Du bois - Peter Licalzi 10/8/07 American Lit How does Du...

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Peter Licalzi 10/8/07 American Lit How does Du Bois suggest that individuals are trapped by their racial identity, and how does he suggest that they might they transcend their racial identity? According to W. E. B. Du Bois, African Americans struggled to conquer their racial identity although they were granted their freedom after the Civil War. Social and political progress was hindered due to the way they were perceived by their own race as well as the white race that dominated the nation. In an attempt to rise above this problem they were cursed with, Du Bois gave the African Americans a program to follow to achieve the ultimate goal of assimilation that would enable them to transcend the racial identity they were born with. In doing so, he also compared his ideals with that of another great African American activist, Booker T. Washington. When Du Bois was a young kid, when kids’ innocent minds should be uncorrupted by racism, he experienced a life-changing occurrence that made him realize he was indeed an anomaly and a “problem.” Because of his racial identity, his harmless visiting card was rejected by a girl who noticed he was different and “shut out from [her] world by a vast veil.” (896) Beating his classmates in tests and in athletic competitions brought immediate satisfaction, but in the long run failed to appease his yearning for equality. He needed to do more to change this problem. Du Bois did not appreciate being considered a “problem” in society (Baym 896) and longed for a world in which people did not even notice color. Because someone possessed darker skin, they were habitually viewed as a problem to society; hence they were trapped by their racial identity. He wanted to assimilate into white America and not be a “problem” or even an anomaly. The process Page | 1
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was sensitive and required a lot of time and dedication from the African American race as well as the cooperation of a majority of the white race. It was hard to live in a society where an African American had to put half of their heart into making a living and the other half worrying about the social problem. This prevented the social and civil advancement of the African American society and prolonged the “problem.” But in order to make progress, “to attain his place in the world, he must be himself, and not another.” (899) Du Bois does not disrespect America because he believed that the African American society could learn a lot from American culture. In order to transcend racial identity, African Americans should not fully adopt the white
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This note was uploaded on 04/28/2008 for the course ENGL 2304 taught by Professor Soto during the Spring '07 term at Trinity U.

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Du bois - Peter Licalzi 10/8/07 American Lit How does Du...

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