Double Consciousness

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“The Souls of Black Folks” investigates the concept of double consciousness. According to W.E.B. Du Bois (1903) double consciousness is looking at one’s self through the eyes of another who sees you with amused disapproval and contempt.

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The concept discusses the progress and the struggle for freedom that African American went through up until 1903. Du Bois explores the inner struggle that the African American went through in the Caucasian-dominated culture. This paper examines Du Bois theory of double consciousness within the context of how Africans American see themselves through the eyes of European Americans who saw them with contempt and disregard. The black that is the African American had no ways to describe the feeling or the pain that the American subjected them. The two different views from each thus resulted in the concept of double consciousness. Primarily, double consciousness was developed as a result of close to three centuries of slavery experienced by African Americans. They experiences al sought of prejudice from the mainstream culture. To Du Bois, the concept of the veil referred to one the dark skin of the blacks which was the real distinction of the blacks from the whites. Second, it represented the lack of the whites to see the blacks as true Americans and also the lack of the blacks to view themselves different from what the white saw them. In their lifetime the African American had their most devastating time at the time the realized they were blacks and that was a problem and this to them was a life-altering encounter. The blacks had a hard time as they had to split their inner self to fit in and they had to see themselves in the eyes of the white. To DuBois, the veil meant that the white could not see the black beyond their race and the black, on the other hand, could not see themselves beyond the “negative part” that is his color. The veil, therefore, puts more emphasis on the black who had the two-ness in them in that they were half blacks and half Americans (Du Bois, 2008.) Moreover apart from the problem of their physical appearance the blacks still did not acquire full and equal citizenship as the whites even after slavery came to an end. The African Americans still struggled to overcome their experience like political power and physical freedom. As they tried to move on the blacks had more to unfold for example they had to struggle to get the right to vote and once they acquired the right to vote they had to fight against segregated education. The African American, therefore, have to fight to acquire equality at all levels, and until then they will still have the concept of double consciousness deep in them. The deep-rooted double consciousness was a result of the inner turmoil that the African felt and this highly manifested in the hesitant of trying to attain equal status as that of the Caucasian man. Du Bois claimed that there is a deep struggle for the black Americans to be fully considered as Americans and still hold on their African heritage. They had to ever feel the twoness in them, an American and a black person, have two souls’ two thoughts and two worrying ideas and one black body. Du Bois, hoped that instead of holding on to the twoness or the different identity, one day the Americans and the African American could be able to coexist peacefully (Du Bois, 2008). He hopes that they can be considered in their identity without feeling threatened split, discriminated or cursed right on their faces. The expectation of the culture group to Du Bois was beyond the desire to thrive in a world that gave them limited opportunities. It was then that it dawned on the black Americans that their struggle was unproductive it deemed to them that they had to be themselves and not another to gain their true identity. They had to replenish their minds with new ideas from the system of slavery and racial stratification. They had to act to open the door of prosperity that had been closed and leading to the state of double consciousness. The influence of racist practice had a high degree of negativity on the black Americans and deeply extended the double consciousness in 19century. Notably, Du Bois worked towards mitigating the social injustices in the society brought about by prejudices and discrimination based on color. He believed in a vibrant culture of education and internal awareness as a way of recovering from the double consciousness and the practices of the racists. To acquire an egalitarian society, Du Bois believed that both the Americans and the Black Americans need to realize and examine their characters and success since emancipation. Self-determination and encouragement would encourage the African Americans in achieving oneness, and no longer view themselves in the concept of double consciousness.

References

Du Bois, W. E. B. (2008). The souls of black folk. Oxford University Press.

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