W.E.B. Du Bois on the Oppression of American Racism


I have a certain animosity for racism, which still seems to be present in America. But, I have never experienced what it feels like for someone to hate me for being a certain color. W.E.B. Du Bois does, and explains the issue well.

In his hailed book, The Souls of Black FolkDu Bois (1868-1963) compares being black and American to having two souls that are irreconcilable. One soul, the American, is accepted. And yet, the other, the black soul, is despised. For this reason, the American black man is always at odds even with himself.

Du Bois says that in this existence, the black man has “no true self-consciousness, but only lets himself see through the revelation of the other world. It is a peculiar sensation, this double-consciousness, this sense of always looking at one’s self through the eyes of others, of measuring one’s soul by the tape of a world that looks on in amused contempt and pity. One ever feels his twoness — an American, a Negro; two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings; two warring ideals in one dark body, whose dogged strength alone keeps it from being torn asunder…

The history of the American Negro is the history of this strife — this longing to attain self-conscious manhood, to merge his double self into a better and truer self. In this merging he wishes neither of the older selves to be lost. He would not Africanize America, for America has too much to teach the world and Africa. He would not bleach his Negro soul in a flood of white Americanism, for he knows that Negro blood has a message for the world. He simply wishes to make it possible to be both a Negro and American, without being cursed and spit upon by his fellows, with out having the doors of opportunity closed roughly in his face”. (pp 7-8)

I pray that this is not still true today, but I fear it may be. I cannot imagine the toil that young African-Americans felt by this oppression from others. It was an oppression that split one’s self into two parts, forever irreconcilable.