Du Bois introduces three concepts that portray the prototypical Black experiences in the United States. These are illustrated through the Veil and double consciousness. Double consciousness and color line are concepts that were explored by Du Bois in 1903 (Bruce Jr. pp.299). His concept is slightly different from Thomas’ Paine and recurs throughout the article. His concept on double consciousness refers to living with double identities. One is the Negro identity together with all its troubles and second is the American identity compelled on the Negro after settling in the United States.
It is color line that divides the white race from the black race. According to Du Bois, this was the main problem of the twentieth century (Douglass, pp.568). The color line exists both figuratively and symbolically as the marker that separates these two groups of human beings. Within any given society, whites and blacks cannot co-exist due to the issue of color line that divides them. These two groups of people live in one country yet the experiences they both go through are very different from each other’s due to the reason of color line.
This is particularly relevant, considering how the article explains the oppression and domination that the black Negro had to go through during that particular period. The writer brings this out by the following paragraph, “Of all the races and varieties of men, which have suffered from this feeling, the colored people of this country have endured mostThey stand at the extreme point of difference from the Caucasian race, and their African origin can be instantly recognized, though they may be several removes from the typical African race” (Douglass, pg. 568).
As long as the issue of color line existed, it was difficult for the African American to get some level of success since it belonged to the more dominant race, which was of the whites. It is the essential discussion of the double consciousness and the veil. It is the main reason for the problems that the African Americans were faced with and still face in the contemporary society.
Du Bois confronts white discernments that black experience itself is the problem. He then emphasizes that the way for blacks and whites to transcend that issue is by a fuller examination of the spiritual depth of black experience and not excluding the souls of the black folks. He asserts shared humanity and cross-racial spiritual identity in a time when segregation was emphasized in racial classifications (Douglass, pp.567). During this time, whites were dedicated to an unambiguous philosophy of white supremacy.
He then reveals the veil and illustrates African American binary awareness. The veil which is an imagery, symbolic wall of division, keeps coming back to put emphasis on racial, social, and psychological boundaries as well as black invisibility in the American history. It separated white and black folk and made it so that only the African Americans existed within the veil. It was from this veil that this black population got to experience oppression.
We see this when the scholar talks about a youngster of color who is found by people having been tied, injured with blood flowing. People assume he is accountable of the indignation on himself. He is put on trial for this transgression for such a long time with no signs of getting justice (Douglass, pp.569). The writer goes on to explain how a crime is committed by an offender and since there lacks a suspicious character; a person of color becomes the suspicious one instead of the guilty person.
He brings out the segregation and the contempt for blacks from whites even on matters that they should be recognized for. It is clear how the whites are given the recognition instead through this phrase, “We are not, as a race, even permitted to appropriate the virtues and achievements of our individual representatives. Manliness, capacity, learning, laudable ambition, heroic service, by any of our number, are easily placed to the credit of the superior race” (Douglass, pp.569).
Any African American that is socially aware has faced two experiences that are life altering. These experiences are the instant they discovered that they were black and the instant they discovered that there was a big problem with being black. These people just like Dubois, can pinpoint the precise moment when these instances took place and this has to be during the time when they were young. Du Bois notes that it is not a common thing to be able to look at yourself through the eyes of another person.
It is possible for the African Americans to understand the whites, but it is difficult for the whites to understand the blacks, thanks to the veil. Not only was the veil a symbol of oppression, but it assisted in giving insight to the experience of the black person.
In double consciousness, the African Americans are segregated in a way that they have to look at themselves by means of the other world. This is so especially when one is forced to evaluate their soul with the tie of a world that looks at a person in compassion and amusement.
For Du Bois, double consciousness is a political, psychological and philosophical grouping of black experience. He depicts the epistemological and ontological repercussions of this major concept. In the world of America, the Negro is like a seventh born son in a way, that is birthed with a veil with second sighting being his area of gifting. This world does not yield true self consciousness to him. It only lets him see himself through the other world’s revelation.
He brings out his double consciousness as a feeling that one feels in America; one as an American, and as a Negro. This is experienced through the writer’s argument which contains a similar set of oppositions for all intents and purposes were important element in his "Strivings of the Negro People”. In this argument, Du Bois uses "double consciousness" to refer to at least three diverse issues. These issues included the authentic supremacy of white stereotypes in black life and deliberation.
The next one was the double awareness fashioned by the practical racial discrimination that debarred each black American from the mainstream of the social order and the double consciousness of being both an American and not an American as a result of double consciousness (Bruce Jr, pp. 301).
Du Bois however referred for the most part to an inner divergence in the African American character between what was referable as "African" and what was "American” (Bruce Jr, pp. 301). According to him, these are two souls, two thoughts, two strivings that remain un-reconciled that war in a black body. The only thing that keeps it from being torn apart is its dogged strength.
Traditionally, blacks have a better understanding of whites even in the presence of a veil, which shows the views of both sides of both blacks and whites. This is due to the two-ness that has been lived and felt by the African Americans.
The blacks have come to a point where they understand how to operate in two Americans; one that is black and another that is white. This is what Du Bois tries to explain by the meaning of double consciousness. It is being an American and also an African American.
Bruce Jr., D. “W. E. B. Du Bois and the Idea of Double Consciousness” American Literature, Vol. 64, No. 2 (Jun., 1992), pp. 299-309. http://www.jstor.org/stable/2927837 .
Douglass, F. “The color line” The North American Review, Vol. 132, No. 295 (Jun., 1881), pp. 567-577. http://www.jstor.org/stable/25100970 .