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Dubois’ Thesis of the Color Line Essay

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Updated: Sep 10th, 2021

The problem of ‘the color line’, DuBois developed and explained in the work ‘The Souls of Black Folk’. In this work, DuBois underlines that as different worldviews and lifestyles collide, the inevitable demand for change in every facet of American life will increase.

Our traditional ways of doing things will no longer be adequate to deal with the diversity of the country and in the world. Racial differences and separation between races are the main problem of the 20th century, which prevents many dark nations to be equally treated by the white majority. Thesis DuBois claims that ‘the color line’ becomes the main problem for American society and the global community causing racial envy and racial inequalities.

Under ‘the color line’ DuBois implies relations between races based on their colors of skin and anthropological types. “The problem of the 20th century is the problem of the color line-the relation of the darker to the lighter races of men in Asia and Africa, in America and the islands of the seas”[i]. The problem of modern global society is the racial difference and racial hatred existed between people. DuBois underlines that the war against racism and segregation in America can be treated as the war and struggle against white supremacy and dominance. The thesis ‘the color line’ concern all black people of African decent and justification of slavery by white community.

DuBois underlines that slavery and white hegemony in the world divide the global community between oppressed and oppressors: blacks and whites. DuBois underlines that “It is usually possible to draw in nearly every Southern community a physical color-line on the map, on the one side of which whites dwell and on the other Negroes”[ii].

With the pressure to change will come clashes between competing groups as to which will have the power to make decisions that will affect how you live in this society. ‘The color line’ leaves no wiggle room for avoidance and ambiguity. It reflects a personal belief that it is impossible for any of us, those born and raised in the United States and those who have been exposed for some time to American culture, not to inherit the biases, stereotypes, and fears of our society. Both individual and institutional racism are intimately linked to culture. Euro-American culture is radicalized and enforces its cultural views by defining the reality of its citizens.

The ability to define reality is perhaps the most insidious and potent form of power. DuBois states that the racial reality of White America is a biased and bigoted one, transmitted through our educational system and the informal but powerful stream of socialization practices of families, peer groups, neighborhoods, churches, mass media, and other organizations. The education system and these other entities define your group (whites) as superior and another group (people of color) as inferior and undesirable, and then they constantly reinforce this message until it becomes reality for our citizens.

“Both sides the color-line are: the Negroes refused to believe the evidence of white witnesses or the fairness of white juries, so that the greatest deterrent to crime, the public opinion of one’s own social caste, was lost, and the criminal was looked upon as crucified rather than hanged”[iii].

The color-line imposes unpleasant or undesirable conditions on certain groups or individuals, and it deprives them of conditions necessary for psychological or physical well-being.

Under the notion of‘ second sight’, Dubois means lack of self-consciousness and low social status assigned to black people. “After the Egyptian and Indian, the Greek and Roman, the Teuton and Mongolian, the Negro is a sort of seventh son”[iv]. The ‘second sight’ reflects the racial reality of many black Americans in the community. It illustrates how misinformation fosters and perpetuates insensitivity, bias, bigotry, and harm toward groups of color: “this sense of always looking at one’s self through the eyes of others” [v].

Being a person of color is “less than” being White. For the boys to so easily come up with racial slurs indicates not only that they have learned their lessons well regarding bigotry but also that being Black is associated with inferiority. The association of inferiority is also present in the family that discourages their daughter from an interracial relationship with the biracial Vietnamese boy and by the mother’s discouraging her daughter from even playing with someone of a different race. “The second sight” is acquired when a person feels “an American, a Negro; two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings; two warring ideals in one dark body, whose dogged strength alone keeps it from being torn asunder” [vi].

Whites believe that minorities are doing better than they really are in contradiction to standards-of-living data and the social-psychological costs of discrimination experienced by persons of color. It is possible to say that everyone can develop it if he/she feels his unique origin but belong to the American community.

It is possible to reject the idea that ‘the color line’ exists in American society and influences the lives of millions of people. Much depends upon the perception and self-identification of black people themselves and their self-consciousness. Blacks think they are treated far worse than Whites and worse than other minority groups when it comes to getting equal treatment in applying for mortgages, in the media, and in job promotions. Thus, the state laws protect the black population from discrimination and oppression.

In sum, DuBois underlines that unless the society can resolve these differences peacefully through shared collaboration and allow for equal access and opportunity for all groups in society, the nation will not survive the inevitable turmoil. To speak against racial prejudice and discrimination may result in ostracism or lack of support from significant others. Those in the fraternity who might not harbor racial prejudice said nothing and even chuckled at the racial slurs being.


  • [i] DuBois, W.E.B. The Souls of Black Folk. n.d. Web.
  • [ii] ibid.
  • [iii] Ibid.
  • [iv] ibid.
  • [v] ibid.
  • [vi] ibid.


DuBois, W.E.B. . n.d. Web.

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