Double Consciousness and the Power of Labeling

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Are we who we say we are, or are we who society recognizes us to be? In reality we are who society says we are regardless of our qualifications. Everyone has different personalities and they are trying to show their peers how they want to be identified though society most of the time disagrees.

W. E. B. DuBois is a sociologist that identifies this as Double Consciousness.

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In the book Sociology a Global Perspective by Joan Ferrante, we can see how according to W. E. B. DuBois double consciousness is “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.

” This means that we are constantly worried of how society views us as individuals that we are always looking at ourselves through the eyes of others. The Brief Wondrous Life Of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz is a novel which shows how the main character Oscar is identified by his family and peers and how Oscar identifies himself.Amy Tan is a writer who in her essay Mother Tongue also demonstrates how everyone around you gives you a label regardless of how you want everyone to perceive you. Therefore we are who society recognizes us to be and not who we say we are.

W. E. B. DuBois bases his theory of double consciousness on his life experience.

He was discriminated against and called “black” even though he was biracial. No matter how much he tried to explain this to his peers they would still label him into social racial categories. W. E.

B. DuBois is important to sociology and one very important book he wrote was the book The Souls of Black Folk. In this book he explains how difficult it was to be of African American decent and how he wasn’t looked at as simply just another American but labeled as being “black” because of his features.In The Souls of Black Folk he states “Herein lie buried many thinks which if read with patience may show the strange meaning of being black in the drawing of the twentieth century”.

In this quotation W. E. B. DuBois clearly emphasizes the color line and the present problems that come along.

He states that racism still exists no matter what century it is, which in some people racism could be perceived as unconscious feeling towards black people. W. E. B.

DuBois writes about “the strange meaning of being black”, how it affected his life having a father who was Haitian of French and African decent and his mother who was American Dutch and African descent. In our society he would be considered “black” even though his parents are different races.In the novel The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz the author shows how the main character Oscar is having difficulty with his peer’s perception of him. “Anywhere else his triple-zero batting average with the ladies might have passed without comment, but this is a Dominican kid we’re talking about, in a Dominican family: dude was supposed to have Atomic Level G, was supposed to be pulling in the bitches with both hands” p.

24. This quote shows what Oscar’s family and everyone else around him expected of him also who they wanted him to be.Oscar’s family thought of him to be this Casanova male from a very young age who was supposed to be very good with the ladies and he was not. Double Consciousness is a reason why Oscar is struggling with trying to convince everyone in his life who he is and what he really is about.

Everyone in Oscar’s life does not seem to be interested to consider accepting Oscar’s choices and the identity he wants everyone to view him by but instead they are labeling him based on his family’s background and heritage.Amy Tan is a writer who even though has a conflict with Double Consciousness she is a rare case because she achieves the goal to convince everyone to recognize her how she wants to be recognized. In her essay “Mother Tongue” she states that “Why are there few Asian-Americans enrolled in creative writing programs? Why do so many Chinese students go into engineering? ” paragraph 18 Tan. These two lines state that everyone’s perception of Asians is that they are very good in math, science and not in Literature or English.

Amy Tan is labeled based on an opinion of Asians to be good in some sort of science and pursue a career that will have to with math or science. All of these generalizations of Amy are because of how she looks and because of her heritage. However, Amy Tan is rebellious and strong enough to fight these opinions and this labeling that she is placed under. “Fortunately, I happen to be rebellious in nature, and enjoy the challenge of disproving assumptions made about me.

I became an English major my first year in college after being enrolled as pre-med” paragraph 19 Tan.In these two sentences she explains how even though there were a lot of assumptions about her because of her family’s background she still continued her education on a subject she preferred. I believe this is a very brave way for Amy Tan to act because our peers have a great deal of effect in our lives. She not only does not listen to what everyone says about her but pursues her goals and continues her education on what she preferred and liked instead of just pleasing everyone’s assumptions.

Another example of double consciousness is the video Telephone by Lady Gaga and Beyonce where it clearly represents a manifestation of evil. I don’t think that Lady Gaga is controlling our minds, but I think my subconscious is a lot weaker than I would like to believe. For example the hat she wears in the first shot when being released from prison is a black Masonic square, as in checkerboard patterns and also the black square that University graduates get on their heads as a hat upon graduating (the symbolism being that now they are “illuminated” ones).It’s used to focus on exposing the youth to materialism and sexual promiscuity.

I believe that there is something strange about this video; I am claiming that there are devils and demons. Hard to tell who sounds crazier me or Lady Gaga? The only evils I have ever seen perpetrated on humans have come from other humans. The only good I have ever seen done to humans came from other humans. To suggest that there are super natural forces at work seems dishonest about observations at best and medieval at worst.

I believe that the reason that Gaga does not come out and say exactly what her work is “supposed” to be about is because she wants people to interpret it the way that they want based on their knowledge, experiences and beliefs. Art is supposed to mean different things to different people. I quite enjoyed this interpretation though. I don’t believe lady Gaga is satanic even though many people believe after her latest video Telephone.

My best friend also is a perfect example of W. E. B. Dubois’s theory of double consciousness.

He has a problem with infidelity.I have been present when he has cheated on his wife and also cheated on a girlfriend as well. In his situation not only does he cheat on these girls but he does it more than once and with different people. When I have confronted him before he doesn’t seem to think there is anything wrong with what he is doing.

I and all the rest of the friends we have in common think that what he is doing is not normal and that it is a serious problem. In this case my best friend relates to double consciousness because unintentionally he wants to be viewed as the normal married guy who takes the oath to his spouse during the ceremony and is loyal how he is equired to, but his actions expose him to be the typical bachelor. No matter who we are or want to be perceived as does not mean will always work. Society will always have a say on who do they view us to be.

W. E. B. DuBois shows that he tried to explain to his peers who he was they always labeled him racially.

Lady Gaga as well has an unusual approach to how she performs her art but everyone thinks she is crazy and what she does is very unacceptable.Oscar tries to convince everyone in his life that he is not who everyone wants him to be but he is not successful. Amy Tan is one of the very rare cases when no matter how everyone labeled her because of her family’s background she still pursued and realized her goals. My best friend also shows how Double Consciousness affects his life because of his actions.

Therefore no matter how we act or talk or anything we do in general and how we would like society to view us there are always labels and categories that our peers will place us on.

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Double Consciousness and the Power of Labeling. (2017, May 07). Retrieved from

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