Today, as ever before, the situation of African Americans in the labor market fails to bring out their entire potential. As the recent recession demonstrated, African-American employees “tend to be the last to be hired when the economy is booming” and also “the first to lose their jobs when a downturn hits” (Armour 2000).
Overall, their unemployment rate is typically twice as high as that for the general population (Armour 2000). Afro-Americans continue to be disproportionately unemployed because they are overrepresented among individuals without a college degree and thus remain disadvantaged in the employment market. For instance, in November 2002, the unemployment rate among high school graduates reached 5.2%, while for college graduates it was only 2.9% (Armour 2000).
W.E.B. Dubois, with his Communist convictions, would most probably see in the present-day situation the manifestation of imperialist politics in which the dominant class exploits the most vulnerable group, minorities, most of all.
Talking about the contest of races, he could also be expected to see in this reflection of this struggle for survival in which the white people, possessing better access to resources, oust the colored ones from positions where they can gain access to these resources. Marcus Garvey, as a supporter of the “Back to Africa” movement, would most probably condemn the lack of opportunities for Americans of African descent and advocate a return to Africa as an alternative to improving the situation here in the States. On the contrary, Booker T. Washington would perhaps emphasize that Afro-Americans need to apply more considerable effort to win good jobs as an alternative to pushing for political reforms on a national scale.
Considering residential segregation that remains rampant in the US, W.E.B. Dubois would most probably react negatively. The information obtained through the 1990 census demonstrates that “30% of African Americans live in neighborhoods which are 90% or more black, while the remaining percentage of African Americans still live in predominantly black areas”, with 62% living in areas where the concentration of Afro-Americans is 60% or more. (Seitles 1996). W.E.B. Dubois who always negatively reacted to racial segregation in other areas was likely to see in it the manifestation of human inequality caused by the dominance of the white race. Marcus Garvey, considering his insistence on the separation of races that reached even approval of the white Ku Klux Clan that sought the same purpose, would perhaps be least opposed to residential segregation that causes such separation. To Booker T. Washington most probably the very fact that African Americans over the years have been able to improve their socioeconomic status as far as acquire property would not mind segregation quite as much.
Of all the three leaders William Dubois was the most likely to push for representation of Afro-Americans in Congress and local government. In contrast, Booker T. Washington was prone to favor other strategies such as black self-help and hard work to make the state realize their contribution, and Garvey was favoring withdrawal of Afro-Americans to their distant motherland, Africa. Greater representation could bring positive consequences for Afro-Americans since it would boost their impact on political processes.
For instance, one can predict that more funds would be allocated to programs that would boost Afro-American education or improve the state of the black youth. Afro-Americans would be able to counter the laws that favor white population, for instance, those that give the wealthy white people an advantage by cutting their taxes or give people with higher educational credentials more opportunity.
At the same time, Marcus Garvey would perhaps also push for increased representation since he deplored the situation in which the role of the Black minority was limited. The Declaration of Rights of the Negro Peoples of the World Universal Negro Improvement Association and African Communities League in its 1920 Convention in New York stated that the African Americans are “denied all voice in the making and administration of the laws and are taxed without representation by the state governments, and at the same time compelled to do military service in defense of the country”.
Talking about the presidential race between George W. Bush and John F. Kerry, it is plausible that all three figures would support Kerry rather than Bush. The Democrats, traditionally appealing to minorities and the more impoverished population groups, seem to strike a chord with African American voters, pushing for the increase of opportunities. Kerry, in particular, advocated support for African-Americans in his election campaign rhetoric. His sayings often referred to the need to promote Afro-Americans and equalize their position in society with that of the mainstream white population. Thus, he argued against segregation in schools condemning the fact that “in too many parts of our country, our school systems are not separate but equal — but they are separate and unequal” (Kerry). It would be particularly appealing to W.E.B. Dubois who argued against segregation and would be sad to see persisting discrimination in schools. This objective would be welcomed both by W.E.B. Dubois who had pushed for higher education for Afro-Americans and Booker T. Washington who insisted on more significant emphasis laid on industrial training.
Kerry summed up his position regarding Afro-Americans in the following statement: “President Clinton was often known as the first black president. I wouldn’t be upset if I could earn the right to be the second” (Kerry). It encompasses a set of ideas that are appealing to many people. However, W.E.B. Dubois and Marcus Garvey with their distrust of the white people liberating black ones (W.E.B. Dubois was opposed to the fact that the leadership of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) was predominantly white in his times) would perhaps take this statement with a grain of salt.
In any case, George W. Bush with his tax cuts for the rich could hardly be more appealing to the prominent black leaders. Although in controversy about different specific topics, W.E.B. Dubois, Marcus Garvey, and Booker T. Washington were willing to see Afro-Americans leading a better life than their predecessors. They would probably be pleased to see the progress made in civil rights but would resent the fact that Afro-Americans in their socioeconomic status and scope of opportunities still trail behind the white people.
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