In high school, my family and I moved to an upper middle-class neighborhood in Fountain Valley where some of my neighbors automatically saw me differently since most of the neighborhood is white . They looked at me like they had never seen a Mexican-American teenager and somewhat shocked seeing me living in the neighborhood. In my mind, I automatically made assumption what they could've said such as “How in the hell they came here ?” or “They must've came from Santa Ana”. Living there for the first six months we've made friends with some of our neighbors and some still look at us foregin. In the excerpt “Of Our Spiritual Strivings” W.E.B Du Bois defines double-consciousness seeing yourself through the eyes of others. In the autobiographical text “No Es Suficiente” Fernandez recounted many life experiences growing up Mexican-American where she constantly discussed the stereotypes and expectations whites are accustomed too. Although there are differences in the experiences of Du Bois and Fernandez, the concept of double-consciousness connects to both authors, who describe having conflicting identities, due to being constantly stereotyped, depicted wrongly by others, and given certain expectations in society.
In the excerpt from “Of Our Spiritual Strivings” W.E.B Du Bois defines double-consciousness as where interaction with whites affected his identity in society by the division colored people faced. Du Bois explains his definition: ”Double-consciousness, this sense of always looking at one’s self through the eyes of others, of measuring one’s soul by the tape of a world that looks on in amused contempt and pity.”(4). His definition gives an insight on seeing the division between him and the other individuals who visualize him differently. Double-consciousness gave Du Bois a view on how living in America being a black man treated as an inferior being is not justified as he is an American. That is to say, Du Bois concluded that he has a conflicting identity since he’s depicted as an inferior colored man living in America. This experience allowed Du Bois to know that he was being deprived of being an American based on his skin color.
Du Bois defined double-consciousness involving seeing yourself through the eyes of others , he gives an example where he first experienced double-consciousness and how he developed the definition. Du Bois explains his interaction:“Till one girl, a newcomer, refused my card,-refused it peremptorily, with a glance. Then it dawned upon me with a certain suddenness that I was different from the others; or like, mayhap, in heart and life and longing, but shut out from their world by a vast veil.”(4). Du Bois notably described his interactions with a little white girl which was hesitant to exchange cards with him which he struggles to understand why he is experiencing this. He begins to make sense of the interactions with her, where Du Bois concludes that he is not like the others since the color of his skin is different and is seen as inferior. To that end he recognized that there are social barriers that divide colored people and whites , where they shall not interact.
After analyzing the autobiographical text “No Es Suficiente” Fernández recounted many life experiences growing up as a Mexican-American where double-consciousness is showcased with the stereotypes and expectations whites are accustomed to in modern day society. With this in mind, Fernandez family saw it vital that learning english was a priority living in America since it was an expectation from white people. Fernandez explains her reasoning: “I understood the privilege that comes with sounding white...People trust you...White people trust you.”(266). With learning and understanding english is considered a privilege as “sounding white” it made you trustworthy around whites. Aside from not knowing english you are considered not “trusted” and seen as an unworthy being in society. With Fernandez being involved in the film industry, she discussed that it was a racially profile environment where many white directors had certain expectations for certain individuals. Fernandez explains an event where her friend was racially profiled: “I know several of my African American friends have been told in auditions that they need to “black it up” or be “blacker” as if this white casting director even knows what “being black” means.”(270). Fernandez describes the situation as if white people know everything with the belief of “superiority” and have certain expectations for minority groups. In addition, double-consciousness is implemented as there is judgement placed on minorities and expecting them to show place common stereotypes to obtain a certain view. Significantly, Fernandez experiences helped her see how whites generalized many ethnicity groups by stereotyping them and depicting them wrongfully.
With Fernandez experiencing racial discrimination in modern day America, her incidents throughout her life create simialrities and differences to Du Bois’s views of double-consiousness with the wrongful depictions and sense of inferiority in society . Fernandez fundamentally shows Du Bois’s general description of double-consciousness where racism is the main view point. Fernandez share an experience of hers in the film industry: “When a white person suggests something be “more Mexican” or “more Latino,” I often ask them to show me what they mean,’cause odds are it’s odds are it’s stereotypical as hell.”(271). Fernandez explains that white directors like to depict Latinos a certain way which involves inferiority to show society their personal view of them. However to Du Bois view on the concept it differs by the oppressors saying to the victim unconsciously, but Fernandez experienced it purposely. Fernandez did not have a say in how Mexicans can be depicted or what roles she can be. It connects with Du Bois in the category by how a certain group create conflicting identities towards other groups to make them look inferior or degraded in society.
In addition to experiencing double-consciousness, Fernandez experience with double-consciousness differs based on being discriminated by her last name and her cultural background to Du bois’s color of skin. Fernandez explains education experience: “Everyone assumed I was Mexican...my ethnicity was always bubbled in on my standardized test, while others kids got to select what they identified as.”(269). Fernandez addresses the issue as a child when taking exams she was automatically identified as Mexican-American and was stripped from her freedom to choose whatever pleased to select. This example demonstrates the same meaning of Du Bois's view where he discussed how he was stripped of the freedom of being identified a African-American, but seen as just an inferior colored man. It compares to Du Bois by him experiencing double-consciousness based on the color of his skin where many interacted differently because of it. Significantly, Du Bois’s and Fernandez’s experiences with double-consciousness created unwanted conflicting identities which portrayed them as inferior beings in society.
With the analysis of Du Bois’s and Fernandez’s articles on social disparity, the academic research written by scholars Lawrie Balfour and Samir Dayal showcase their academic view of double-consciousness. The article “A MOST DISAGREEABLE MIRROR”: Race Consciousness as Double-Consciousness” Balfour describes the inequality African-Americans faced in society and the racial hierarchy that whites are the superior race. Balfour’s article showcases the argument where political identity and racial identity were common issues for African-Americans as felt “excluded from the full enjoyment of American democratic promises”(346). The article “Diaspora and Double Consciousness” Dayal explains the concept of diaspora and double-consciousness on immigration. Dayal debates about multiculturalism and transnationalism on migrancy creating “the state-centrist model of allegiance to the host vs. the home country”(46).
Although double-consciousness having different forms throughout time, the general concept of double-consciousness implies having conflicting identities, due to being constantly stereotyped, depicted wrongly by others, and given certain expectations in society. In modern day society, the meaning of double-consciousness has developed into many media outlets where wrongful depictions have set a given standard for minority groups. To this end, when I first moved to Fountain Valley, the looks given to me could’ve been based on wrongful media depictions of Mexicans.
- Balfour, Lawrie. “‘A Most Disagreeable Mirror’: Race Consciousness as Double Consciousness.” Political Theory, vol. 26, no. 3, 1998, pp. 346–369. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/191839.
- Dayal, Samir. “Diaspora and Double Consciousness.” The Journal of the Midwest Modern Language Association, vol. 29, no. 1, 1996, pp. 46–62. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/1315257.
- Du Bois, W.E.B. The Souls of Black Folk. Project Gutenberg. 29 Jan 2008 www.gutenberg.org/files/408/408-h/408-h.htm.
- Fernandez, Dani. “No Es Suficiente.” The Good Immigrant Limited, 1st ed., Edited by Nikesh Shukla and Chimene Suleyman, Hachette Book Group, 2019. pp. 266–275.