Web Du Bois and Double Consciousness Essay

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W.E.B. Du Bois: Double-Consciousness
Ashanti Johnson
Lestine Shedrick
October 18, 2011

W.E.B. Du Bois (1968-1963) was a huge contributor to sociology through the eyes and experience of an African-American scholar (Vissing, 2011). Du Bois was an author, activist and student of Black sociology. In his 1897 article, Strivings of the Negro People”, Du Bois introduced the term “double-consciousness”, a concept I believe to be just as relevant in today’s African-American communities. Double consciousness refers to what Du Bois considered an absence of “true self consciousness” (Du Bois, 1897) amongst Africans in America. In place of that absence, lies a dual awareness- awareness of one’s self combined with an awareness
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The continued commercial inclusion of African-American images, language and music, does not eliminate double-consciousness- it may, in fact, magnify it. The stereotypes and images of Black people in America have evolved since Du Bois coined his term in 1897, but even the ever-changing understanding of Black culture leaves most African-Americans trapped in a conflict of who they are versus who they are believed to be in the eyes of America. On one hand, Africans are credited with inventing many genres of sound, dance, art and athletic styles. Although there are many groundbreaking contributions in math, medicine and science, Africans are not “popular” for these attributes. Because of this, many African-American parents keep their children from concentrating on such areas of strength as dance, music or sports in order to keep them away from a stereotypical field of study. Double-consciousness will have a talented athlete fore-go a sports career so that they are not considered “just another ball player”.
When we think of Black Americans being excluded from mainstream American society, we consider the generations leading to the civil rights movement. Today, our President is an African-American, so surely this issue is no longer relevant. Racism cannot flourish in contemporary America, right? According to Merriam Webster’s Dictionary, racism is “a belief that some races are by nature superior to others” and the “discrimination based on such beliefs” (Webster,
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