Thomas Kohn, an influential historian of science, argued that when new information is discovered that does not neatly fit into our predetermined categories, the “data that did not fit the commonly accepted assumptions of discipline would either be discounted or explained away as long as possible,” (Kolbert 93). Only after numerous unexplainable findings, does a paradigm shift occur. Though Kolbert, in The Sixth Extinction, uses Kohn’s definition of paradigm shift to explain the acceptance of extinction, this definition relates to my understanding of Du Bois and Coates at the beginning of the year. In The Souls of Black Folk, Du Bois wrote about the struggles of African Americans after Emancipation fighting for equality within white society. Historically I understand the fight for equality, but at the beginning of the year it was hard for me to relate Du Bois to inequalities in the black community today.
Du Bois writes about the Veil, that all people of color wear. In my blog post, “The Black Population is Cloaked with the Veil,” I define the Veil as a cloak white society uses to make generalizations about the black community, a boundary that prevents the success of black men and women, and a shield that protects the black community as long as we stay in our place in society. Du Bois wrote about the first time he collided with his Veil. When a white student refused to accept his card he realized that he was different from his classmates “shut out from their world by a vast veil. I had thereafter no desire to tear down that veil, to creep through” (Du Bois 4). I knew, before this class and coming to Colgate, that being black in America was different than being white. My mom told me that that I needed to do ‘twice as good’ (Coates 90) because of the color of my skin. I was taught various spirituals from a young age, but I never knew “the meaning of its music” (Du Bois 207). Watching “Roll Jordan Roll” in the movie Twelve Years a Slave affecting me in a way I could never anticipate. The actors’ portrayed pain and hope at the same time.
I knew what it meant to be black in America, however I never felt it. Through this course, analyzing Du Boise and Coates, I am now able to understand my blackness differently. Paradigm shifts do not cause the world to change; however it changes how you and I view the world (Kolbert 94). I now view my place in society as a woman of color much differently than ever before.