Double consciousness

Double consciousness

Double consciousness, in its contemporary sense, is a term coined by W. E. B. Du Bois. The term is used to describe an individual whose identity is divided into several facets. Du Bois saw double consciousness as a useful theoretical model for understanding the psycho-social divisions existing in the American society.

Contents

Origin

The term originated from an 1897 Atlantic Monthly article of Du Bois's titled "Strivings of the Negro People." It was later republished and slightly edited under the title "Of Our Spiritual Strivings" in his book, The Souls of Black Folk. This was a concept developed by the American sociologist and intellectual W. E. B. Du Bois to describe the felt contradiction between social values and daily struggle faced by blacks in the United States. Being black, Du Bois argued, meant being deprived of a “true self‐consciousness”. Blacks often perceived themselves through the generalized contempt of white America. Being a black as well as an American raised contradictions between American social ideals, which blacks shared.

Du Bois referred 'double consciousness as "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 sense of always looking at one's self through the eyes of others, of measuring one's soul by the tape of a world that looks on in amused contempt and pity. One ever feels his two-ness,--an American, a Negro; two warring souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings; two warring ideals in one dark body, whose dogged strength alone keeps it from being torn asunder" [1]

This "two-ness" of being African and as well as American leads to psycho-social tensions in which individuals or groups are forced into identifying themselves into two social worlds and viewing themselves as insider and outsider refers to their split consciousness and disadvantageous social position. Having such consciousness can harm the psyche of these black people as this dual existence is damaging to their sense of morality. "Double consciousnesses,” according to Du Bois, means a “sense of always looking at one’s self through the eyes of others.”[2] Du Bois views the history of the American Negro is the history of this strife,—this longing to attain self-conscious manhood, to merge his double self into a better and truer self.

Content

Du Bois explained: “The history of the American Negro is the history of this strife — this longing to attain self-conscious manhood, to merge his double self into a better and truer self. In this merging he wishes neither of the older selves to be lost. He does not wish to Africanize America, for America has too much to teach the world and Africa. He wouldn't bleach his Negro blood in a flood of white Americanism, for he knows that Negro blood has a message for the world. 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.” [1]

The concept of Du Boisian "double consciousness" has three manifestations. First, the power of white stereotypes on black life and thought (being forced into a context of misrepresentation of one's own people while also having the knowledge of reflexive truth). Second, the racism that excluded black Americans from the mainstream of society, being American or not American. Finally, and most significantly, the internal conflict between being African and American simultaneously....

Double consciousness is an awareness of one's self as well as an awareness of how others perceive that person. The danger of double consciousness resides in conforming and/or changing one's identity to that of how others perceive the person.

Racism and Double Consciousness

Du Bois saw double consciousness as a useful theoretical model for understanding the psycho-social divisions existing in the American society. He has asserted that these conflicts often occurred at both individual and group levels. Du Bois saw the prevalence of racism and figured out that sometimes peoples were themselves responsible of their mistreatment by others. He called that having a double consciousness. "It is a peculiar sensation, this double-consciousness, this sense of always looking at one-self through the eyes of others, of measuring one's soul by the tape of a world that looks on in amused contempt and pity." [1] This double consciousness lets the person see themselves through the revelation of the other world. Their behavior is influenced by what the other people think and is distorted through others’ negative image of their race. This leads to low self-esteem because of the racism. Du Bois saw the color line as a scale that divides the people and because of this distinction, people are prejudiced and stereotyped.

See also

References

  1. ^ a b c Du Bois, W. E. B. The Souls of Black Folk. New York, Avenel, NJ: Gramercy Books; 1994
  2. ^ Edles, Laura Desfor, and Scott Appelrouth. Sociological Theory in the Classical Era: Text and Readings. Thousand Oaks, CA: Pine Forge Press, 2005

External links

  • [1] Ernest Allen Jr.'s On the Reading of Riddles: Rethinking DuBoisian Double Consciousness from Existence in Black
  • [2] PBS The Two Nations of Black America with Henry Louis Gates
  • [3] E. Franklin Frazier's Black Bourgeoisie
  • [4] Mary Pattillo-McCoy's Black Picket Fences
  • [5] Ellis Cose's Rage of a Privileged Class
  • [6] Lawrence Otis Graham's Our Kind of People
  • [7] Cora Daniel's Black Power Inc

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