If we take a look at history and consider the influential characters that found purpose in explaining our social structures and social organizations, we are doing ourselves a favor – chasing a special type of knowledge that provides us insight into understanding and explaining these structures even today. Like many other concepts and theories that have taken hold and claimed a spot in the explanation of sociological structures and circumstances, the concept of double consciousness as defined by W.E.B. Du Bois can be studied and analyzed to gain a greater understanding of ourselves, those around us, and our general society. As defined by Du Bois, an American sociologist, historian, and civil rights activist, double consciousness is the concept that gives a definition and name to the feeling an African American as a result of being black and American. His explanation took a particular look at the sentiments felt by black Americans during and leading up to the time that he wrote his first book in 1903 titled The Souls of Black Folk. His writings took into careful and thoughtful consideration, the difficulties in identity that were being felt in the African American Community. He introduced the idea that Black people often experienced many challenges when it came down to the development a sense of self because of the trials we face and the confusion experienced as a result of being both black and American in a white supremacist society. His ideas highlight the sentiment that African Americans felt as a result of being oppressed and devalued, while living in a country that, on the contrary, encouraged equality and dignity.This contradiction, according to Du Bois, led to our inability to unify a proud African identify with an American identity in a meaningful way. If we fast forward more than one hundred years, we can still analyze this concept of double consciousness and look at how it has impacted the conscious community today. We can look at the Hebrews and see this confusion, we can look at the so-called black Natives and see this confusion, we can look at those who are enmeshed in the religious indoctrination and see this confusion, and we can look at those who practice pseudoscience and see the same confusion, all examples of failed attempts to successfully integrate one’s consciousness in a hostile society. The tension that is felt can be understood in light of Du Bois’ theory. Africans American today, like in the early 1900s, are also finding difficulty unifying these two very different identities. We instead are forced into stereotypes of the athlete, the rapper, the criminal and even in some circles we have taken on the characteristics of the oppressor, by claiming other oppressed people culture, creating fake story’s, and narratives in order to avoid the reality of being black in American.In many ways, we have lost contact with reality, our true identity, and our true purpose. Instead, we have replaced it with story’s that support our own flawed logic and low self-esteem. It seems we are content with simply “dipping it in chocolate” to satisfy the very basic human need to feel valued and accepted. As a result, we have lost our way and have forgotten those ancestors like Dubois who addressed the need to develop an African conscious and who understood its relevance and how the concept perfectly explained the dynamic and confusion that persist even today. He understood that the primary way to overcome this obstacle was through the proactive development of a congruent self. This means that, in order to create a personality that is organically unified, we have to make sure that our beliefs align with our actions creating an integrated self.
In conclusion,Though this tense dynamic persists and has the potential to persist, understanding it through the lens of Du Bois’ teachings and his idea of double consciousness can eliminate the fear, thus allowing us to focus our efforts towards building a sound community. Our efforts, during this time, should be focused on the organization and implementation of programs that facilitate awareness, understanding, and support. We can’t afford to point the finger or blame. We must take an inventory of self, our anger, our resentments, and our grief and start the process of healing. By defining double consciousness, understanding the dynamic, and becoming aware of its impact, we can slowly start to can change the paradigm to positive awareness, which will create change in our community.
Citations: Aiston, Chevette. “Double Consciousness and Du Bois: Definition and Concept.” Study.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 June 2016. Bruce, Dickson D. “W. E. B. Du Bois and the Idea of Double Consciousness.” American Literature 64.2 (1992): 299-309. Web. Gilroy, Paul. The Black Atlantic: Modernity and Double Consciousness. Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP, 1993. Print.