virus: Double Unconsciousness

Fri, 07 May 1999 16:06:15 -0700

Here's an excerpt from an article I read over lunch today. I encountered it in the Utne reader, but it originally ran in Spin. The article is entitled "Black Like Them: Hip-hop may be the last best hope for healing America's racial divide. Or not," and was written by Charles Aaron.

Begin excerpt:

Many white hip-hoppers, myself included, still wrestle with an age-old disease, which I call only somewhat ironically "double unconsciousness." It's the white flip side of W.E.B. Du Bois' turn-of-the-century diagnosis, "double consciousness," which suggests that blacks in America are "always looking at [themselves] through the eyes of others" and feel a sense of "twoness--an american, a Negro; two souls; two thoughts; two unreconciled strivings." Conversely, double unconsciousness means failing to look at oneself through the eyes of others and living under a delusion of "oneness," the myth that if you, as an individual, don't behave in an actively racist fashion, then you're not shaped by racism. The doubly unconscious refuse to acknowledge how certain institutions (education, housing) constantly watch their backs. They want extra credit for entertaining different points of view. They love black music, they talk to a few black friends, and believe they are developing an understanding of black people (when in fact they are only developing an image of themselves). Dead giveaway: If a white guy exclaims "I'm not a racist!" or "But a lot of black people feel the same way I do!" he's doubly unconscious.