What is subjectivity as it relates to W.E.B. Du Bois?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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I think that subjectivity is a critical part of Du Bois's writing.  Part of what he sees as "the problem of the color line" is that the subjectivity of people of color has never been taken into account.  For Du Bois, this has contributed to race being a problem for people of color in America:  "The Negro is a sort of a seventh son, born with a veil, and gifted with second-sight in this American world,—a world which yields him no true self-consciousness, but only lets him see himself through the revelation of the other world. It is a peculiar sensation, this double-consciousness."  The imposition of race in America has created a condition in which people of color are not encouraged to embrace their own subjectivity.  

In Du Bois' work, the subjectivity of people of color is vital to understanding the condition of race in America.  It is through subjectivity that Du Bois is able to develop the idea of "double-consciousness."  Du Bois is able to affirm the role of subjectivity when he peers beneath the "veil" of consciousness. Subjectivity relates to Du Bois because he uses it to explore the impactful nature of race in America.  Subjectivity is the means through which Du Bois is able to transform the discussion of race into something more than external reality.  He uses subjectivity, in particular the subjective experience of people of color, to construct the intricate and challenging nature of race in America.

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