The anatomy of double consciousness

By Shivute Kaapanda [Think-Tank Africa]

It was around 1903 when W.E.B. Du Bois coined the term “double consciousness” in his revelations that describe the quintessential black experience by African-American communities living in America who were thought to have lived a double conscious life with double thoughts, double duties and double social classes.

Double consciousness is a psychological conflict or challenge of self which causes the psycho-social divisions in societies around the world. Double consciousness is a sense of dualistic social perception, a sense of twoness: two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings, two conflicting ideals in one human body.

It’s this twoness of perception which generates internal conflict experiences in us and poses a psychological challenge of reconciling an African heritage with the European upbringing and education.

Describing the black communities in America, in his book titled “The Souls of Black Folks” published in 1903 Du Bois pointed out that double consciousness is a peculiar sensation through the eyes of others, that of being a negro and the other of being a world citizen without being cursed and being spit on.

In the contemporary literature, the understanding of double consciousness is hipped in racism and apartheid colonialism.

While double consciousness is still a result of Eurocentrism and Americanism wherein the African images of Gods are projected as caricatures in museums and art galleries as a depiction of African man-made gods while in the church the use of pictorial metaphors of the king Jesus Christ continues to retain a holy status.

This then leaves African people, especially the blacks, to either choose between their original culture and traditional practices of religious worship or to pray to the new Eurocentric gods or both; and this choice creates an inward conflict of self on Africans creating a platform for double consciousness.

The contemporary understanding of double consciousness in Africa is cultivated via modernity and the so-called civilizations in African naming systems such that Africans are carrying two or more different names; mostly cultural names and Christian names.

Cultural names are strictly African whereas Christian names are strictly of European origin; this twoness of being is what is called double consciousness, two names, two cultures, two religions, and two personalities in one African mind.

Double consciousness is an identity crisis experience; it involves looking at you through the eyes of self and that of the colonists; the balance of twoness which sees the combination of both coffee and traditional brews in the villages.

Double consciousness is a twofold popular belief pattern of consciousness in the ideas that one have to be socially content with in order to live a true humanity with two parallel identities over a thing.

It’s simply explained by the belief that one has to love what they believe in but at the same time also love what the oppressors believe; it’s a very long stream of human consciousness in a binary fashion that is to be understood in the context of slavery and apartheid oppression.

Double consciousness has caused a serious social damage in the minds of the colonized species to the extent that the colonized species can no longer trust their own consciousness.

The colonized species have to make the balance of the two gods, two cultures, two names; their conscience is linked to that of their oppressors, there is too much slavery in their consciousness for they are the children of the lesser God.