Is the term "within" the veil used to indicate being African American and "without" being white?Since the veil indicates a mask between African Americans & whites, the terms within &...
Is the term "within" the veil used to indicate being African American and "without" being white?
Since the veil indicates a mask between African Americans & whites, the terms within & without are a bit confusing.
In The Souls of Black Folk, W.E.B. DuBois repeatedly refers to this concept of "the veil" to describe the separation between black Americans and white Americans. Early in the book, DuBois describes a childhood experience wherein he found himself "shut out from their world by a vast veil" (44). This line reveals that DuBois, as a black child, felt that he was not allowed access to the world that his white peers experienced.
On the next page, DuBois continues, "the Negro is a sort of seventh son, born with a veil, and gifted with a second-sight in this American world" (45). This statement offers a different sense of the veil because of the word "gifted"; this implies that the "second-sight" from within the veil is a kind of advantage in some way, although, it does offer challenges, as well.
Similarly, DuBois later comments, "he saw himself,—darkly as through a veil; and yet he saw in himself some faint revelation of his power, of his mission" (49). The black individual "wears" this metaphorical veil, and he sees himself through it. This basically means that he looks at himself as through he is outside of the veil, or a white person, looking at him. This could damage his self-esteem if others feel he is inferior, but it also gives him a varied perspective that his white peers do not have. The "Veil . . . lay between him and the white world," but it makes him aware of his oppression.
Based on this book, it does not seem that DuBois thinks white Americans are aware of the extent to which they mistreat their black peers.
In my opinion, the complexity of "the veil" comes from the advantages and disadvantages that accompany this position.
You are right to point out that the veil is a mask between African Americans and white Americans. However, it is quite clear that DuBois is using "within" to refer to African Americans and is saying that the white Americans are outside the veil.
To see that this is the case, simply look at the first time that the veil is mentioned in the book. There, DuBois says
Leaving, then, the white world, I have stepped within the Veil, raising it that you may view faintly its deeper recesses...
From this, it is clear that when one is inside the veil one has left the white world. What is inside the veil is the black world. In this book, DuBois is trying to impart of white Americans what it is like to be black in the United States. He is trying to take them inside the veil so they can properly understand black people.