The ‘Veil’ as the device of ‘growth’ in The Souls of Black Folk

In The Souls of Black Folk (1965), W. E. B. DuBois uses the concept of ‘veil’ as a device for the clandestine growth of the black intellectual, instead of using it only as a means of separation from the white world. With immense profundity and diligence, DuBois weaves the threads of the ‘veil’ around the meticulous work towards growth, that he does for himself and suggests other black folks to do as well, owing to the unjust treatment of them at the hands of the white America of the time. He identifies the ‘difference’ quite early in time and works on it to make the ‘difference’ itself pose as better that the similarity that many black people secretly wished so much. He accepts his identity, protects it from being hurt or damaged and builds on it to make it better and more powerful than the ‘other’. He writes, “I was different from others; or like, mayhap, in heart and life and longing, but shut out from their world by a vast veil. I had thereafter no desire to tear down that veil, to creep through; I held all beyond it in common contempt, and lived above it in a region of blue sky and great wandering shadows.” (214). He decides to choose a path that leads to the ‘above’ and the ‘region of blue sky and great wandering shadows’ and not lurk under the pressures of the oppressive white system.

            He clarifies his intentions of growth when he states, “But they should not keep these prizes, I said; some, all, I would wrest from them. Just how I would do it I could never decide: by reading law, by healing the sick, by telling the wonderful tales that swam in my head, – some way.” (214). He tries to find a way out to potentially attack this oppression back, not with violence of any kind, but with the more able hands of working better. He understands that nothing but some kind of dignified work would be a viable way of fighting against the racial discrimination trying to belittle the black people in their own land. He wonders why he should be a stranger in his own house, in his own land. He understood that he belonged to America and an inevitable part at that. Hence, he resorted to ways of growth as a way to upliftment from the present situation of ‘smallness’.

Finally, DuBois finds the most powerful solution that could change the situation of the black Americans in their land, America, in ‘education’. He states, “What shall save us from national decadence? Only that saner selfishness, which education teaches, can find the rights of all in the whirl of work.” (272). Even though he calls it a selfish enterprise, yet he makes it clear that unless this kind of selfishness is adopted, there is no other proper solution to the problem they face every day in the society. He criticizes Booker T. Washington for his accommodationist approach, and rather suggests that the Black Americans should not give up their rights and lead a life of compromise belittling themselves, – something that no human being deserves.

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