Apply Dunbar's dual message to 21 st century americans? Does it successfully or unsuccessfully reflect the 21st century?

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I certainly think that there is much of Dunbar's poem that applies to the 21st Century.  Certainly, he was articulating a position that spoke of how race and ethnicity play a formative role in one's identity.  That is to say that the poem speaks to how Black Americans must "wear the mask" in order to hope to be accepted into White social orders.  This has changed to a great extent.  Yet, there is still much in way of truth of how "the mask" must be donned.  While there is a more open attitude from a social perspective towards people of color, there still is a crisis of representation in the positions of economic and social power where this establishment has not really changed in terms of composition and ensuring that all are given adequate opportunity.  This might be a realm where "the mask" must still be donned, and therefore could represent an area where Dunbar's poem is still relevant.  Additionally, the idea of "wearing the mask" could have a broader message of concealment and an inability to be forthcoming and open about individual consciousness.  This is a timeless issue that has as much applicability in the modern setting where individuals can use different means of technology and social networking to "wear a mask" of their own, creating their own persona as opposed to removing the mask and embracing what is present.

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We Wear the Mask

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