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Double Consciousness In Black Culture

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Cultural Studies
Wordcount: 1855 words Published: 27th Apr 2017

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In his book The Souls of the Black Folk, WEB Du Bois is considering the situations the Africans, who were American citizens after the American Revolution war faced. These where people who were slaves afore time and had become American citizens after being freed from slavery by Abraham Lincoln. The whites looked down upon these black Americans, who were African Americans. They also mistreated and despised these African Americans. The whites considered themselves superior than the blacks and believed that nothing good could come out of these black Americans. The whites considered the black Americans poor and chaotic. They denied the African Americans the opportunity to access basic requirements like education, health care and running businesses. Through this treatment, the African Americans found themselves in a state of confusion. They looked at themselves through the eyes of other people (Du Bois, 12) and considered themselves inferior to the whites. They believed that they were Americans and, at the same time, their color and discrimination made them believe that they were Africans. These Negros never wanted to give up any of the two statuses because they believed it had some good to offer, a situation that put them in the state of “double consciousness” (pg 13). They therefore held on to their African culture and at the same time wanted to embrace the American culture and lifestyle.

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Double consciousness is a situation where one is convinced of who he or she is and at the same time believes to be what other people thinks he or she is. “… 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 twoness,” (Du Bois, 12). Such people hold on to the two personalities thus trying to live like two souls competing for one body. In Du Bois’ account, the concept of double consciousness was aggravated by the white’s stereotypes which made the Negros (the African Americans) to doubt the truth they had about themselves, racism that made black Americans to be segregated from the American community and the understanding that the Negros were both African and American.

The Afro-American strove to attain self-consciousness and change his double consciousness to a satisfactory truer self (Du Bois, 13). Even though the African Americans desired a better self, they were not ready to change any of the two natures to suit the other. They had to make use of their formerly dispersed, wasted and forgotten mind in order to get out of the problem they were facing. As a result, the African Americans formed a movement that helped them to revolutionalize America and the world and enable them to participate fully in the development of their country. The African Americans employed their skills such as poetry, literature, plays, concerts and music to express what they felt and how they wanted the whites to treat them. They came together and formed an alliance where they used plays and music to discourage stereotypes and discrimination. They formed an alliance and named it the Harlem Renaissance. This alliance grew and became popular among the African Americans. World War 1 and the social and cultural changes in the United States accelerated the growth and popularity of the alliance during the start of the 20th century. The Harlem renaissance brought democratic reform to the American people. However, the Renaissance ended abruptly due to the great depression and their assumptions about the importance of culture that did not related to the social and economic realities.

The African Americans sought better standards of living in other parts of the United States of America. They migrated from the southern farmlands to the northern industrial and town areas. At first, the African Americans received some level of acceptance by the whites and they lived with them in the Northern cities. They established their businesses and started growing in their economic status. Despite this, the whites still looked down upon the blacks and controlled most aspects of their lives like in markets and the economy at large. The blacks found a better life in the neighborhood for some time. This led to a higher influx of the Whites from the south leading to their increase in population. The population of poor blacks in the region increased, as most of them were jobless and from poor background. This situation led to increase in social evils as some became thugs, formed groups of thugs, and disturbed the peace of the people in those areas.

Du Bois uses the veil as a metaphor through out his work. In his book, Du Bois stated that the “Negro is a sort of seventh son, born with a veil” (Pg 12). A veil is like an opaque curtain that separates different groups of people. It makes people to be ignorant of what is taking place in the other group because they cannot see it. The veil makes things obscure and acts as a mask preventing the whites from seeing what is of importance in the whites. It covers, hides and conceals the blacks who are born “in the veil” making them invisible to the American whites. Du Bois indicates that the veil makes the experience of the African Americans invisible to the whites. In a sense, he wants to lift up the veil for us to see and understand what is taking place inside the veil.

The veil that separated the whites and blacks was color. This veil followed the people throughout their lives from birth to death. This means that the veil of color separated the way the backs and whites treated each other in all aspects of their lives with the blacks being discriminated in social life, political life, in hospitals, churches, schools, streets, jails and even in graveyards (Allen Jr. Pg 2). Color separates people in the United States making them live as different communities in one region. This causes harm to the inhabitants and destroys democracy. The African Americans feel alienated but at the same time feel themselves as worth people with their own culture and traditions. This thought gives the blacks a dual perception, which Du Bois referred to as “double consciousness”.

Du Bois suggested that the African Americans have an important identity valuable and profitable to all the inhabitants of America. The current conditions in which they thrive prevent this identity from developing or becoming fully and exploited. Through their various cultures, the white Americans put blocks and divisions on the black Americans.

Du bois’ philosophy has been useful in development of American political theories. It has also influenced many people in the tradition of Africana theory. It has been important in development of the race theory through his argument that race has some real meaning even though it is difficult to define that meaning.

The book addresses the concept of domination where some people use their race to dominate others and exploit them. Such is evident in the world today. Still the whites are marginalizing the blacks and alienating them in major aspects of development of the American nation and the world at large. The whites have not fully agreed that the blacks can provide much in development than they can do. The whites still discriminate the blacks and deny them good opportunities in education, social standing and in political issues. As a result, the double consciousness still exists in the blacks to some degree. The blacks, however are struggling to overcome this and have been seen contending with the whites in the social, economic and political aspects.

The American political theory today has undergone transformation, becoming better than it was decades ago. Science and social science philosophies have helped broaden the intellectual horizons thus improving the prospects of the political theory. This has helped reconcile the conflicting philosophies and traditions of the African Americans and the White Americans (Held, Pg 14). The transformation has also enabled the common citizens to track and participate in the formulation of the political theories and policies. The policies have largely accommodated the African Americans and allowed them to participate actively in the political activities of the American Nation. The new political theory has reviewed the aspects of sovereignty, democracy and justice to all people (Held, 16).

Despite all the transformations and struggles the African Americans have made to avoid racism and discrimination, it is notable that this still exists up to now. According to Brown N. Kimberly (2010), Du Bois’ desire was to see double consciousness eradicated (Brown, 31). Double consciousness still exists but it is no longer an urgent objective. Discrimination and racism still exist, although it is at a lesser degree than it was during the time of Du Bois. Some people are still struggling with their identity and mixed cultures as was experienced by the African Americans. Political instability and social injustices experienced by the people aggravate this problem. Economic disparities and differences in social standing makes some people look down upon others and make them to develop to some degree the double consciousness problem.

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The political status of the Backs in the American nation has undergone major transformations. Today, the black Americans have a share in political posts in different ranks. This shows that the whites have accepted the contribution of the African Americans and their social standing, intellect and role they play in society. The African Americans of today are not be haunted by the double consciousness as much as it were with those of some decades ago. The new political theory has changed much in terms of policy on how all people aught to treat others. As a result, the African Americans have equal opportunity with the whites in access of all services needed by them. Even though this is the case, there are still some stereotypes. Some of the people still feel superior and thus mistreat others because of their color, race and ethnicity.

The whites need to recognize the struggles of the black Americans and recognize them fully as human and treat them with the respect they deserve. They should recognize them as part of them and fully incorporate them in all development plans and activities. The whites need the intellect, resources and power of the African Americans in running the activities of their nation corporately.

Cited work

Allen Jr. Ernest (1992): Ever Feeling One’s twoness: “Double Ideas” and “Double Consciousness” In the Souls of Black Folk, Contributing in Black Studies: Vol. 9, Article 5

Held David: Political Theory today, Stamford University Pres, 1991

Brown, N. Kimberly, Writing the Black revolutionary Diva. Indiana University press, 2010

Du Bois, W. E. B. The Souls of Black Folk, Forgotten books,2008


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