Using findings from the thorough research of W.E.B Du Bois and Frantz Fanon, I’d like to discuss an important problem relevant to today and how CU Boulder will benefit from understanding the term double consciousness.
White supremacy, a familiar term that I’m sure every one of us has heard, is withheld in our racially dominant white campus. This short term is the simplest explanation as to why we live in a unilateral society, unilateral referring to one perspective.
Unilateral double consciousness is the problem today, where most racially white individuals do not understand their own perspective and how others perceive it.
Du Bois brings into conversation the idea that there is a veil at which the African American populous cannot be themselves while living in America. This veil means two things: the actual racial difference between being black and white, and the identities at which the black populous hides and also must live in.
This brings us to our term double consciousness. In Du Bois’ book “The Souls of Black Folk”, he defines the term 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. One ever feels his twoness, — an American, a Negro; two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings; two warring ideals in one dark body, whose dogged strength alone keeps it from being torn asunder.”
What this means is that the sense of superiority among the racially white is the key identity in our society today. To be African American is to have your African identity and your American identity, but the two cannot coexist.
But I’d like to focus this issue at hand on the diversity brought to CU Boulder and how it affects the students.
This brings us to further discussion of unilateral double consciousness and its effect.
Unilateral double consciousness is the relation between a white individual and a person of color, where only the person of color feels misrepresented with their identity. This is primarily because the people of color see both their own perspective and the white individual’s perspective.
As these kinds of relations continue, we continually see only people of color living both their perspectives and the racially white. And as we see it, being white is a dominant identity, and in most cases, no white individual gives second thought to being racially white.
This is a problem.
Imagine a small scenario about racial slurs. If a white individual were to bring into conversation a racial slur as a joke to a colored individual, we mostly see only the colored individual’s response.
Why? Simply due to the fact that the colored individual has been identified by the racial slur and by his white peer. But, the white individual is not identified and rather, the white individual identifies only the colored individual and not her or himself.
It’s no question that the colored populous may feel inferior and misrepresented on an entirely different scale.
According to Fanon, it is the white populous’ automatic response that makes today a unilateral conversation. Just as if I were to say, “I am not racist. My intention is not to be racist and to treat everyone accordingly, as it should be done.”
While it should be thought of this way, there is still a very big key factor the white populous tend to miss. This is what brings us to our new term, multilateral double consciousness.
This is the relation to which both the white populous and the colored populous see the perspectives of each other.
The missing key factor is that the white populous, as stated previously, tend not to notice their racial significance. Due to this claim, there is usually never the thought of seeking the colored populous’ perspective.
Going back to our racial slur example, imagine a different scenario at which the white peer gives thought as to how they identify others with the racial slur. This would allow the individual to identify their perspective and eventually come to terms with the perspective of their colored peer.
Engaging in conversation is also a helpful tool in the effort to understand each others’ perspective.
Now, let’s wind back a little and overlook this case in a simpler matter.
I’ve developed a theory in relation to double consciousness that I find useful to provide a further understanding of what it is we’re digging into.
Imagine a gate to which there is a white individual on one side and a person of color on the other. This particular gate has a lock on each side. To open this gate, the two individuals must unlock it simultaneously.
This simultaneous effort to open the gate would be considered our multilateral double consciousness: when both individuals understand each others’ perspectives.
If one were to look at their side of the gate and conclude that the gate is locked on their side, they would be seeing their perspective. Now, if this individual were to ask what is on the other individual’s side, they would eventually reach the perspective of that individual.
If this is making sense, you should come to the conclusion that this relationship cannot work without the cooperation and coming together of different perspectives.
So, in any case, what is the difference between this gate theory and how we can interact and communicate with those racially different from ourselves on campus?
The answer is absolute. Take notice of how we interact with others and what messages we give them. But most importantly, try to realize how those messages are received. Perceptions can change our cultural values.
With this in mind, I encourage you to watch a recent study conducted on racial prejudice — its content relates to what perspectives we tend to favor over others even today.
Contact CU Independent Staff Writer David Jarvis at firstname.lastname@example.org.