Sag Harbor is a coming of age story written by Colson Whitehead. The novel surrounds African American boys who were trying to find their way in a world where they were both accepted and stereotyped. This was later referred to as “double consciousness”. This term was not invented by Colson Whitehead, it was first coined by W.E.B DuBois. The characters in the novel all seem to suffer from being oppressed and also being at an advantage. The novel is a coming of age story because it touches on what it means to truly be yourself. And can you truly be yourself if you fit into so many different categories? Double consciousness is a term that was first used by W.E.B DuBois, it is described as “the internal conflict experience buy subordinate groups in an oppressive society.” It was mostly used to describe the lives of African Americans, who did not fit the common stereotype of their own race. Whether it be that they were mixed, or that they had a difference in class. DuBois thinks of this as a “twoness” of the mind.
That means that there are two souls, two thoughts and different ideals, but they’re all in one “dark” body. So if someone is in a white dominated society, and fits in with this society, yet is also African-American; this causes an individual to feel like they belong neither here nor there. These concepts our especially true throughout the novel because all of the main characters are African-American, yet they are not of lower income status, which of course leads them to believe that they are equal to everyone else in their class; but their blackness makes it so that they are still separate from the class in which they fall into. As a young adult, it is very common for people to wonder where they belong. “According to the world, we were the definition of paradox: black boys with beach houses, but it never occurred to us that there was anything strange about it.” raises the problem when young adults are raised one way in the safety of their own homes and communities, and when they leave their community they are ostracized do to their race, is they have never faced discrimination in the way that they would in the open world.
This book was directly intended for the youth of today who feel like they do not belong. Colson Whitehead writes about a summer story that has no great climax or bigger meaning, it only has the views and intentions of young adults who want nothing more than to become themselves more as time progresses. They don’t find themselves by the end of this book, and that’s because no person finds themselves in a matter of months. Colson Whitehead stated that point of the book was to make you 0.1% smarter than you were before reading it. The author in fact grew up the same way, as he was a young black man who had no interest in sports or clubs, and only wanted to write and read. This book has a direct correlation as to what his life was like dealing with double consciousness; and how he deals with it today knowing that he can write for all audiences.
W.E.B DuBois stated that his goal in presenting the matter of double consciousness was not to further confuse the people, but to give them an awareness that they have a duty to both parts of themselves to make sure that each part is treated fairly. African-American men who grew up in wealthy household usually do not advocate for African Americans who live in low income communities, they often only identify themselves in the upper class, and completely disregard their race and heritage. W.E.B DuBois did not see double consciousness as the only way to make a difference, but as a start when a wealthy African-American man educates his white community of the inequalities faced by his people. The point of double consciousness is for people to want to change the world, so that there is eventually no divide.
When speaking about double consciousness, Whitehead includes “It trains the kid in question to determine when people in the corner of his eye are talking about him and when they are not, a useful skill in later life when sorting out bona-fide persecution from perceived persecution, the this-is-actually-happening from the mere paranoid manifestation”. Whitehead, just like W.E.B DuBois, believes that it is safer to have double consciousness, than to not have it. Sag Harbor is in the Hamptons, which means by default it is associated with wealth and white people. But Sag Harbor on the other end is known as the one place of black refuge, in a white dominated luxury vacation community. Almost everyone in Sag Harbor is African-American, and they all feel as though with them all being together, it might spare them from the stereotypes of what vacation home owners look like, and what a black community “ought to look like”.
Benji’s dad is the exact opposite of double consciousness. He often lashes out and blames his problems on white society, and even encourages Benji to resort to violence when others are prejudiced towards him; even if the prejudice is based on general misunderstandings and not on racism. This causes Benji to believe that all white people are the root for African-American problems, which is generally true, but since he is a part of the white community he cannot just destroy the ties in the community where he resides. If you are a part of the world that you don’t completely identify with, and spend your whole life fighting that community that you are also part of, that is the opposite of what somebody with double consciousness would aim towards. Someone with double consciousness would aim to help unite both worlds, to make it so that they’re not always at odds. It is to raise awareness that one person can be a part of multiple groups, and that no groups should be treated differently than others. What better way to change views towards a group of people, when you belong both to the oppressed group and the oppressive group. In conclusion, Benji is a wonderful example of how double consciousness begins.
The fact that he realized that he is privileged, while also realizing that he is discriminated against; is the beginning to a healthy relationship within himself, and with the world around him. The reason this is a coming-of-age story, is because the book aims to help young readers, especially young adults, realize that they have an obligation to themselves to not only determine their own value, but to identify with something that is only themselves. Whitehead used his experiences to write and hopefully pass the torch to young readers who are in similar situations that he was in. There is no big ending to this story, only a readers hope that the young men in the novel will overcome their identity and help themselves, and the world, become more understanding and well rounded. Every person has more than one side of them, whether it be gender, sexuality, class, race or other things; double consciousness will help the world ultimately be a better place for everyone. There is no ending, because every person makes their own when they decide that being truthful to one side of yourself, isn’t enough anymore.