“The Double-Consciousness and the Veil.”

“The Double-consciousness in the African-American”

Throughout the whole reading, I was confused about why do the black people always own the double consciousness and what are the reasons that cause their consciousness doubled. In the article called “Double Consciousness and the Veil,” Du Bois gives the main concept called “double consciousness,” which refer to the individual whose identity is divided into serval aspects and the identity are more than one. Also, they have internal conflict, which influenced by the subordinated group in their society. This makes the blacks difficult to develop a sense of self. This concept based on the background of the American culture that the blacks is placed in a dilemma in American society. In addition, Du Bois believed that African Americans lived in a society that was oppressive and devalued them as equals.

As Du Bois pointed out in his article, the blacks are the “seventh son,” and they are in the world which “yields him no true self-consciousness” (Du Bois 1903:131). This represents that the black person at the social low-end and they cannot own their thinking. The blacks, also an American, feels his twoness all the time through different thoughts, souls and so on. Double consciousness emerged from the psychological conflict state due to two different cultures and worldviews between and black and the white. This sense or consciousness “always looking at one’s self through the eyes of others” (Du Bois 1903:131)
Since the whites own the mainstream culture in America, the black person is always in the passive position. This is one of the main reasons that cause the black people’s double consciousness. The blacks are exploited economically and oppressed politically by white American. This type of double consciousness forced the blacks to view themselves from the perspective of both cultures. It is difficult for them to protect their African American subculture with their overall American identity. At the same time, the African-American culture encourages equality and dignity. Hence, the black person makes the unremitting efforts to achieve racial equality. On the one hand, the black person desires to identify white culture. On the other hand, the black people want to preserve black culture, so he must separate themselves from the white culture.

Double consciousness is still a very relevant concept in our society. Many people of all cultures would like to believe that we live in a post-racial society. However, there are still some inequalities and biases among the different cultures, races, and ethnic minorities. This stereotype is still hurting and making difficult for African Americans with double consciousness. For example, the African-American in the media always been the criminals, rappers or professional athletes. This gives the blacks the limited capacity to do other things. However, in contemporary social life, double consciousness provides the construction of the blacks’ cultural identity, which means this theory gives the blacks’ self-esteem and confidence that let them fight with the unfair treatments. This culture identity also offers the blacks the role identification of the survival of the American society.

Du Bois, W.E.B. (1903). The Double-Consciousness and the Veil. In C. Lemert (Eds.), Social      Theory: The Multicultural, Global, and Classic Readings (pp.131-134). Philadelphia, PA: Westview.

Questions for discussion:
1. Do you think the phenomenon of double consciousness still exists in the African-American  in nowadays?

7 thoughts on ““The Double-Consciousness and the Veil.”

  1. Hi Yudan, thank you for your explanation of Du Bois’s double-consciousness. I definitely think that double-consciousness is definitely a relevant concept for today’s world, not just for African-Americans, but all people who are discriminated against on the boundaries of race, gender, sexuality, nationality, etc. Often, they have to negotiate between the identity of being both the “Other” and also a member of the society/community. I would go so far as to argue that all minorities experience double-consciousness by virtue of being in the out-group – their lived experiences of being a minority are distinctly different from the majority and thus a constant reminder that they are different from the rest of society yet must somehow coexist within it.

    1. Hi Alex, thanks for your comments. Yes, I totally agree with you. We should protect the cultures of different groups and respect them. Also, we should break the boundaries of race. The double consciousness still exists in our society, but the phenomenon of discrimination is getting better to the different race groups, which means our society accept them more and coexist with them.

  2. Hello Yudan,

    I appreciate you admitting your feelings of confusion regarding Du Bois’ concept of “double consciousness” and doing your best to analyze this excerpt in a way that makes sense to you. I agree with both you and Alex that double consciousness does still exist for blacks, as well as other coloured members of society. Furthermore, I assert that one of the issues that blacks face today is not only trying to preserve their culture, but also defining what that culture is. A challenge involved in this process is separating the stereotypes that whites place on blacks with regards to various aspects of life, including defining acceptable jobs for blacks as being rappers, drug dealers, and athletes. These limited occupations – and the stereotypical behaviours associated with them – should not define black culture in general. Therefore, I argue that blacks getting to define what there own culture consists of is on of the main issues involving the idea of double consciousness today.

  3. Dear Yudan,

    Thank you for your blog posting on “Double-Consciousness and the Veil” by W.E.B. Du Bois. Your argument is interesting in particular when you suggest, “the blacks, also an American, feels his twoness all the time through different thoughts, souls.” The word “twoness” is a truthful and an agreeable one in understanding W.E.B. Du Bois argument. The meaning of twoness – “this sense of a double consciousness of always looking at one’s self through the eyes of others” (Du Bois: 168). Measuring one’s consciousness in a society that looks at others with disapproval, shame, and hatred. Therefore, the question you pose is an important one, “do you think the phenomenon of double consciousness still exists in the African-American in nowadays?” As you illustrate, this sense of a psychological conflict state due to two different cultures – the whites and the blacks still is very applicable in contemporary society. The African American is repeatedly understood to be the delinquent offender and often times the first to be inculpated. Thus, in relation to W.E.B. Bois analysis of the African American it suggests to be acknowledged man must choose to bleach its soul. The African American must put its cultural history aside and embrace this so called American view. Meaning in contemporary society the African American Negro has two different views that clash with one another – on one side there is the American view and on the other side there is the Negro view. This leaves me to question – are the two actually intertwined with one another? Is the solution matter of intertwining the two together – the double-consciousness. If, as a society, we can recognize the forms of racialized social construction, why are we not also mindful of how narrow-minded we are in terms of the existing stereotypes in relation to African-Americans?

  4. Hi Yudan,

    Thank you for your post. I enjoyed it!
    I agree with you that double consciousness still exists in our society today. I think the phenomenon is getting to be not really obvious but becoming more complicated. The idea of anti discrimination is technically adopted in the modern society, but it actually hides discriminations in real life. For instance, some institutions such as university try to show how they are operating the community without any kinds of discrimination, and to show how well they maintain the diversity within the society. I think this is risky because people who have not experience discrimination may misunderstand that there is no discrimination out there and do not think about the problem seriously.

  5. Some constructive criticism for future use, no one says “the blacks” anymore. Black people, Blacks, African Americans will do just fine!

    – Sincerely,
    Not a Black person

  6. Having federal officials, whether judges, bureaucrats, or congressmen, impose a new definition of marriage on the people is an act of social engineering profoundly hostile to liberty. — Ron Paul

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