William Edward Burghardt Du Bois, an American civil rights activist among other things, first coined the term "double consciousness." It is first mentioned in his book, "The Souls of Black Folk," published in 1903.
Du Bois' defines the term as the "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 a person of color will always see themselves as split identities, based on their personal perceptions and those of others.
I'm one of many who have felt this way. One of my experiences lied at the core of a youtube video.
A year ago a woman named, Sara Walls who identified herself as a white person, created a video that gained a decent amount of views. It was a personal rant about her hating the town she lived in at the time, Laredo, Texas. The video has since been taken down, but not before others uploaded copies of it or responses. Here's one. In her video, Sara claimed that she's so glad she's not from there or she'd already be dead. Her rant went on to say how gross, dirty, ghetto and annoying Mexican people are. She also criticized the food, customs, and superstitions she came across in Laredo. A specific example would be when she said she hated going to the grocery store because Mexican people would always go up to her shopping cart and touch her white, blue-eyed baby.
This video clearly depicts a woman who is unhappy where she is living because of the citizens. She comes off as a racist person and the backlash against her was not unnoticed. I'm studying in Austin, but I only found out about this video because so many people already knew about it. The word spread like wildfire and many people were offended.
I was one of them. When I saw this video, I didn't know how to react. I was conflicted.
On one hand, I felt really offended. I didn't believe what she was saying about Mexicans in Laredo to be true. Of course people don't act like that!
On the other, I felt ashamed and embarrassed. I wondered if this was the only way white people would ever see Mexicans or, more specifically, me.
In this case I saw myself as me, an American citizen just like Sara Walls. But, I also saw myself as one of the Mexicans she described from Laredo. Where I'm from is a border town and while there are Mexicans and Mexican-Americans, not everyone is the way she describes them. Still, I hated that I gave her the power to make me feel this way. Her words made me unequal, when ideally... we have the same freedom and rights.
Ideally, I say, because while being born in the U.S. grants us freedom and rights... it does not give us privilege. This privilege has the power to diminish others who are culturally, racially, or ethnically different. It was possible that she felt privileged enough to complain online and not worry about repercussions because what she felt was right or valid. Of course, almost many 'Laredoans' didn't like what she said and they let her know through social media. She took the video down a couple of days later and had to publicly apologized on the local radio, I believe. She apologized, but I'll personally never know whether she meant it or not.
I experienced "double consciousness" and since then have tried to never feel that way again. I identify as Mexican-American. I am culturally intertwined by my nationality and race. I know what rights I have. I know my roots.
From this, I learned that people are always going to put others down, but just as they are capable of doing so... I am capable of fighting the oppression.