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Double Consciousness and Identity: Analytical Essay

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The problem of the twentieth century is the problem of the color line. This was one of the quotes by American sociologist W. E. B. Du Bois. Du Bois had many occupations: he was a professor, historian, journalist, and others. He was the first African American graduated from the integrated public high school in Great Barrington; aside from that, he was also the first African American who earned a Ph.D. from Harvard University. In his book “The Soul of Black Folks”, he charged that Washington’s strategy kept the black men down rather than freed them. He also writes about how African Americans has been living under people’s eyes for so long. As the voice of the African American community, he fights for their identity and equality. My argument for this paper is to assert the relationship between Du Bois’s double consciousness, and support double consciousness is something that will affect not only African Americans but other races as well.

Before Du Bios really emphasize on his discussion of double consciousness. He addresses two important elements that are notably crucial for his novel. He talks about the veil, “Leaving, then, the white world, I have stepped within the Veil, raising it that you may view faintly its deeper recesses, — the meaning of its religion, the passion of its human sorrow, and the struggle of its greater souls.” (p.xxxi). With greater depth, Du Bois references the veil to be a metaphor for the literal dark color of their skin and the difference from the whiteness of their surrounding society. The word “veil” implies the visible segregation between the white and the black society, however, nothing has been done and has been treated as if racist does not exist. Potentially Black Americans identify with the veil to hide the color of their skin and to be able to assimilate and operate in the racist society, in this case, to assimilate with the White Americans. The ‘Veil’, another metaphor for the color line, is that with which African-Americans would live eternally. They would constantly live with the understanding that they were different and that others would see them with disrespect. Regardless of how hard they tried, they would never be able to rid themselves of this metaphor or of this distinct difference. It can be inferred that African Americans bear an unaccountable burden in their lives without them knowing it. Du Bois is actively engaging with the audience that what a problem is can be, which leads to my second point.

The second point is a question he asks, “how does it feel like to be a problem?”. Not only does this question contain a certain racist tone, but it is extremely demeaning towards African Americans. It is troublesome to assume African Americans were considered as “problems” in society. The American Negros was not only a problem but also, according to Du Bois, a symbol of struggle as he brought up the “seventh son”. He stated, “After the Egyptian and Indian, the Greek and Roman, the Teuton and Mongolian, the Negro is a sort of the seventh son.”(p.3) This term furthermore looked down upon African Americans, as ‘Negros’ in the 19th and 20th Centuries, Du Bois realized that they held a low position within society. The struggle for Black Americans to strive for equality all seems to be pointless and in vain because of the”veil” that covers the true issue of the matter.

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With prior knowledge, it is easier to understand double consciousness. It is the idea that originally comes from Du Bois, he explains as, “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” (p.3). This quote, it is a perfect illustration of how Du Bois requires his audience to comprehend the hardship African Americans have been through, especially regard with identity. The word “soul” connects with the title of the book where he condemns the society that keeps most Black American underclass. “Contempt and pity” are words mocking African Americans as if they are not underclass enough at the beginning of the 20th century. With these contexts explained, jumping ahead of some of Du Bois book, he speaks of how he fights for African Americans to regain their identity, thing like: education right, equality rights, and even thoughts that put Black Americans in deep turmoil.

Double consciousness is such a prevalent term now even in the 21st century. As America is a country of immigrants, they are bound to have racial clashes. The book addresses the concept of domination where some people use their race to dominate others and utilize them. Such is evident in the world today, with race other than African Americans. Still, some whites are marginalizing minorities and alienating them in major aspects of the development of the American nation. For example, job interviews, Whites are easier to get jobs than Blacks with the same education level (cite)That implies that whites have not fully agreed that blacks or other races can provide much in advancement than do. Furthermore, some whites still discriminate the minorities and deny people with color immeasurable opportunities in education, social standing and in political issues. As such issues appear in society, minorities may begin to develop into a “white” thinking attitude undermining their original race and culture that depreciates their identities. On the one hand, American society today has undergone a such transformation, becoming more accepting than it was decades ago. However, identities in different races are fading, Du Bois states African Americans do not know which identity to choose from and then begin to lose themselves. While fighting for chances in school, the workplace or society, one mustn’t forget one’s true identity. Due to living in a white majority environment, everyone is being “white” washed. It is not a demeaning comment, it is the truth. When fighting for ourselves, whoever we are, the identity we belong to is crucial. Some people are still struggling with their identity and mixed cultures as was experienced by African Americans. For an equal society, everyone should be equal and not mistreat others with certain skin colors, while striving for a conscious self without wobbling between identities is what we seek for.

I myself took this class because I am a person of color. I did not think I would get this much inside from the very first lecture. I think it is only natural when I am able to connect myself with the topic. Even not as an African American. I am able to know very well the soul of every Black man in Du Bois’s book. When I was an international student in Canada, I had to go through some tough times by myself. Thinking back I was fourteen years old and I arrived in a remote Canadian high school. There were at the time, three Asian students including me, and the other two were not from my country. Studying was part of my difficulties. The worst was to be me, how to reclaim my self-identity. In short, I was being mocked of how I looked, dressed and talked, as a young student, I wanted nothing but acceptance. I spent days and nights staying mostly for a perfect accent and dressed more locally. In the end, it did win me some friends, but it was pathetic looking back now. Throughout the entire high school, I have been looking at myself through other people’s judgment, and that is what Du Bois is arguing with Black Americans. Now in college, I figured out how to walk away from the eyes of the whites and be myself.

Du Bois’s book was fascinating for me. He was able to write out the inexpressible pain and anger he was experiencing as a Black American. Not only that, he was able to conceive of a greater solution to the Black community. By incorporating double consciousness with examples for society, that is why this book is the most prominent piece of sociological American literature. In the end, as students read this book today, it might be alienated by Du Bois’s words. Although Black Americans are not haunted by the double consciousness as much as it was with those of some decades ago, it has not disappeared. People of color should realize this and incorporate and fight together for their true identity, not living in double consciousness.

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Double Consciousness and Identity: Analytical Essay. (2022, December 27). Edubirdie. Retrieved September 30, 2023, from
“Double Consciousness and Identity: Analytical Essay.” Edubirdie, 27 Dec. 2022,
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