“Between me and the other world there is ever an unasked question: unasked by some through feelings of delicacy; by others through the difficulty of rightly framing it. All, nevertheless, flutter round it. How does it feel to be a problem?”
Everyone has problems. It is the human condition. No amount of wealth. No racial privilege. No righteousness of purpose and action leads to a life without problems. Everyone has them.
But Du Bois was pointing to something different. Not just having problems, but being a problem. How does it feel to be a problem? To have your very body and the bodies of your children to be assume to be criminal, violent, malignant.
How does it feel to be trapped on the roof of your home as the flood waters rise and be called a refugee?
How does it feel to wear the symbol of your faith and be assumed to be a terrorist threat to your own nation?
How does it feel to have the president who looks like you demanded to produce proof of his citizenship?
How does it feel to know that when you speak the language of your parents, you will be assumed to be illegal?
How does it feel to know that if you marry the person you love, some will say you are destroying the very fabric of the nation?
How does it feel to fear sending your son to the 7-Eleven for a bag of Skittles on a rainy night?
Du Bois wrote of black men,
“He simply wishes to make it possible for a man to be both a Negro and an American, without being cursed and spit upon by his fellows, without having the doors of Opportunity closed roughly in his face. This, then, is the end of his striving: to be a co-worker in the kingdom of culture, to escape both death and isolation, to husband and use his best powers and his latent genius.”
This is the dream that will guide us as we continue the struggle.