The story from the other side, to feel what others feel and appreciate and understand what their experience is like is the first step in resolving the injustices that mar our history and continue to sicken our experiences as we move forward.
“I remember well when the shadow crept across me.
I was a little thing, away up in the hills of New England, where the dark Housatonic winds between Hoosac and Taghkanic to the sea. In a wee wooden schoolhouse, something put it into the boys’ and girls’ heads to buy gorgeous visiting-cards – ten cents a package – and exchange. The exchange was merry, till one girl, a tall newcomer, refused my card, – refused it peremptorily, with a glance.
Then it dawned upon me with a certain suddenness that I was different from the others; or like, mayhap, in heart and life and longing, but shut out from their world by a vast veil. I had thereafter no desire to tear down that veil, to creep through; I held all beyond it in common contempt, and live above it in a region of blue sky and great wandering shadows.
That sky was bluest when I could beat my mates at examination time, or beat them at a foot-race, or even beat their stingy heads. Alas, with years all this fine contempt began to fade; for the worlds I longed for, and all their dazzling opportunities, were theirs, not mine. But they should not keep these prizes, I said; some, all, I would wrest from them.
Just how I would do it I could never decide: by reading law, by healing the sick, by telling the wonderful tales that swam in my head, – someway. With other black boys the strife was not so fiercely sunny: their youth shrunk into tasteless sycophancy, or into silent hatred of the pale world about them and mocking distrust of everything white; or wasted itself in a bitter cry, Why did God make me an outcast and a stranger in mine own house? The shades of the prison-house closed round about us all: walls strait and stubborn to the whitest, but relentlessly narrow, tall, and unscalable to sons of night who must plod darkly on in resignation, or beat unavailing palms against the stone, or steadily, half hopelessly watch the streak of blue above.
After the Egyptian and Indian, the Greek and Roman, the Teuton and Mongolian, the Negro is a sort of seventh son, born with a veil, and gifted with a 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, this send of always looking at one’s self through the eyes of others, of measuring one’s soul by the tape of the world that looks on in contempt and pity.
One ever feels his two-ness, – an American, a Negro; two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings; to warring ideals in one dark body, who dogged strength alone keeps it from being torn asunder.”
– The Souls of Black Folk. W.E.B. Du Bois p.2
Women share this double-consciousness, with different actors, but the results are the same.