The feeling of not fitting in society is common for many people, especially those of different ethnic backgrounds. Often the dominant culture tends to press on individuals of different races. Racial identity, from others’ perspectives, can be devastating and cruel. Du Bois (2016) defined this phenomenon as “double consciousness,” which, in its nature, is quite similar to racism. Overall, double consciousness is the notion experienced by minority cultures where they do not fit in.
To begin with, this concept is not necessarily verbal but is usually expressed by society with facial expressions or emotions. Du Bois (2016) argued that such a treatment of minority cultures leads to social rejection and feelings of loneliness. In other words, the minority looks at oneself through the eyes of the majority, trying to reconcile social roles and personal identity (Du Bois, 2016). As a result, both minority and majority cultures prescribe an identity to an individual, which results in, as Du Bois (2016) called it, “two-ness” or double consciousness. People of minority feel in between two cultures not quite fitting to any of them.
What is more, this phenomenon is widespread in the U.S. because of the high number of multiracial citizens. Many American citizens come from mixed families and, thus, are part of two different cultures. Naturally, many white Americans may assume that an Asian American stranger they see on the streets is just a tourist and not a person who was actually born in the states. This is how many white people think when they see people of different colors and instantly assume their place of birth, culture, and citizenship. This is, in fact, a clear example of double consciousness as minority cultures people feel unwelcome in the U.S. because of this silent treatment (Joseph & Golash-Boza, 2021). In addition, it is unlikely that Asian Americans or African Americans will be viewed as actual citizens of America as the majority culture prescribes its identity in the whole country (Walker, 2019). Therefore, the minority people are unable to see themselves outside of how white Americans see them, as outsiders and just tourists instead of a citizen with the same rights as them.
Not to mention that nowadays, African Americans suffer from double consciousness probably the most when living in the U.S. To elaborate, modern racial discrimination alienates black people from white society, who are the majority race in the American nation (Walker, 2019). Simultaneously, African Americans experience “two-ness” because of the internal divergence between being a part of two completely different cultures (Du Bois, 2016). Black people cannot adjust to being both African and American because of their awareness of how they are perceived (Walker, 2019). Consequently, people strive to gain acceptance in social interaction by often losing their identity and the sense of “double consciousness” (Du Bois, 2016). Unfortunately, such treatment is common not only in the U.S. but in other countries toward multiracial people who struggle to accept their two-ness.
To sum up, the concept of double consciousness, even though introduced more than a century ago, is still the notion that many people relate to. The inability to fit in because of two consciousness that corresponds to different cultures is a struggle for many multiracial individuals. Thus, being the minority in countries where people are used to seeing people of the same skin color is challenging, which often pushes people to lose their identity.
Du Bois, W. E. B. (2016). The souls of black folk (Unabridged). Dover Publications, Incorporated.
Joseph, T., & Golash-Boza, T. (2021). Double consciousness in the 21st century: Du Boisian theory and the problem of racialized legal status. Social Sciences, 10(9), 345.
Walker, L. (2019). Double consciousness in today’s black America. Stance: An International Undergraduate Philosophy Journal, 12(1), 116–125.