The Genuine Mask

Humanity has an abundance of differing individuals, but the mask of society is seen by many as the governing body for ideas, concepts, and beliefs. In a world of changing civilization, this fast pace of ideology revolves around the accepted and rejected views of society. Is it required that you wear the mask of society, or is it even functional to have your own genuine mask when the creed of ideology isn’t in your power? Identity is characterized by your distinct perspectives, and not others.

Opposing the common notion that you have to conform to society to be functional, people do not need to wear masks in society to be efficient or even accepted. The acceptance you retain from conformity isn’t acceptance at all, but in reality it is merely you giving up your genuine identity for the sake of functionality. Activist such as Booker T. Washington and W. E. B. DuBois did not see functionality as a reason to sacrifice identity, because it isn’t a trade off, but a downgrade.

By doing so, you betray your personal identity, which is not needed since the greatest minds in the world were non-conformists, or independent thinkers that chose not to wear the mask of society. These two individuals did not let the mask of society govern their ideas, concepts, and beliefs. Their genuine mask led Negroes to the progression past injustice that would have otherwise never surfaced. In this sense, genuine would be defined as an individual who follows his or her own creed, whether it agrees or disagrees with the ideology of society. Booker T. Washington and W. E.

B. DuBois demonstrate the fulfillment of this definition in the quest for African American equality by not sacrificing their identity for the sake of functionality within society. In Booker T. Washington’s “The Atlanta Exposition Address,” and W. E. B. DuBois’s The Souls of Black Folk excerpts show that there was a common goal to attain full equality for Negroes, and it was very apparent that it could not be achieved if they were to sacrifice identity for the sake functionality. They fulfill the genuine definition by going against the creed of what was then, white society.

Therefore, this was not just about achieving equality, but it was about persevering identity, and not functionality. These two had a purpose and vision to accomplish this common goal of equality. The accepted ideology of society during that time was that Negroes were not equal to whites, and not only were they not equal, but subordinates in society. Booker T. Washington and W. E. B. DuBois represented two different sides of the spectrum with the same goal to achieve African American equality by not sacrificing identity for the sake of functionality within society.

They each followed their own creed which did not agree with the accepted ideology of society. This is the process of wearing your own genuine mask. Booker T. Washington had the more laid back approach, not laid back as in doing nothing, but continuing on the path of being a moral individual by being respectful of white men through building friendships and coming into concurrence with them which establishes a creed that disagrees with the ideology of society. This is done in his eyes by acknowledging the status they are at now, and by embracing the limitations on a positive rather than negative note.

By not reinforcing the stereotypical notions that have been placed upon them, they will slowly progress forward in the future. He said to the gentlemen of the Exposition that “as we present to you our humble effort at an exhibition of our progress, you must not expect overmuch” (1632). This presents not a less sense of urgency, but a more focused and faithfully drawn path. He believes that if African Americans elevate themselves above what is expected of them, continue to better themselves at their current positions, and build strong relationships with the white people that they will receive their due rights.

Whites will then begin to see their worth and view them as equals. He believes that an endurance of cooperation will bring about a certain harmony that will push forward the position of African Americans, or in other words he wants you to “Cast down your bucket where you are” and make use of these limitations (1631). These limitations are not walls, because we should not “permit our grievances to overshadow our opportunities” (1631). Meaning, limitations are an opportunity to show the true value that you have as an individual that others do not notice at the present time.

This endurance is not wearing the mask of society, but rather he is wearing a genuine mask of his own by making use of limitations instead of being bound to them like society proclaims. W. E. B. DuBois shared the common goal of Booker T. Washington, but did not have the same interpretation of how to reach that goal, yet they both rebuffed sacrificing their identity for the sake of functionality within society. The desired outcome for equality was the same. The fact that they have two different philosophies demonstrates yet another genuine mask, but this time it is within the Negro society.

Dubois genuine mask is a more proactive standpoint. He does not want to use the current restrictions or limitations forced upon him to move forward. Harmony is not a priority of his, and he refuses to accept that role of patiently waiting and relying faithfully on his time to come. The sooner he can achieve equality is better. More of a go-getter than Booker T. Washington, it is about what he can do now to get immediate results, and that is what ultimately separates the two as far as ideologies are concerned.

He had more of a negative tone in The Souls of Black Folk excerpts, stating that “whatever of good may have come in these years of change, the shadow of a deep disappointment rests upon the Negro people” (1732). He isn’t content with the status of the Negro people. Additionally, this articulates that the Negro people have the power to change their current status, and should through affirmative action. He was not a fan of being “shut out from their world by a vast veil” (1730). Notice that he says their world, indicating that he does not wish to form this bond with them, much less harmony.

He is not accepting his known role in society as a way to push forward. Using this role as some type of power is not his way about going to accomplish the problem. Waiting around in his eyes is not the way to success, so if you want to acquire something you must go get it. He is an activist to the full extent. Unlike Booker T. Washington, he is willing to rock the boat a little against injustice as far as causing waves between the two races. He sees these waves as healthy growth, and not going against the very thing he is trying to accomplish.

The goal in his mind is not to wait in due time for his rights, but to go fight directly opposed to injustice for his civil liberties, because he wants to acquire them as soon as possible setting up for an even better future. He understands that every day that there is a direct fight against these limitations is a step closer to equality. With that being said, what ultimately separates the two individuals is the way they go about to achieve the common goal of equality. Both of these activists wore a genuine mask not only in white society, but in the Negro society as well.

Furthermore, this proves that it is possible to have a genuine mask within society, and that one does not have to conform to society in order to be functional. It is not being functional if you are not living according to your own ideas, concepts, and beliefs. In other words, conforming is not being functional. People do not need to wear masks in society to be efficient or even accepted, because acceptance in reality only comes when you’re accepted for your identity and not the ideology that revolves around the accepted and rejected views of society.

Everything else is nothing more than a distorted view from the actual reality. Booker T. Washington sought to better the Negro race by using the limitations that were placed upon him as a positive aspect instead of a negative. He did not allow his identity to cultivate based on what was expected of him. He asserted that instead of falling into the limitations society set, the Negroes should use those limitations as a powerful tool to better themselves as individuals and rise above the injustice. W. E. B.

DuBois rejected the position that society wanted to place him in by refusing to accept his role for the sake of functionality by proactively fighting to better the Negro race. He wanted to rock the boat against injustice by refusing to consent to the creed of society, but rather following his own to help benefit the Negro race. They demonstrated the fulfillment of this genuine definition in the quest for African American equality by not giving up their ideology for society, and abiding by their own creed instead of what was placed upon them.

Activist such as Booker T. Washington and W. E. B. DuBois did not see functionality as a reason to sacrifice identity, and by doing so they elevated the prestige of Negroes. The fulfillment of this genuine definition is what leads to African Americans apprehending their equality. Their genuine mask led Negroes to a progression past injustice that would have otherwise never surfaced, and it is all because they did not wear the masks of society, but chose to be genuine individuals instead.