Paper Example. The Philosophy of Double Consciousness and Second Sight

Published: 2023-09-27
Paper Example. The Philosophy of Double Consciousness and Second Sight
Essay type:  Definition essays
Categories:  Race Philosophy Consciousness
Pages: 7
Wordcount: 1668 words
14 min read

Over the years, philosophers have attempted to decode the meaning of various concepts in life, most of which involve the logic of existence. By definition, philosophy refers to the study of wisdom, which encompasses human knowledge and its application in life. Primarily, the functions of a philosopher are often determined by their surroundings as well as the discipline of choice. Some of the most famous philosophers in history include Plato, Socrates, Aurelius, and others whose ideas are still useful in the contemporary world. Among those who addressed the issues actively affecting humanity is W. E. B. Du Bois, who focuses primarily on the souls of black folk. He is more concerned with the philosophy of double consciousness and second sight due to the prevalent racial discrimination in the United States. This paper shall address DuBois's conception of double consciousness and his argument regarding second sight in an African-American philosophy.

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Double Consciousness

A true African-American Philosophy should be literature that fundamentally explores the philosophical implication of African-American experiences (27). DuBois defines the concept of double consciousness as the dilemma that African Americans go through in a white-dominated society. Du Bois tells the tale of the existence of an ever unasked question between him and the other world. He says, “Between me and the other world there is ever an unasked question: unasked by some through feelings of delicacy; by others through the difficulty of rightly framing it. All, nevertheless, flutter round it” (Wolff 25). The nature of the question makes it challenging to ask without sounding offensive. Du Bois further explains that “They approach me in a half-hesitant sort of way, eye me curiously or compassionately, and then, instead of saying directly, How does it feel to be a problem? they say, I know an excellent colored man in my town; or, I fought at Mechanicsville; or, Do not these Southern outrages make your blood boil?’ (Wolff 25). Such questions often make him angry since he knows what they actually mean, but he seldom answers any of them.

Primarily, Du Bois is infuriated by the fact that he has to look at himself in two lenses, one of which is dictated by his immediate society. The main problem is that to be black in America is equated to being de-centered, where one has to see themselves both from within as everyone should, but also from outside as others see them. The implication here is that one has to experience themselves in all the stereotypes inflicted on their kind, not as an individual, but as a black person. On the one hand, an individual looks at themselves from within, taking the position of a human being, just as everyone should. On the other, they are haunted by the constant stereotypic classifications that keep reminding them that they are not white, and consequently remain an inferior race.

People of color can easily understand the impact of decentralization as it affects everyone whose skin is not white, whether African American, Asian American, Latin American, and so on (Wolff 26). Dubois gives an anecdote on how he realized that he was different from others, regardless of the fact that they were all students in the same school. He talks of an instance where he tried to buy a gorgeous visiting card like every other boy and girl in his school, but it was denied to him since he was of a different color. Arguably, such a society is bound to cause psychological problems to those who are directly involved.

Second Sight

The concept of second sight comes about as a result of the deprivation that people of color, such as African Americans, face in a world dominated by whites who feel that they are a superior race. Essentially, Du Bois introduces second sight as the aftermath of double consciousness where an individual, whether white or colored, is able to penetrate the conformity veil and see beyond the norms. As a result, one develops a more sophisticated way of looking at American society by changing how they look at themselves. This means that a person has overcome double consciousness and thus, by erasing the color line, and has transformed their self-view and the way they conceive the world in general. Arguably, the black person reflects on their own understanding of the immediate world, which then helps them identify how they developed the double consciousness.

On the other hand, the white individual develops an imagination that allows them to place themselves in the shoes of a person of color, trying to understand the impact of growing up under double consciousness. Through the African American philosophical depiction of second sight, one can penetrate the veil and see the world for what it is. According to Du Bois, second sight may be the ultimate solution to the problems brought about by double consciousness as it includes a change in mindset for both the majority and minorities in the world. While the minority group overcomes the fear and inferiority inflicted on their kind, the majority learns to look at other people differently and appreciate the equality of humanity. Furthermore, the color line has created a massive confusion by depicting Africa, through television programs and books, as a dark continent, which may not even fit the dictates of the modern world. Even so, second sight provides the world with a chance to experience reality first hand by seeking to understand it from all perspectives.

The role of DuBois' conception of double consciousness second sight in an African-American philosophy.

Du Bois’ conception of double consciousness and second sight serves as an evolutionary pathway for the contemporary world in a typical African American philosophy. For many years, African Americans and other people of color have suffered racial bias and segregation based on their skin color. However, most of this suffering comes from intrapersonal conflicts where an individual does not have a positive mindset concerning themselves. By accepting to conform to the norms and failing to act against racial and ethnic biases, one gives an opportunity to the oppressor to keep oppressing the. On the other hand, the whites have enjoyed the perks of believing that they are a superior race in a world that succumbs to their dictates (Romano 262). As a result, they have become stronger as they continue to spread superiority and inferiority politics around the globe. In this light, Du Bois’ African American Philosophy is an eye-opener for humanity to change their world view and realize that before one is white or colored, they are first human.

Du Bois’ argument on double consciousness introduces a debate on who is responsible for how the world classifies human beings and who should change this view. Essentially, people of color had managed to change their position in American society since the times of slavery when they used to be owned and sold like property by their white masters. After many years of submissiveness and suffering, they managed to start the civil war and change legislation regarding people of color. Similarly, the modern forms of slavery can still be seen in the fact that white people have never entirely accepted to classify their colored counterparts in the same social status as themselves. For instance, when he and his fellow youngsters decide to buy tickets, everyone else is allowed except him (Wolff 26). Without the need for further explanation, he realizes that despite all other factors, there is a thick veil that will always separate him from his white counterparts. Arguably, it is easier to feel like a problem in society when the notion has been planted and instilled in a person over the years.

Thus Du Bois acknowledges that it is possible for one to grow up in such a toxic environment that leads to the development of double consciousness. Moreover, when one is exposed to a given philosophy for a long time, they tend to conform and become part of it. For example, African American children tend to grow up in a society that always reminds them that they are different, regardless of the context (Howard, Rose & Barbarin 218). Such an environment can prevent the child from ever trying to compete with peers because right from birth, they have been taught to be inferior and conform to the said social construct. Even so, Du Bois is convinced that one should strive to see beyond the social constructs that history has dictated. Logically, it is only possible for a liberal-minded person to attain second sight by accepting the possibility of a different world view. Additionally, only a white person who understands the tenets of philosophical thinking would be willing to fit into the shoes of an individual of a minority racial affiliation.

In conclusion, Du Bois provides two essential concepts in African American philosophy, which include double consciousness and second sight. The first is a predicament that often befalls people of color, particularly black people, In America. The second is a possible way out of the dilemma as it alleviates the potential impacts by changing people’s mindset. Du Bois uses his experiences as a black young man in a white-dominated society where he gradually learns that he is different just because he does not share his peers’ skin color. They always seem to look at him as a problem in society but keep sugarcoating their words to avoid sounding offensive. Even so, Du Bois talks of second sight, which involves a more sophisticated way of looking at oneself and the world. Through this strategy, a black person can uniquely appreciate themselves while their white counterparts can understand how it feels to live in a double consciousness.

Work Cited

Howard, Lionel C., Jason C. Rose, and Oscar A. Barbarin. "Raising African American boys: An exploration of gender and racial socialization practices." American Journal of Orthopsychiatry 83.2-3 (2013): 218.

Romano, Max J. "White privilege in a white coat: how racism shaped my medical education." The Annals of Family Medicine 16.3 (2018): 261-263.

Wolff, Robert Paul, and R. Eugene Bales. About philosophy. Prentice Hall, 1992.

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