Double consciousness

W. E. B Du Bois’ “The Souls of Black Folk” is a powerful and engaging explication on the condition of the “American Negro. ” The article traces the problems of African American’s struggle with identity in white-based America and the seemingly impossible task to carving a unique identity and self-consciousness. It is, as he notes, “a history of this strife, – this longing to attain self- conscious manhood, to merge his double self into a better and truer self. ” Introduced in this line is the concept of a “double consciousness.

” Du Bois believes that being ‘black’ has been both a blessing and a curse since one was “born with a veil” but also “gifted with second-sight. ” The world does not award the Negro a “true self-consciousness” for his sense of self is always reflection of how others see him; a refracted image of oneself that has been dictated and distorted by others with “amused contempt and pity. ” An American Negro therefore feels a sense of duality with “two warring ideals in one dark body. ”

Yet the task to transcend that “double consciousness” and find union between two dualities is a difficult one for it is a painful journey of doubt and confusion in seeking “double aims” and “unreconciled ideals. ” The American Negro needs to speak the language of the whites and accept their culture yet not be ashamed of his own. He must yet recognise that in order for there to be an emancipated future, the American Negro needs the knowledge of the white world which was “Greek to his own flesh and blood” and for a culture he rightly belongs, “he could not articulate the message.

” Martin Luther King Jr. , arguably the most renowned of African Americans, is perhaps an apt example of the double consciousness and the struggle of the American Negro Du Bois writes of. In his desire to advance the rights of African Americans, end racial segregation and discrimination, King needed to speak the language of the white person and ironically share the ideals of liberty and freedom advanced by white Anglo-Saxon society. Yet King saw that it was necessary “in the name of this the land of their fathers’ fathers, and in the name of human opportunity. ”

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