.. wo sections of his main theory were his outlook on organizations, and the way he grouped politics. The best way to understand Du Bois theories is to look at his two main attributes. The Philadelphia Negro, written in 1899, and The Souls of Black Folk, written later in 1903. These two writings show how Du Bois thought of society in terms of race. At the turn of the last century, W.E.B.
Du Bois walked the streets and alleys of lower Center City, looking for answers to the Negro problem. He came to Philadelphia in 1896 believing the world was thinking wrong about race because it did not know the truth about the lives of African Americans. What he found was a city within a city. 40,000 African Americans living with more than a million whites, but isolated by race, housing patterns, job discrimination and history. They were, in Du Bois’ words, badly fed, insufficiently clothed and ill housed.(Odom, Philadelphia Story).
His findings were published 100 years ago as The Philadelphia Negro, a very detailed research and study of African American life. For the first time, the Negro problem was cast as society’s problem. The Philadelphia Negro was, one of the first works to combine the use of urban ethnography, social history and descriptive details.(Lewis, Biography of a Race). His book was the first American social study of black life to look past stereotypes. He focused on family, housing, mortality, poverty, social development and community life, and illustrated his findings with maps and table.
Du Bois had to support the reformers’ view that African Americans represented a societal threat, while uncovering its real causes, including poverty and limited job opportunities. Part of what comes through is Du Bois’ struggle with his own elitism. He was critical of households led by single mothers, even though his own father had abandoned his mother. Du Bois introduced the notion that African Americans struggle with a two-ness to be black and American, separated from whites by a vast veil. In The Philadelphia Negro he sometimes writes with disdain of blacks who do not have his advantages. He defines for the first time a caste system in African American life.
Classifying people by grades, he labels them the criminals, the poor, the laborers and the well to do(Cavell, A Biography in Four Voices). The Philadelphia Negro is actually two books. One supporting the reformers’ concerns, and another containing a radical subtext. Throughout the book Du Bois delivers interesting critiques of African Americans, then follows with complaints about social oppression, inadequate schools, and unjust imprisonments and job discrimination. Du Bois also addresses the personal dynamics of race relations. He said that if an African American meets a lifelong white friend on the street, he is in a dilemma; if he does not greet the friend he is considered impolite; if he does greet the friend he is liable to be ignored.
When presented with The Philadelphia Negro, reformers looked at it, but did absolutely nothing about it. The book was praised in scholarly journals, but reviewers overlooked Du Bois’ broad critique of the unjust treatment of blacks. W.E.B. Du Bois’s Souls of Black Folk, a collection of autobiographical and historical essays contains many themes. There is the theme of souls and their attainment of consciousness, the theme of double consciousness and the comparison of black life and culture; but one of the most striking themes is that of the veil.
The veil provides a link between the fourteen seemingly unconnected essays that make up The Souls of Black Folk. Mentioned at least once in most of the fourteen essays it means that, the Negro is a sort of seventh son, born with a veil, and gifted with second sight in this American world, -a world with yields him no true self-consciousness, but only lets him see himself 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.(Du Bois, His Day in Marching On). The veil is a metaphor for the separation and unseen life of blacks and their existence in America. Du Bois’s veil metaphor, In those somber forests of his striving his own soul rose before him, and he saw himself, -darkly as though through a veil(Du Bois, His Day in Marching On) is a allusion to Saint Paul’s line in Isaiah 25:7, And he will destroy in this mountain the face of the covering cast over all people, and the veil that is spread over all nations.(KJV, Holy Bible). Saint Paul’s use of the veil in Isaiah and later in Second Corinthians is similar to Du Bois’ use of the metaphor of the veil.
Both writers claim that as long as one is wrapped in the veil their attempts to gain self-consciousness will fail because they will always see the image of themselves reflect back to them by others. Du Bois applies this by claiming that as long as on is behind the veil only lets him see himself through the revelation of the other world. He does not claim that transcending the veil will lead to a better understanding of the lord but like Saint Paul he finds that only through transcending the veil can people achieve liberty and gain self-consciousness. The veil metaphor is symbolic of the invisibility of blacks in America. Du Bois says that Blacks in America are a forgotten people, after the Egyptian and Indian, the Greek and Roman, the Teuton and Mongolian, the Negro is a sort of seventh son, born with a veil.(Du Bois, The Souls of Black Folk).
The invisibility of Black existence in America is one of the reasons why Du Bois writes The Souls of Black Folk in order to elucidate the invisible history and strivings of Black Americans. Du Bois in each of the his chapters tries to manifest the strivings of Black existence from that of the reconstruction period to the black spirituals and the stories of rural black children that he tried to educate. Du Bois emphasize the predictive power of sociology regarding the racial conflicts that continue to plague are species and urges the autonomy of the black community.(Collins & Makowsky, The Discovery of Society). Affirmative action programs promote equal representation of minority groups in the American workplace and public schools. It seeks to remedy the effects of discrimination of specific groups through the force of laws and regulations. In practice, affirmative action can be a passive effort or an aggressive approach to correct historic patterns of racial discrimination. Unfortunately, through the years, affirmative action has changed from equal opportunity for everyone to preferential treatment of minority groups.
The original concept involved only passive efforts such as encouraging institutions to make deliberate attempts to include minorities in employment and in college enrollment. In recent years, affirmative action has become an aggressive effort that requires and measures minority representation. As a result, affirmative action has produced undesirable problems in the American culture. The term affirmative action was first used in 1961 by President John F. Kennedy.
In 1954, the Brown decision [Brown v. Board of Education] required racial desegregation in schools and other public places. The Brown decision led to the enactment of the Civil Rights Act, soon supplemented by the Voting Rights Act and the Fair Housing Act. This was the beginning of public awareness to the racial discrimination issue. Many blacks today still feel the effects of racial discrimination.
Affirmative action was created to give blacks equal educational and employment opportunities. It has helped many black people attend institutions of higher education and obtain better job opportunities, but it has failed to reach the goal of alleviating racial discrimination. Racial discrimination is prevalent in the hiring practices used by businesses in America. Today, the best qualified applicant applying for a job will not necessarily be the applicant that is hired. All public, private or non-profit businesses with more than 15 employees must comply with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has the authority to prosecute any business for discrimination if the percentage of minorities hired is much lower than the percentage of minorities applying. Supporters of affirmative action insist that blacks are trainable even if they are not the best qualified candidate. In some situations in which blacks are severely underrepresented, meeting a numerical goal may require selecting a specific number of blacks that are only basically qualified to do the job. Opponents of affirmative action argue that blacks who get the jobs do not get them on their own merit but obtain them because of the color of their skin. If W.E.B. Du Bois were here today, it is almost without a doubt that he would be right in the middle of this.
He may not agree with the way the affirmative action program is going, but he would surely be on the side that is puching for black rights. The way things are going though, and with the things we have gathered from Du Bois pat, it would be easy to imagine that he would come up with another plan that would benefit minorities, but also make the hard worker, or the one with the most skills the chance to succeed. Bibliography 1. Cavell, Colin S. Video. A Biography in Four Voices.
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Du Bois, W.E.B. The Soul of Black Folk. New York: Bantam Co. 1903. 5.
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