Du Bois is one of the first black
African American sociologists to discuss the issue of race being a problem; he
is an extremely prolific, influential and relevant being in terms of his work,
he laid down the foundation to be able to discuss the issue of race on a macro
scale and so openly (Moses, 1939, pg.11). Du Bois’s work inspired many e.g. Gilroy,
Martin Luther King, Hooks, amongst others. He coined the term black consciousness,
and wrote heavily on the colour line, however race wasn’t the only issue he discussed,
he also discussed education and folk culture.


Du Bois has numerous works published
which highlight the issue of racism, his work is still relevant today in many
ways. ‘The souls of black folk’ introduces the idea of double consciousness;
the meaning to this being that it describes the awareness of having more than
one social identity, it is when a black person has two different identities,
one being a black negro the other being an American citizen, they are aware
that they are not African-American but African and American; ‘An American, a
Negro; two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings'(Du Bois, 1903,
pg.34 ). He recognises how double consciousness creates a split identify, it
creates tension because being aware allows one to see through the veil that
white dominations try to conceal; ‘Why did God make me an outcast and a stranger
in mine own house?'(Du Bois, 1903, pg.34) this quote illustrates how being
black felt in America at the time, but it can still be applied to today, the
pain and tension the quote illustrates is very much relevant to how black people
in America are still battling the veil they’re put under. For example, police brutality
against black American citizens is ongoing because black people are still seen
as the inferior race; ‘Throughout history, the powers of single black men flash
here and there like falling stars, and die sometimes before the world has rightly
gauged their brightness'(Du Bois, 1903, pg.34), this quote relates to both the injustice
of violence against black men and those who are aware of their double consciousness
and through this emancipate themselves from the white men through education still
do not have a fair chance i.e. the assassination of Martin Luther king. Education
went alongside double consciousness for Du bois.


Du Bois argues that in order for
black people to truly experience the right personhood education is key,
learning and in taking knowledge is something he sees as highly beneficial,
this being because once a black person is educated they’re able to free themselves
from the white race because they are liberated. Although Du Bois recognised
that ‘With other black boys the strife was not so fiercely sunny’ (Du bois,
1903, pg.34) this meaning that although he was motivated, he wanted education, he
wanted to be free others did not see it the same way as he did, instead they settled
for the life they were given. This too is relevant in the twenty first century as
Mary Fuller’s study on black girls and education illustrates; she found that
black girls in her study had liberate themselves with education, they freed themselves
from the white superiority as they saw school as a means to education and didn’t
allow the labelling or stereotypes define them whereas black boys were more
accustomed to feeding into the labels and stereotypes. (Deem, 2012, ch.4)


‘The problem of the twenty first
century is the colour line’ Du bois argued, this being because the colour line
is an intersection of racism and classism, Du Bois believed that it’s hard to
be black but it’s even harder to be black and poor (Du Bois, 1903, pg.39 ). He
argued having wealth wasn’t any more helpful because once a black man is educated
thought self-realization of being enslaved they go back to being enslaved only
through wealth as they’re intoxicated with greed and luxury to fill the void;
‘to be free is condemned to be free'(Sartre, 1943 ch.4) this related heavily to
the wealth struggle as it helps explain the consequences that come from
accepting double consciousness and life through the veil. In addition, due to
this, Du Bois noted that slavery hasn’t ended; a new post-modern era didn’t erase
slavery instead it created a new form of enslavement, although it created the
dawn of freedom elements of slavery were still there (Du Bois, 1903, pg.112-114).
He illustrated this in his work of how hard the south tried to keep slavery
instilled in society; they introduced a ballot system and unfair laws that
entrapped black people into debt over land and mortgages; their emancipation was
exploited unfairly as Du bois stated ‘That to leave the Negro helpless and
without a ballot-to-day is to leave him, not to the guidance of the best, but
rather to the exploitation and debauchment of the worst’ (Du Bois, 1903, pg.113).
In literal terms slavery, still hasn’t ended; Libya is a prime example. Furthermore,
Paul Gilroy a contemporary of Du Bois too argued that a new black middle class
was developing, one that indulged in wealth and saw wealth as a main priority instead
of politics; Gilroy argued that the never-ending racism and new forms of
enslavement eroded black people’s self-worth and hope and created a culture of consumerism.
(Gilroy, 2010, ch.1, pg.409)


The colour line also relates to mixing
of races and the intersectional racism that occurs it; Du bois discusses
bastardy and the mixing of two generations through adultery and prostitution.
He mentions how this brings in more racism, more prejudice, more ignorant
thoughts, it allows white people to systematically rule racism through
differentiation of dark-light skin colours (Du Bois, 1903, pg.37). Du Bois introducing
the notion of race being systemically controlled through differentiation of
skin colour opened eyes i.e. Jay Z’s song ‘The story of OJ’ helps to explain
the notion of how controlling racism through skin colour has convinced the
black man that a light-skinned man is better because of his white privilege; Gilroy
argued that the master slave relationship was used to colonise the west and introduce
civilisation through white supremacist terror.(Gilroy,1993 ch.4)


Gilroy’s work stemmed from Du
Bois, his influence related heavily to the folk culture/hip hop music culture.
Gilroy focuses on how hip-hop culture doesn’t illustrate a pure identity instead
it shows the cultural mixing. Du Bois briefly studied music and its culture to
black people; he experienced and described slave songs and the terrible but passionate
feelings it created. ‘a Pythinian madness, a demonic possession, that lent terrible
reality to song and word'(Du Bois, 1999, pg.204). He argued that the slave
songs were the music of a negro religion and were created through the culture
of slavery; Gilroy argued that the slave music was seen as ‘a paradigm for the
future’ it gave black people a place to stand in the musical and cultural aspect;
slaves used music as an outcry, a form of expression which black people are
still doing.(Abreu, 2015).


Du Bois ideas are still relevant today
and still have an impact on society but his work had some major gaps; according
to Bell Hooks she argued that Du bois looked at the problem between race and
class but what he failed to recognise and include is the feminism movement and
how there was segregation there too. Hooks was able to identify in her work ‘Ain’t
I a woman’ that feminism was a female movement but there was a segregation because
of colour; white women deemed themselves to be fighting for equal rights for
women but dismissed the inclusion of black women in the notion of equal rights;
at a movement in Akron, Ohio this was displayed when a white woman yelled for
the black women not to be allowed to speak (Hooks, 2014, pg.214). In fact,
there was no sense of unity, it completely contradicted the movement and fight
for equal rights. Hooks saw black feminism as more dominant, her illustration
of Sojourners truth illustrates this ‘unlike most white rights women advocates
Sojourner Truth could refer to her own personal life experience as evidence… to
be work equal of man’ (Hooks 2014, pg.215). Cooper was one of the first female black
activist as Hooks points out in her work, Cooper discussed the assigned sex
roles and questioned masculinity; she argued that masculinity doesn’t make a man
different from women we just have to understand why men behave the way they do,
and she argued that it was education, they were liberated In their position and
that women too should escape their assigned role and participate in education;
this view can be seen in heavy relation to Du Bois and his ideas of educating
the youth(Hooks, 2014, pg.255-256).


In conclusion, Du bois is
considered a highly relevant and influential being; his work influenced the
likes of many that weren’t mentioned for example Rebekah, also his work lives on
vicariously through many people who don’t even realise. Those who protest for
black lives matter, black people who try to educate themselves to emancipation are
influenced by Du Bois unknowingly. His work helped to shape a path for black
people today; his critique of how sociologists treated black people also helped
change sociology and the ethics of research for example Baartman and Benga.


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