Posts Tagged ‘double consciousness’

holly-bass-jaamil-olawale-kosoko-double-consciousness

I was reading something today and it read “solutions to double consciousness.” When I read the statement it made me think about what it meant to have a double conscious in the first place. I wrote about this a while ago and I guess that is why i feel compelled to write about it again.

After thinking about this statement I had to ask who does this really apply to. I mean in order to have a double consciousness you have to have one to begin with. So how do you answer this question in a world where there are people who don’t have a consciousness to begin with.

There has to be some sort of education involved to get to the core of ones beings. It will allow for one to come into the essence of self. To know thy self is one of the greatest tools that can be used in finding the solution to having a double consciousness. But, how does one achieve that if they are part of a group of people that lack heritage and culture to identify with in the first place?

During one of my classes I posed the question to 2 white men and 2 black men. I gave a slip of paper to one white guy that read, “what does it mean to act black?” and i gave a slip to another white guy that read, “what does it mean to act white?”
I also did the same to the two black guys that i had selected to answer these questions. I asked one, “what does it mean to act black?” and the other “what does it mean to act white?”

These men were not prepped to answer these questions and were selected at random. You would not believe the response that was given. Every answer was based on a stereotype. What was worse was the stereotype that the white guys had for “what does it mean to act black” was the same stereotype that the black guy gave when asked “what does it mean to act black?” Talk about a double consciousness!

The typical response was a negative one. One where the black guy always had to find a way to “act” a fool and ignorant! So I asked the question, “why is it that not one black person in this room said that to act black is to be a father, responsible. law-abiding, educated, loving, caring etc.” The shame that filled the room was heartbreaking. That many young black men have fallen victim to a stereotype that someone else gave them.

I asked a Hispanic guy what it meant to be Hispanic and the first thing that he said was,” ahhhh I don’t know how to answer that, but we have our culture…” I stopped him and told him “you have said enough.” It is sad that many blacks when asked about their history the think that it began on a boat in chains and shackles.

What does that say about the consciousness of someone to think that their existence began in a state of degradation. So much so that till this day they believe that the only thing that they can identify with is the definition that someone else has placed on them. Therefore they act that out.

This is the state of affairs of many of the young men here. They take pride in being called nigga, dog, thug, fool, pimp, gangsta and all of the other adjectives that have been adopted into the culture of mainstream America, as it concerns the black communities.

I asked a question, the same day, where did blacks learn what they know about themselves? No one had a legitimate answer to that question. Most of these guys are young so don’t remember a time where TV was (and still is) by white shows. So they have no idea as to what it means to live in a society where there is no one on TV that looks like you. See this is something important as TV often becomes the medium from which we learn, from where the status quo comes. So it is through TV that we learn most of our behavior.

When did the decline of the black community really begin? Who knows but I do know that when they begin to give us time slots on TV to be fools it seemed that we took those images and ran with them. Do you remember N.W.A.( niggas with an Attitude) they changed the game and we became known for a new genre of rap, gangsta rap. Where we yelled fuck the police and talked about niggas getting shot and I can’t forget “A Bitch is a Bitch” or the other songs that came out that young blacks began to identify with, shit that was causing them to kill themselves a mile a minute.

What about Boyz in the Hood, Juice, Menace to Society, South Central and the many movies that came after that that depicted young black men as menaces and culprits to every type of crime that could be committed. I was so wild in those days I can recall a guy pulling out a gun on me an pulling it and hold it sideways, imitating what he saw Ole Dog on Menace to Society. See i can sit back and recall those days of foolishness.

Why is it that Denzel won an Oscar for portraying a crooked cop? Why did 36 Mafia win an Oscar for it is hard out here for a pimp? Why couldn’t Denzel win for Malcolm, John Q, hell Man on Fire for all it matters. My point is that if the images that are portrayed on TV and in the movies depict blacks in these stereotypical ways what do you expect from some one who adopts these roles? Where is the consciousness to begin with?

With that being said how do you answer the question, what is the solution to having a double consciousness? I say that it starts with those of us who have a good idea of where this double consciousness comes from begin to educate those who don’t. Sometimes those who know take for granted that no one wants to listen when that may not be the case all the time.

For instance one day a young guy was talking to me and he says, “see that cracker over there.” So I ask him what did he mean by that. He says, “I mean that white guy over there, the racist one.” So, I ask him if he knew where that word came from and why it was used. He says,” No. I just know that it refers to the racist ones.” So, I explain to him that every time you call that guy “cracker” you exalt his status as an oppressor. He looks at me in disbelief. I go on to tell him that the word “cracker” was a word that the slaves used for the white man because they didn’t know his name and every time he came to punish someone they used to say here comes the “cracker” as that was the sound that came from the whip. He was blown away by that small information and vow to never use the word again. In that regards he was able to deal with that double consciousness.

The same thing exists in the names that most black people bear. Jackson, Johnson, Williamson, Robinson etc. These are all names that were passed down from slavery to identify the owners of these slaves. So the slaves of John were called Johnsons etc. I just use that example to point out that even the best of use carry some of these traits with us on a daily basis. We sign big checks bearing these names. We buy big houses bearing these names. We pass these names on to our offspring’s. We have family reunions celebrating these names.

So it is safe to say that the vast majority of African-American or blacks, which ever you deem to be more political correct, suffer from this thing called a double consciousness. But, as long as you know that a disease exists you can continue to treat it. You may not cure it all the way, that may be too hard, but it is treatable. You can treat it with education. Education of self and others. In order to get to an end you have to know where you are starting from!

The following is a reflection paper from the Inside-Out Course titled The Offender and Re-entry.  Inside-Out classes are college courses taught at nearby federal prisons.  The classes offer college students and inmates a chance to learn together and from each other in a shared learning environment.  

When it comes to the label of being an ex-offender, I have mixed emotions about that word. I am aware that everybody will have his or her own interpretation of that word, and that interpretation will be the criteria that is used to judge the ex-offender. Yet that label is actually less harsh than having to be described by the nature of ones offense. To me, having to wear that label would be harsh and burdensome. Why is that? It goes back to the double consciousness that was spoken about in class awhile ago. It is easier to say that I have been to prison that it is to say what I have been to prison for. It is always that double consciousness that no matter what there is still that sense of guilt of knowing that someone has been harmed by your actions. As Michelle Alexander speaks about the Cruel Hand and what it means to be an ex-offender is society today, it is equally important to note what it means to have to live with the memories of one’s actions and behaviors.

I have many friends that have left prison and have never returned as they were determined to succeed and not let the “ex-offender” label hold them back. In fact none of my close friends have come back to prison. One thing that we had in common was we understood the importance of education. We had dreams, plans to succeed and were determined to not let the experience of prison dictate what we had planned for our futures.

They have managed to overcome the things that Michelle Alexander attributes to the cause of recidivism. Yet there is something deeper that people who have committed crimes suffer from and that is the guilt that they carry with them day in and day out as the try and come to terms with the things that they have done in life. There are certain realities expected when it comes to what one has to deal with after leaving prison. Unfortunately, there are very few programs in place to prepare the ex-offender for the mental effects that they have and will suffer from as they continue their journey through life. Not dealing with these issues can be the fuse, that if it is never extinguished, can lead one back to prison. As one talks about recidivism, one has to wonder about the mental state of some of the individuals that return to prison.

It has to be assumed that there may be a sense of hopelessness out in the free world, which in turn gives a person a sense of belonging in these institutions. If one does not learn to deal with the guilt and shame that he or she may carry, it could lead to low self esteem, which can lead to carelessness and reckless behavior.  If the general opinion is that, once a person has been incarcerated, there is little hope for him or her, and this person constantly hears this at some point they begin to believe it, what else is expected from them other than to live a life where they are accepted, regardless of the acts, no matter how heinous they may be?

There are many people in prison because they feel this is where they belong. They have status, friends, and are accepted the way that they are. There is no pressure to be anything other that what they think they are. For the person that suffers from this, and there are many, it proves the point that there is some mental defects in the way that this person thinks. This idea has always stuck with me after a conversation that I had with another inmate years ago.  One day he tells me, “Talib I never have to go home again and I am cool. I can rob guys here (that was his criminal profession), I can get high, and they have punks (homosexuals) here that look like chicks.  So for real I am cool. ”  He led a life in prison that reflected this mindset and was murdered the first week that he was home, because of his actions in prison.  He never made it out of the halfway house.

The guy that I just spoke about had a history of recidivism and the day that he told me how he felt about prison it became clear that he was crazy.  Therefore, I have to ask myself how many other people suffer from this mindset.  What Michelle Alexander mentions concerning the stigma that the ex-offender has to deal with is so true, but there are other deeply embedded psychological issues that most convicted felons suffer from that contributes to the steadily increasing rate of recidivism.

To me, it is frightening to know there are some people who think that they belong behind bars, and that they are not even willing to break the cycle of recidivism. What is more frightening is someone close to them planted this idea/seed in their head to make them believe this to be true. That someone may have made them feel that prison was and is the place that they belong. As solutions are sought to address this issue of recidivism, one must not rule out addressing mental health issues. More often than not, a mental issue is contributing to the steady rise of incarceration and not outright criminality.

how do we deal with the current black leaders in the African American communities? and do they share in the culpability of the design of the criminal justice?

that is a question that comes up often in the groups that i sit in at times. i am of the mind that there are a lot of leaders that have exploited the black communities and have gotten rich of this exploitation. they have done nothing but incite more anger,hatred,animosity and separation in the black neighborhoods than they care to admit. so if this is the case than blacks don’t stand a chance when it comes to change and progression in this society. Michelle Alexander touched on this a little in her book.

it is know that we suffer from issues that extend from drug abuse to identity issues. we have yet to identity ourselves as a people. i remember fondly, in my younger years, hearing the term “african booty scratcher” or having the idea being planted that african people were savage. this lead to the feeling that i didn’t belong to that part of the world, as black as i am huh! well the connotation was that we, of all people didn’t want to be from there nor associated with that land. we wanted to be native american. we were thought to love all but hate each other. nappy headed, big lip black ass nigga!! we tore each other down and that still exist today. i met a black girl who told me that she don’t call herself african american because she doesn’t even know if that is where she comes from. how is that? the same thing that i heard 30 years ago is still being debated today, who are you and where are you from. so if you don’t know where you are from, and accept that, where the hell are you going. does acknowledging this and loving this means that you have to hate others? no not at all. it means that you can love others and appreciate them more as you know what it means to love the human race. but you can’t do that if you love everyone else yet hate your own. as you make up a part of the human race, the only race!

back to what i was saying. some of these leaders have profited off of teaching us to hate other. where is the talk of self love? how is it i understand more about the so called ‘enemy’ and his plot than i do about my myself. where is this education at? this is where i hold those leaders responsible. all of the stuff that they preach in the churches and some of these mosques are geared to further oppress blacks and not uplift and liberate them. it is no secret that most black families are tied into some sort of religion so the most fitting place to begin this conversation is in these places. the same way that these mass revivals are staged and conventions etc are set up there should be conventions that address the plight of blacks in these urban communities. when are we going back into them to clean up the mess that many of us left behind. when are we going to go in there and uplift the people and show others how to better there quality of life? see those that have the major power an money to do so refuse to do so. that is that double consciousness that w.e.b Dubois speaks about. it is cool to talk about the issue and all the blacks that are locked up but no not cool to act out. why is that? could it be that we are so far gone that we don’t even trust ourselves? hum! now that is something to think about. we have been told for so long that we are not to be trusted that now this is the way that we think about each other.