Consider DuBois's concept of the "contradiction of double aims." How does this contradiction distort African- Americans' strengths into apparent weaknesses?”

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I think that DuBois' idea of the "contradiction of double aims" is vitally important to the argument he wishes to advance.  On one hand, DuBois makes it clear that people of color have embedded into their understanding the desire to escape "White contempt."  In this mode, the primary motivation is to do what is asked and to not engage in any sort of dissent that would strive for greater power.  It is in this mode that DuBois argues African- Americans did not advocate for stronger learning, greater political empowerment, or a sense of autonomy over their identity.  Rather, they sought to do what was asked out of them, which enabled them to take to positions in society that lacked any real sense of power or economic control:

to plough and nail and dig for a poverty-stricken horde—could only result in making him a poor craftsman, for he had but half a heart in either cause.

The aspiration, perhaps the curse, of a "contradiction of double aims" has profound impact on how the supposed strength of African- Americans turned out to be a weakness.  The perceived strength of compliance and embrace of adhering to normative conduct ended up disempowering people of color, making them a force easy to subjugate and creating an established underclass of people that lacked any substantive notions of power and economic control over their own lives.  It is in this where a strength of social assimilation quickly became into weakness from DuBois' perspective.

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The Souls of Black Folk

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