A situation I recall made me think of a time in my life when I was outsider and so, after reading the first few paragraphs of “The Name Negro” by Dubois, I chose to view the situation in terms of Roland A. Barton.
One day, back when I went to elementary school, that was predominately a Catholic school, there was someone in my age group that decided to write “nigga” up on a wall with chalk outside of our school gym. Teachers would ask all of us who wrote it, and no one would admit to it or even talk about it. They would try punishing us harshly and still no one admitted to it. I know I do not speak for everyone I knew back then but, personally, at that point in my life I thought it was a strange occurrence because there were only about 3 or 4 people that weren’t white in every grade from elementary school to eighth grade. I also did not understand the word fully at that age and did not understand how hateful and resentful it was towards people that were the opposite skin color. I didn’t even understand how people my age that were in the same school I was knew that word at all. Now that I do understand it, every time I hear it, it makes me feel so ashamed for how my race used to be. We should never be calling someone who is a different skin color a name because we would never want that same treatment upon us, at least I wouldn’t.
This is why I feel Roland very deeply when he writes, “The most piercing thing that hurts me in this February CRISIS, which forced me to write, was the notice that called the natives of Africa, “Negroes,” instead of calling them “Africans,” or “natives.” (Dubois). I feel deeply wounded by the fact that, today in America, we are not calling people for what they are, which is the name they are born with or collectively by the country they are from, which the biggest reason why we have racism. However, I agree more with what Dubois says later in the discussion between them.
Instead of being “Negroes,” all the world called us “Cheiropolidi,”—do you really think this would make a vast and momentous difference to you and to me? Would the Negro problem be suddenly and eternally settled? Would you be any less ashamed of being descended from a black man, or would your schoolmates feel any less superior to you? The feeling of inferiority is in you, not in any name. The name merely evokes what is already there. Exorcise the hateful complex and no name can ever make you hang your head (Dubois).
I agree strongly with what he says there because I remember when I had a friend tell me that I should be proud to be white because whites were and are the superior race in the past and now, and I would say to myself, just as Dubois says to Roland, that no race is superior to another race. It’s how you choose to be, which is a very important and powerful stance that not a lot of people thought about before Martin Luther King Jr. made this I Have A Dream speech or even now, when people have forgotten that equality is what makes America so strong.
I also love when he says:
Historically, of course, your dislike of the word Negro is easily explained: “Negroes” among your grandfathers meant black folk; “Colored” people were mulattoes. The mulattoes hated and despised the blacks and were insulted if called “Negroes.” But we are not insulted—not you and I. We are quite as proud of our black ancestors as of our white. And perhaps a little prouder. What hurts us is the mere memory that any man of Negro descent was ever so cowardly as to despise any part of his own blood (Dubois).
Dubois addresses that we should be proud of who we are, the name shouldn’t matter as much as what makes us important and proud as a contribution to a collective society full of diversity and development of what kind of person we want to be before we die. He asks the audience, “Do we want to be known as someone who was bitter about what someone else called us to be? Do we have enough pride in who we are to see ourselves as important but at the same time recognize that people of different colors, shapes, and sizes are just as important as we are?”. Those are questions I think many people struggle with who do not know or understand the value of learning about American history as well as history of other cultures, because these are what make us so developed and so emphatic to the world around us. These are what help us see that what we take into action is far more valuable than what we are called as people.