After reading William Edward Burghardt Du Bois’s “Of Our Spiritual Strivings” it’s clear to understand what a hardship African Americans must have gone through during his time. Prejudice was at the forefront and Du Bois wrote about the “vast veil” he metaphorically wore that kept him shut off from much of the world. Du Bois expressed how life had been for him, being a “colored man”. He really makes you feel his pain, when Du Bois states, “How does it feel to be a problem? ”(pg 292). You can’t imagine how it must have felt to grow up thinking that just because of the color of your skin you must be a problem.
Being the year 2013 we don’t really see color as much, (I know that’s not the case with all people), however during Du Bois’s time I really can’t imagine how unbearable it must have been for the minority. Life’s not easy as a whole, and then to throw in the fact that you’re not good enough just because of the color of your skin is barbaric. We live in the land of the free, right? Why then do Americans then and now have to feel this way? Du Bois talks about how he felt less than, he really touches on his youth and how he remembered the exact moment when he realized he was less than others.
It was when a little girl refused his kind gesture just because he was different than her. He states, “Than it dawned upon me with a certain suddenness that I was different from the others. ” (pg 292) Dubois seemed upset with the slow movement of equality he states, “The Nation has not yet found peace from its sins; the freedman has not yet found in freedom his promised land” (pg 294). How horrible that if in this Land of the Free, this Great Melting Pot if you will, it’s found to be impossible for this merging of the African and American to happen.
With time, and effort on both sides, White and Black, it should be possible. However, because of history and the current situation of society, it will by no means be easy. Because of history there is a long tradition of considering people innately different because of their skin color. It is seen in the language, “acting black” or “acting white. ” By using these terms, society is perpetuating the myth that there is a certain way that a person acts, dresses, and talks, based solely on the shade of their skin. Will that every change? Back then Du Bois seemed slightly optimistic that things,
although slow are changing as he states, “And now what I have briefly sketched in large outline let me on coming pages tell again in many ways, with loving emphasis and deeper detail, that men may listen to the striving in the souls of the black folk”(pg 297). Being a minority myself growing up I never was exposed to any racism I was always part of the norm. However now that I have children of my own who are part African American I really worry more about them feeling different or “less than”. My husband is half African American and he grew up in the 1980’s when things were much more accepted than Du Bois’s time.
However he still remembers when we tried to make friends with the neighborhood kid and he wouldn’t play with him, but he played with the other kids. When he asked his friend why wont the new kid play with me his friend replied his dad won’t let him play with the “black kid”. Till this day my husband still remembers how bad those words made him feel, and I worry about what other children might ever say to my own children for being different. The world is forever changing, we now have an African American president but never the less we know there will always be ignorant people out there that will always let their stupidity get the best of them.
Du Bois felt very strongly in his rights and knew things weren’t fair the way they could and should be. But he was still able to overcome and be respected and considered the nation’s premier African American intellectuals of his time. I wonder if he would be happy with the progression the country has taken in its steps to equality. Prejudice is something that will always be around but I’m sure Du Bois would be proud to know that the “vast veil” that he once felt he had to wear could probably be forever lifted.