Du Bois’s Concepts of the Color Line, the Veil, and Double Consciousness

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  “The problem of the 20th century is the problem of the color line-the relation of the darker to the lighter races of men in Asia and Africa, in America and the islands of the sea”. As I read through the passages in our text, the most interesting topic that caught my eye right away was about W.E.B. Du Bois.  He was one of the social theorists that has remarked on the universal racial order. As mentioned in the above passage, Du Bois did not only talk about racism in the United States, but world-wide.

  Ironically, Du Bois himself experienced the existence of the color line. He not only recognized the color line, but the ways in which it was distinct from class- based inequality. Since he was the first African American to receive a Ph. D from Harvard, he was ignored by his peers, even by American sociologists. What was really interesting to me was Du Bois’s experience in Europe. He was a free man in Europe, because he met white people who exhibited little or no racial prejudice. Until he was forced to return to the United States, or as he called it the “nigger’-hating America”. However the hatefulness and bitterness of the others did not stop him from achieving. He introduced the society the most famous book of essays, “The Souls of Black Folk”. This book was collected during a critical time in United States, when racism was one of the biggest concerns.  He believed that “the problem of the twentieth century is the problem of the color line (pg 347). Du Bois introduced us to the concept of life, or in other words “the veil”, which eventually led to “double consciousness”, which he explained as seeing yourself through others’ eyes.

   Du Bois concept of the “color line” is very fascinating to me, because it talks about the collective/rational, collective/nonrational, and individual/nonrational realms, in other words he includes every individual in society. As mentioned on page 337, the color line is both preexisting social and cultural structure. According to th Du Bois, the color line addresses the historical dimensions of the race. For instance the color line was evident during the colonization of Africa in the fifteenth century. This is when race was the central topic of world history. In the mean time according to him, the color line also has significant subjective dimensions. He also examines race as symbolic and experiential reality.  With our modern society, we see a great shift in the racism, or the color line. The perfect example given in our book is about the election of Barack Obama for presidency. As we know that was one of the biggest events in the history of the US.  Having a president of color, shows how far we have come. Children today will be less likely to take white dominance, because they live in a world where there are also education African Americans, such as Obama and the first lady.  However, as mentioned in the book “racialization continues to be a powerful force in the United States” (pg 349). Statistics show that there are still more black males in prisons than other races. White communities are still healthier, and have higher educational differences than people in color.

   In his book The Souls of Black Folk, Du Bois says “The negro is a sort of seventh son, born with a veil, and gifted with second sight in this American world – a world which yields him no self-consciousness, but only lets him see himself through the revelation of the other world” (pg 348). He uses the metaphor of a veil to describe the social distance between people. However as I read through chapter one, it was interesting for me how Du Bois was not greatly affected by the veil. Unlike other black, he was able to be a stronger individual, and was able to move the veil around. As he wrote, “Stepped within the veil, raising it that you may view faintly its deeper recesses, -the meaning of its religion, the passion of its human sorrow, and the struggle of its greater souls”(pg 350). In his first chapter, Du Bois steps...
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