The Concept of Double-Consciousness according to W.E.B Du Bois
W.E.B Du Bois used the word double-consciousness to refer to the challenges that exist psychologically and faced by the African-Americans when trying to reconcile the idea of an African heritage with European upbringing and education (Du Bois 2000). Early African-Americans always saw Africa as their motherland, a place where they belonged, and their rightful home. To them America was a foreign land where they were brought in opposition to their will in order to be enslaved. While, in America, the Africans were not allowed to speak their language or practice any of their cultures. At the same time, they were never allowed to enjoy the same status as the Americans or have the same cultural experience. This brought a situation that was exclusively unique and only experienced by African-Americans, a sense of two-ness or double-consciousness. They viewed Africa as their home and the land of freedom due to the slavery imposed to them while in America (Du Bois 2000).
The experiences of two-ness and double-consciousness in America
According to Du Bois (2000), the two thoughts or feelings are always warring and irreconcilable, as they want to be both Africans and Americans at the same time, without facing any rejection or being looked down upon by the whites. This has been mainly due to the conduct of the society they have lived in a society that has historically reserved and devalued them, and this has made it difficult for the African-Americans toward unifying their African identity with their American identity (Du Bois 2000). The double-consciousness forces the African-Americans to view themselves as the Americans see the, looking at oneself through the eyes of others.
The perceptions and stereotypes of how the Americans view the African-Americans makes the blacks view themselves as inferior when compared to the whites (Du Bois 2000). Africans feel the pressure to act, as whites while at the same time want to express themselves as black people. An artist, for example, is under pressure to produce works that make him successful among the white community while at the same time wanting to express his black nature in his work. In this instance, he has to choose between the two aims, that is whether to go as per the white community or follow his black interests and express himself.
Do the experiences of two-ness and double-consciousness in America exist in 2014?
Today, the idea of double-consciousness is still relevant and experienced by the African-American despite the society being post-racial. There still are many inequalities faced by the African-Americans with regard to their race and skin color. The perception of the white community of the blacks has still not changed much, for example, both the media and the society associate blacks with images of athletes, rappers, and criminals. This view is imposed on many young black men by whites who see these narrow paths as the only options available for the blacks. Therefore, the white Americans continue to shape the perceptions that the black Americans have. This means that the black Americans still see themselves all the way through the eyes of others as Du Bois put it.
Does double-consciousness apply to individuals or groups who are not African-American?
According to Du Bois, the concept of double-consciousness transcends race and skin color. What’s more, other groups and individuals who are not African-Americans can experience it. Double-consciousness involves the feeling of having two conflicting perspectives that of how others see the person and that which the people see in his or herself. Homosexual people can experience this double-consciousness, for instance, the people are forced to live according to the standards of the society, and how other people view them while suppressing their own perspectives that are considered wrong in most societies.
- Du Bois, W. E. B. (2000). "Of Our Spiritual Strivings." Hayes, Floyd W. A Turbulent Voyage. San Diego: Collegiate Press.
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