Dubois uses the term double consciousness to describe an individual whose identity is divided into several characters. When he uses the term it comes from how African Americans viewing themselves, individually and as a group through the eyes of the society they live in. This term can apply to any group who is a “minority.” We understand the dominant groups view, your role and the relationship between the two. Whereas the dominant group can believe the world always operates under the terms in which he/she views it. A white person who looks at a black person and says you are acting white but the black person is just being himself, how are blacks supposed to act? Society has created these stereotypes that there is a certain way that different races should dress, act, talk, look, etc. In the state of double consciousness the person often compares himself to others who he feels look down at him. This is what creates the element of conflict with the black American (or any minority) and their identity as an American citizen. Double consciousness is what makes us aware of our differences from one another. Education is key to gaining consciousness; we must educate ourselves so we don’t fall as part of this double conciseness theory and start believing we are all those negative views and stereotypes labeled upon us.
In his publication, “The Souls of Black Folk,” Du Bois explores the idea of double consciousness. He describes the concept as feeling as though your identity is split into two parts, making it hard for an individual to have a single, unified identity. He discusses double consciousness in the context of race, explaining that since American Blacks have lived in a society where they are devalued, it has become so difficult for them to have a unified identity because they have learned to see themselves as “American” and separately, as “African American.”
This concept of double consciousness still applies today and goes beyond race. Immigrants are an example of a group of people who experience Du Bois’s idea of double consciousness. Immigrants who come to the US arrive from all different parts of the world and bring with them their own cultures, beliefs, languages, clothing, etc. These immigrants want to keep their cultural values and traditions but also want to identify as “American” and fit that role. The two identities are not unified and therefore the immigrant has to try and balance between the two conflicting and separate identities. Perhaps inside the house, the individual acts a certain way according to cultures from his homeland, and outside the house, that individual attempts to act in an all American way. This individual cannot possibly be who he truly is, because at the end of the day, who exactly IS he? He identifies both as an immigrant and now also separately, an American citizen. And no matter what these immigrants do to try and fit the role of “American,” most likely they will still be considered “others,” and therefore forced to live a dual life.
W.E. B. DuBois focused his work on the racial struggling within the Capitalism society. He believed that knowledge was essential in combating prejudice and achieving tolerance and justice. He thinks that sociologists needed to use scientific principles to study social problems, which can let people separate opinion from facts. He tried to change the status quo back in his days, yet he didn’t find a receptive audience within either the government or the academic world. DuBois’s most key concept is double consciousness, which refer to the division of an individual’s identity into two or more social realities. For example, the President of the United States today is African American. Yet millions of African Americans are still struggling under the prejudice and colortocracy.
Below is a part from Gayle Rubin’s book Deviation “The Traffic in Women” which I find it related to both gender and racial inequality.
“Marx once asked: “What is a Negro slave? A man of the black race. The one explanation is as good as the other. A Negro is a Negro. He only becomes a slave in certain relations. A cotton spinning jenny is a machine for spinning cotton. It becomes capital only in certain relations. Torn from these relationships it is no more capital than gold in itself is money or sugar is the price of sugar. One might paraphrase: what is a domesticated woman? A female of the species. The one explanation is as good as the other. A woman is a woman. She only becomes a domestic, a wife, a chattel, a playboy bunny, a prostitute, or a human Dictaphone in certain relations. Torn from these relationships, she is no more the helpmate of man than gold in itself is money…and so on. What, then, are these relationships by which a female becomes an oppressed woman?” (Rubin 2011)
Du Bois was a very successful scholar who was the first African American to receive a PH.D from Harvard University. Despite this very large accomplishment he had noticed that his race set him apart from his classmates. He was treated differently on the basis of his skin color and quickly became to realize that his opportunities for advancement were significantly compromised because of something he didn’t even have control over. Du Bois had a very strong concern for the education of the black community as he felt that it was their duty to advance their education in order to rid themselves of the negative stereotypes and racial discrimination they were experiencing. Du Bois describes double-consciousness in which he says that African Americans are always looking at themselves through the eyes of others because they are constantly being judged on the color of their skin rather than their own personal potential. African Americans look at themselves as Americans and then as Negros, while the white population simply looks at themselves as Americans. Du Bois’s ideas can be compared to that of Marx. Marx discusses alienation and estrangement in the work place. Although African Americans seem to be alienated in everyday life and even though much progress has been made in American culture in terms of decreasing racial inequalities I am not so sure that it will ever be completely removed.
W.E. Du Bois’ “The Soul of Black Folks” introduces the color-line. Dubois defines the color line as a multidimensional manifesting as “racialized social institution,” “symbolic status hierarchy” and “internalized attitude” In other words, the idea of blacks gaining the right to freedom of speech, rights, privacy and so forth are not all completely accepted by the community or society. Laws like the Jim Crow Law, Colonialism, slavery and many more restricted blacks from living the “normal “ life or trying to accomplish success in life. The color-line of a person makes a huge difference in the way how society/ community treat a person. For instance, In this modern era,it is statistically proven that majority of the students enrolled in a prestigious university are Asians, and whites. The population for colored or blacks are less 10% percent. This explains the question about color-line, what are the requirements for a black or a colored person to enroll in an Ivy League University or how many blacks or colored professors are there teaching? Does the universities have internalize attitude towards colored or blacks? Are these universities a racialized social institutions?
W.E. Du Bois continues to explain about the double consciousness and how an individual is affected by it. Double consciousness manifest in “the power of white stereotypes on black life and thought. Many of us have the notion in society that blacks are always perceived as being a delinquent in gangs because they live in a neighborhood that is surrounded by blacks or colored people. The idea s that people have affects the way others sees themselves and behaves themselves in society. And when that occurs, nobody wants to lend a hand to those who are looked down upon; as a result, leaving them to be influenced more by stereotypes.
Lastly, Du Bois ends it with the veil which is the stereotypes that whites bring to their interaction with the blacks, I also believe this is also a symbolic representation of the invisibility of blacks in America. Du Bois believed that “as long as one is behind the veil, the world which yields him no self-consciousness but who only lets him see himself through the revelation of the other world.” He further explains in his book that transcending the veil will help people achieve liberty and gain self-consciousness. The Concept in the veil is to expose or elucidate the “invisible” history of blacks in America. I agree with him because blacks and colored people have been and still are being ignored by the community. We often forget or refuse to accept the most important people that changed the course of history. Du Bois is trying to point out that blacks or colored people must try to succeed in life so to prove the society that they are worthy of being known. Du Bois believed that every individual whether colored or black can and must step out behind the veil and create their own self-consciousness in society.