on the straight and narrow. The force that would suppress such criticism is to be feared.

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