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Web Du Bois' Theory of Dual Consciousness and Racial Inequality

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The racial inequality gaps have been on the rise in the United States. There is income inequality in the country as white people receive higher incomes compared to black people. According to white households make about $76,057 per household and black families make about $45,438. This means that education in America does not provide the same economic return for the people of color as it might for other groups. People of color are also more vulnerable to unemployment when they do not get higher education or skilled work. People of color receive lower-quality health care compared to their white counterparts. The rate of imprisonment is also higher among black Americans than Hispanic and white Americans. There is an increasing gap in accessing healthcare and education. The racial inequality in the criminal justice system is evident from the recent fatal shootings of black and Latino Americans (Costigan, Garnett, & Troiano, 2020).

The recent killing of George Floyd in May 2020 exposed persistent racial inequalities in every aspect of American life. Floyd was killed in May in Minneapolis while he was under police custody. There has been a rise in police brutality in recent years, in 2013, Trayvon Martin, an unarmed African American teenager was killed in Florida. In 2014, Eric Garner was also brutally murdered in Staten Island in New York while he was unarmed, in the same year, Michael Brown was also killed. These shootings of young unarmed men by the police led to the formation of the Black Lives Matter Movement that started as a hashtag on tweeter. The movement began after George Zimmerman was acquitted for the murder of Trayvon Martin in 2013. The movement's objective was to fight the racial inequality and injustices happening in the country (Garrett).

Black lives Matter aims at ending the racial oppression in the United States. There is a disproportionate rate of fatal police encounters among African Americans. The police who use excessive force are rarely charged or convicted. The high rate of property and violent crimes among people of color has mainly been caused by the current conditions of socioeconomic inequality in the country. The criminal justice system has been racially biased as people of color are seen as potential criminals than white people. If you observe at the traffic stops, black and Hispanic drivers are more likely to be pulled over for investigative reasons than white people (System, 2015). Black people in the United States have been stereotyped as criminals and are often required to explain their presence at a particular place. Black communities in the United States are facing racial discrimination and are less likely to access good schools and high paying jobs. The racial disparities in the United States have been caused by the discriminatory and dehumanizing laws and policies that have created and increased inequalities in almost every sphere of life.

W.E.B Du Bois was a social theorist and extensively examined race and the race problem. In this paper, we focus mainly on the theory of Double Consciousness that was developed mainly in ‘Souls of Black Folk’ of 1903 and ‘Dusk of Dawn’ of 1940. Du Bois uses this concept to describe the subjectively lived and felt experiences of the Negro problem. Du Bois looked at the social problems faced by the American Negroes. One of the main negro problems that Du Bois mainly focuses on is racial prejudice. Dubois highlights some of the social problems faced by the Negroes in Philadelphia. He stated that the blacks were paid low for undesirable work. They also lived in quarters that were not good like those of the white people. Dubois sets out the social consequences of prejudice and also discrimination. There were severe social structural conditions that led African Americans to face so many problems.

Du Bois emphasizes that the biggest problem faced by the Negroes was racial discrimination which he referred to as 'the problem of Color Line' in the theory of double consciousness. The theory of double consciousness critically analyzes the self within a racialized society. Du Bois's three elements of double consciousness include the veil, twoness, and second sight. Du Bois asserts that what separates races is the problem of the color line. Du Bois addresses the subjective dimensions of color and also race as a symbol and experimental reality. Du Bois describes how the color line affected the daily lives of the Negro people. The Negro people face color prejudice when it came to employment and accessing social amenities.

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Du Bois describes how racialization affects the Self, he claims that the color line makes the self to be formed in different processes among racializing and racialized groups. He further looks at the effects of a lack of recognition among the racialized subjects. In his book, ‘the Souls of the Black Folk’ Du Bois describes Black American's experience with racialization in his first essay ' Of Our Spiritual Strivings.' The three elements of double consciousness are highlighted in the essay. The color line is what separates races. The self-formation lived experiences and the perception of the world for both the racialized and racializing subjects is structured by the veil. The racialized subject becomes indiscernible to the person racializing. The position of the racialized cannot be taken by the racializing subject. The whites gauge their constructions of the blacks onto the veil. In the process of self-formation, the Black subjects have to process the projections of the whites on to the veil. When n it comes to the second element of double consciousness; twoness means that the racialized subject takes the position of two worlds during self-formation. The first being the black world that the racialized subject has constructed intersubjectively behind the veil. The second world is the one that brutalizes them by not acknowledging them (Brown & Itzigsohn, 2015).

According to Du Bois, twoness means the feeling of being both an American and a Negro. The self-formation is influenced by the position they take in the back and white world. The racialized community is often in a constant tension of being oppressed by the veil. ‘The Dawn and the Dusk’ also deploy the theory of double consciousness as he gives a reflection of his life by developing a very influential analysis of how people understood and behaved during his lifetime. In the Dusk, the white world does not pay attention to the people behind the veil no matter how eloquent, sincere, or clear they may be. The people behind the veil are excluded from the dominant world of the whites.

The second sight is the potential of the racialized to see behind the veil. In ‘The Souls of Black Folk’, Du Bois gives an illustration of the experience of living behind the veil as a world that does not produce a person's true self-consciousness. The veil has two effects, the first is that it creates a barrier that prevents the white and the black world from recognizing each other. The veil also makes the black person fail to identify his or her self. In this case, the blacks have no option but to view themselves through the eyes of the whites as reflected on the veil. Later, DuBois became an activist of civil rights and established the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) to his advocacy of group self-organization (Brown & Itzigsohn, 2015).


Du Bois's theory of double consciousness describes how race is divided by the color line which is shown in the racial inequalities experienced in the United States by people of color. People of color have been negatively affected by racial bias, they face challenges of getting jobs, accessing healthcare and education. There has been an increase in racial injustices in the criminal justice system that has been seen in the killings of unarmed black men by white officers. In recent years, cases of police brutality have been on the rise whereas the police involved in these killings are rarely convicted. The criminal justice system has been highly in contact with people of color than white people. According to double consciousness, the white people have their constructions about the black people on the veil. This is reflected in American society as white people have their perceptions and attitudes about black people. The criminal justice system has always viewed people of color as criminals. Black people in America have to give explanations as to why they are present at a certain place, unlike the white people who have the freedom of movement.


The theory of double consciousness posits that as long as there is racialization, the racialized and racializing subject cannot communicate on equal terms. That is why racism has caused negative effects on the people of color in the United States. Throughout history, black people have fought for equal treatment to be free from racial prejudice. During the early decades of the twentieth century, Du Bois started the Civil Rights Movement to fight against racial injustices that the Negro people faced. The movement focused on campaigning for civil rights, equal educational opportunities, and equal voting rights. Today, the Black Lives Matter movement's goal has been to fight racism and change the structures and systems in American society that oppress black people.


  1. Brown, K., & Itzigsohn. (2015). Sociology and the Theory of Double Consciousness. Retrieved December 3, 2020, from
  2. Costigan, A., Garnett, K., & Troiano, E. (2020, September 30). The Impact of Structural Racism on Black Americans. Retrieved December 3, 2020, from
  3. Garrett, C. (n.d.). The Early History of the Black Lives Matter Movement, and the Implications Thereof. Retrieved December 3, 2020, from
  4. The system, B. L. (2015). Retrieved December 3, 2020, from
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Web Du Bois’ Theory of Dual Consciousness and Racial Inequality. (2022, September 01). Edubirdie. Retrieved December 9, 2023, from
“Web Du Bois’ Theory of Dual Consciousness and Racial Inequality.” Edubirdie, 01 Sept. 2022,
Web Du Bois’ Theory of Dual Consciousness and Racial Inequality. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 9 Dec. 2023].
Web Du Bois’ Theory of Dual Consciousness and Racial Inequality [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Sept 01 [cited 2023 Dec 9]. Available from:
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