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to what extent do you think that Du Bois's concept of the double consciousness still...

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cdeeneedham | (Level 1) Valedictorian

Posted January 29, 2014 at 6:51 PM via web

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to what extent do you think that Du Bois's concept of the double consciousness still applies to the experiences of African Americans today?  How can this be used to contrast African Americans who are extremely poor and live in segregated neighborhoods with the experiences of African Americans who have professional occupations and live in intergrated neighborhoods?

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted January 29, 2014 at 7:56 PM (Answer #1)

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This is a question whose response will contain both fact and opinion, it seems, since it asks of the student "What do you think?" There is, certainly, truth in DuBois's statement that African-Americans have “the sense of looking at one’s self through the eyes of others” (351), and, judging from comments by such celebrities as Oprah Winfrey, Spike Lee, and others, there are those who yet feel this way today. Nowadays, however, the reasons for this double-consciousness have, in some instances, been altered. For, it would be logical to conclude that in the time of DuBois, blacks were perceived as simply inferior to whites; however, in contemporary society, the perception is more complex. For instance, in the United States, there is now a president who is black, so the perception of "inferior" definitely does not apply since it was the white women's vote which turned the election of 2008 and, therefore, the "double-consciousness" cannot be so categorically defined. Conversely, there was a "double-consciousness" with an altered lens in some voters who felt that "a black man deserved a chance" and, thus, lent the candidate an advantage over others. Ironically, perhaps, this "double-consciousness" of which DuBois spoke is apparently felt by the president himself, who has made editorial remarks on certain incidents (Harvard professor's arrest and the Travon Martin case) and has recently said that his decline in favorability in the polls resulted in part from the negativity of some of the citizens, who "do not like me because I am black."

Since this "double-consciousness" exists at different levels in different parts of the America, it is also difficult to make conclusive statements about it in contemporary society. There are, indeed, white people in the U.S. who look through a veil of resentment for Affirmative Action appointments; so, in that respect, the "double-consciousness" is equally as negative as DuBois felt it was. Opportunities for housing, also, are sometimes cause for resentment as residents of a particular neighborhood look through the veil of what they perceive as a type of favoritism with loans, etc. not afforded them because they are not minorities.  On the other hand, the "double-consciousness" of residents of housing projects and low socio-economic neighborhoods would seem to have more to do with the crime rate than any other issue. In conclusion, despite the changing of the type and duality of the "veil," though, "double-consciousness" seems to yet be a part of society in America.

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