Race and Culture in America at the turn of the Century

My wife is working through her 3rd book on Teddy Roosevelt. This one (Theodore Rex) is about his presidency. Teddy was a many of many firsts. First president on a submarine; first on a airplane. But he was also first to dine with a black man at the White House (there had been plenty of servants in it, but not as invited guests to dinner).

Any guesses on who he had?

Booker T. Washington.

The reaction was pretty horrendous from some sectors in the South. He was called all sorts of names. The papers had headlines such as, “President has darkie to dinner” and much worse. A senator from the good ole state of SC stated that they would have to kill 1,000 Black men in order to put Blacks back in their place (the Black presses had the audacity of seeing this one event as a sign of hope). Another suggested he should invite Booker T’s son for Christmas so he could have him marry his daughter because he so much wanted the races to mingle or mongrelize.

But before we put Teddy on a pedestal. He also believed in the common view of the day that Blacks were behind whites by several hundred thousand years in the evolutionary process. While some like Booker T could ascend, most were only good for service roles. Throughout his presidency, he didn’t change this view. While he did see the need to stop lynching he didn’t think they should vote.

If it helps, he also thought the Irish were also a bit behind in the evolutionary process.

It doesn’t. While we’ve come far from the public and shameless racism and prejudice, we’ve got many miles to traverse in dealing with the subtle and pernicious forms of prejudice still active. I’m sure we’ll continue to see these come to the surface as Obama is the presumed Democratic nominee. 

1 Comment

Filed under Black and White, Civil Rights, News and politics, Race, Racial Reconciliation

One response to “Race and Culture in America at the turn of the Century

  1. Scott Knapp, MS

    Even if racism were eradicated (and it won’t be), another rallying cry of indignation would arise and take it’s place. I believe in the rightness of fighting social evil, but only so long as that fight is understood as a part of the context of the larger and more important aim of introducing the world to Christ. At any moment that that particular “fight” begins to distract from the ultimate Fight, it should be abandoned, or at least forestalled. Only God knows how many men and woman started off with a legitimate call of Him to impact their world and eternity for Him with the message of the Gospel, only to become sidetracked and mired in social causes that were “good” but not “best, highest, utmost” in the cause of the Gospel. That sort of political activism has, in my opinion, hijacked many churches and their pulpits. A good friend of mine worked for many years as a contracted consultant in a Middle Eastern country which is openly hostile to Christianity. Although white Americans who are well-educated are welcomed with open arms there for his kind of service, those of other countries are harshly abused and mistreated while they do their work. My friend was aware of several Pakistani Christians who came to this country as “tent makers”, to perform the work they contracted for, and to serve as underground missionaries in this very closed, hostile culture. My friend observed that a number of them grew more passionate about the cause of Christ as the persecution grew against their race by the natives….some of the Pakistani Christian men he knew were “outed” by native infiltrators of the underground churches there, and then suddenly disappeared and were never heard from again. Racism is alive, well and promulgated in these quarters…and yet the ones suffering the most are the one’s who seem to love the most powerfully. Examples like Jeremiah Wright, Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson indicate that same potential for personal growth and maturity in the face of adversity is not being cultivated here in our own land…but they’re fighting a different battle than our Pakistani missionary brothers are.

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