The "Negro problem" is characterized by Du Bois as a "veil" that separates black and white consciousness. Black citizens necessarily develop a "double consciousness" in US society in which their own self-perceptions are at war with the way they are perceived by white society.
African Americans therefore become a problem to white citizens because these white citizens refuse to fully accept them as equal human beings, instead marginalizing them as "others." This makes it difficult for black citizens to integrate into American life and a struggle for them to develop a positive self image and strong sense of self. African Americans, Du Bois contends, live double lives, presenting one image—most often the expected image—of who they are to white citizens while living and feeling a very different way.
At the beginning of The Souls of Black Folk , Du Bois mentions being treated as a "problem" for being black. He says that in response to the implied question whites often dance around, he seldom...
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