Essay on Double-consciousness

Double-consciousness is a term that is used in social philosophy that refers to a source that is inward, and from that, we get the “twoness.” At the time it was used to describe African-Americans due to their struggles against racialized oppression as well as undervaluation in the eyes of the white-dominated society. It can be traced back to the commencement of clinical psychology way back in the nineteenth century specifically in the North Atlantic (Du Bois). It was also carried among the trends that were found in idealist philosophies that majorly dealt with the self which later found its way into the transcendentalism that included individuals such as Ralph Waldo Emerson as well as G.W.F Hegel text of Phenomenology of Spirit (Hutton 17). Furthermore, it indirectly resembles other works found in the nineteenth as well as twentieth-century predicament that consisted of Hegelian themes which included bad faith as well as false consciousness. It was first used in an 1897 article in the year 1903 in the debut of Souls of Black folk. Du Bois coined the term that was already circulating in currency.

This captures the experience that people of color had in the past as they continually had their worth being reflected back at them by the colonialists of that time. They distinguished the worthiness of a man based on color. If one did not possess the same shade of skin as them then automatically they were categorized as the unfit in both society as well as treatment (
Double-consciousness) . The innovation of the term emanated from a form of living that was experienced and ultimately commonly used to refer to “black folk” in then-social circles (Dixon 793). Double-consciousness was then dropped entirely just after two brief uses from any of his published writings. Even though they ceased to be used in his vocabulary the words had left their mark. They were then subjected into a number of different interpretations that still led back to the segregation of blacks within the society.

According to Hutton, the experience of being colored was first felt when slave trade was introduced in the African continent. Droves of men, women, and children were transported in the famous trans-Atlantic trade in which they were auctioned in various states such as Virginia to provide labor (29). That was the beginning of Africans as well as people of color realizing that their skin had become a disadvantage to them though they were human just like their white counterparts(
Double-consciousness ). This does not start or end with the blacks as the Native American Indians were also ousted from their lands and were restricted to their conservancies and to describe them the term Red-American Indians was used to differentiate their skin tone from the rest of the Caucasian whites.

Dubois lived in a world where people of color were subjected to being treated less in the society due to their origin as well as descendants having come from the dark continent they were branded savages and as such similar treatment was accorded to them (Du Bois). Racism is literary curved into the marrow of the nation as the same land that was taken from the Native Americans was tilled by enslaved people from the origin of Africa and to the Mexicans of today who are associated with cheap labor (Johnson 16). After that, incidences did not stop there as laws were also put in place to control the people who could cast their vote, residential areas that were demarcated for different races, the type of schools that they could attend as well as vocational preferences were also stipulated. The past 40 years have not seen much change from the past occurrences as it does not only include blacks but other individuals of color who are also included(
Double-consciousness ).

The descriptions stated above are not only statistics but represents systems that exist within the society or principles that dictate how things are done including the present times. What it does is that it fuels feelings that are associated with prejudice as well as discrimination. The results that come from that is the reinforcement of stereotypes. The persons that belong to that marginalized group then become targets (Dixon 795). They then become victims as they begin to start to notice that they are treated differently from the rest and a divide then forms gets wider and wider as time continues(
Double-consciousness ). When this happens it seeks to solidify the existence of segregation over thousands of years that make up the history of the United States. The most current form of it resides in restaurants that have a policy to not serve black customers or if they do they are given lower priority over their white counterparts (Johnson 22). This has also extended to some private educational institutions who do not admit black children in their schools.

The recent presidential campaigns which saw Donald Trump emerge the winner were filled with many questionable statements that targeted a number of ethnic groups. Proof can be found in a quote that was published in July 6 2015 whereby the Business Insider   had a story which quoted the presidential aspirant uttering:” the Mexican Government is forcing their most unwanted people into the United States.” He continued saying those bad elements were making their way into the United States from Latin as well as South America with others also coming from the Middle East due to their lack of protection(Kowalski). Trump also proposed that they limit the entry of Muslims as well as commence the deportation of millions of foreign individuals that had already settled in the United States(

Such comments that are made in the public by people who are considered to be of higher authority act as a mirror that helps people of mixed descent recognize just where they rank as well as the racist attitudes that still linger unseen but present. Such public attitudes as well as laws that are in support of racism can affect how an individual views himself or herself.  This also extends to stereotypes that are meant to take on a positive outlook but can be the cause of pain and trauma are also looped into this category. For instance, a stereotype that claims that black women are considered to be naturally strong(
Double-consciousness). The translation of this is that they are capable of coping well with problems but what substantial evidence backs the claim to be always true? A study was conducted to measure this and colored women were asked if the statement held any truth. Those who claimed that it was true were also found to be having symptoms that were similar to those of depression that was triggered by stress as compared to women who did not agree with that view. (
Double-consciousness) A follow up to the same study revealed several reasons one being that due to this statement women considered not to seek help if they thought that they were expected to be strong (Smelser et al 261). It brought about the pressure for them to become perfect and that by admitting to feeling weak they might deem themselves failures if they do not live up to the expectation.

This is not limited to people who are at the receiving end of racism as people who exist outside the target group can also be affected by it(
Double-consciousness) . The category involves those who take part in racist acts as they overtime develop a disturbing view of their self-worth (Franklin 1127). Ultimately, this double-consciousness lead them to disappointment which progresses to failure be it in school, relationships as well as job opportunities. People who also believe that racism is right can gradually feel ashamed, guilty as well as embarrassed when they witness others acting in a similar manner.

The saddest part in all of this is that in the present it also affects the children in the community. Incidences recorded by the Southern Poverty Law Centre reached a staggering total of eight hundred and sixty-seven which made up of hate incidents that happened during the U.S election of 2016(Double-consciousness) . Out of this six hundred and forty-eight were recorded to have been as a result of segregation and racism. The younger generation was not left out as more than two hundred of those cases were reported to have materialized from educational institutions. Additionally, another one hundred and fifty came from tertiary institutions such as colleges and universities.  That forms a total of three incidents out of eight cases. Examples of cases linked to the above data can be found in Silver Spring where somebody used spray paint to write the message ‘kill’ which was aimed at the blacks in the school bathroom(Double-consciousness) . During that time in North Bend, students heckled an eleven-year-old girl encouraging her to return to Mexico despite the fact that she did not have her origins from there but was a born American who had Colombian descent (Hall et al 82). In Michigan, eighth-grade students locked arms in an attempt to block a seventh-grade fellow student from accessing her locker. The students were heard shouting slogans that were associated with Trump’s plan of building the Mexican wall as well as others that encouraged citizens to “make America great again”, urging her to go back to Mexico (Kowalski). Due to the incident the girl felt petrified to attend school the following day.

Another report conducted by the Southern Poverty Law Centre provides the results attained through a survey of approximately ten thousand teachers as well as other educators who taught at elementary institutions as well as high schools(
Double-consciousness) . Out of the ten thousand, it was found that two thousand five hundred gave an account of specific occurrences that are categorized as bigotry as well as hate incidents (Smelser et al 253). The final results indicated that there was an uptick in the number of hate incidents. Nine out of ten of the respondents reported witnessing heightened anxiety that came from students who came from specific ethnic groups.

The above illustrates how Americans of color see themselves through the eyes of others as well as the actions that emanate from under evaluation that is spread by the white majority(Double-consciousness) . As much as racism is considered to be a thing of the past it has taken a new shape and form that fuels its existence to date.         

Works Cited


“An Overview of the African-American Experience.” Constitutional Rights Foundation,

Dixon, Kwame. “Racial Discrimination and Human Rights in the Global Context: The International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination.” Sociology Compass, vol. 4, no. 9, Jan. 2010, pp. 789–799., doi:10.1111/j.1751-9020.2010.00315.x.

Franklin, Anderson J. “Review of The Color Complex: The Politics of Skin Color Among African Americans.” PsycCRITIQUES, vol. 38, no. 10, 1993, pp. 1127–1127., doi:10.1037/032724.

Hall, Ronald E. “Latino-Americans: Skin Color and Mixed-Race People.” An Historical Analysis of Skin Color Discrimination in America, 2009, pp. 71–90., doi:10.1007/978-1-4419-5505-0_6.

Hutton, Bill. A History of America. Coach House Books, 1996.

Johnson, Walter. “The Slave Trader, the White Slave, and the Politics of Racial Determination in the 1850s.” The Journal of American History, vol. 87, no. 1, 2000, pp. 13–38., doi:10.2307/2567914.

Kowalski, Kathiann. “Racism Hurts.” Science News for Students, 23 Mar. 2018,

“Slave Hiring and Free Blacks.” A History of Blacks in Kentucky, pp. 101–117., doi:10.2307/j.ctt1w76tk3.11.

Smelser, Neil J. Ed., et al. America Becoming: Racial Trends and Their Consequences. Volume I. National Academy Press, 2001.

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