Double Consciousness Through Time Travel


Often times, when people think of science fiction, they think of stories about aliens invading earth or robots taking over. Often times, these different story lines are creative reflections which embed the underlying fears of society. Many of these fears include, our over  dependence on technology, or the new ways we interact with one another through social media. However, most people  probably do not think about  W.E.B. Du Bois’ theory on double consciousness. While this may not be an urgent  subject to some,  double consciousness is becoming more and more relevant because of the exponential globalization seen in our world today. As a result, movies and stories will echo Du Bois’ theory.One example is Octavia Butler’s Science fiction novel, Kindred. Butler was able to portray W.E.B. Du Bios’ theory of double consciousness by using the concept of time travel.

In Octavia Butler’s novel, Kindred, the main character is named Dana. Dana is a modern 20th century  African American women who married a white man named Kevin Franklin. Dana and Franklin are in the midst of transitioning to their new home. Suddenly, Dana begins to feel dizzy and blacks-out. When Dana recovers consciousness, she finds herself in Maryland and discovers she has time traveled to the 1800’s. When she travels back in time she has to face some of the situations that other African Americans had to live through as slaves. During this time, she was able to witness the cruelties of slavery. To Dana this is a big transition. Dana is a modern 20th century African American  women who has never experienced slavery, and is now forced to take on a new identity as a black slave living in the 1800’s.

Butler uses time travel to highlight Dana’s internal conflict and her double consciousness. Dana, as a 20th century African American women, constructed her identity and her thoughts on slavery according to a modern ideology. However, it was not until Dana experienced slavery that she was truly able to understand more in depth what it meant to be a black slave. Moreover, Butler uses Dana to exemplify the psychological complexity that many multicultural or biracial individuals deal with. In many ways, this makes the novel, Kindred, a very important novel. This novel has allowed us to use a popular genre to bring awareness to these heavy topics (Slavery and Double Consciousness) in a way where all audiences can learn, while still enjoying an entertaining science fiction novel.






Lets Not Forget

Dear Mr. Singh,

Every major civilization that has ever existed has probably faced some sort of social issue. Each civilization has had to come up with answers for questions of equality and the justifications of hierarchies. We are not the exception Mr. Singh, even though we are The United States of America; we too have had to face these questions. We too have had our fair shares of civil struggles. We have come a long way from annihilating slavery, but even after slavery we too must address other issues that also come along and linger with integration. For this reason, books like Why We Can’t Wait have become more and more important. We may not have slavery, but our population keeps growing diverse. The more diverse we become, the more we must examine our integration and make sure that we are not “separate but equal”, rather united and represented.

In Why We Can’t Wait Martin Luther King Jr. goes into great detail explaining the difficulties that African Americans faced because they were not truly equal. Segregation and inequality was a form of slavery. In this book ,he begins to explain that this notion of separate but equal was a deceiving notion because African Americans were separate but never equal. Aside from the Jim Crow laws that enabled segregation and inequality, this underlying mentality of not being one united nation with truly equal representation was creating a false hope and a wishful society. That is to say, Martin Luther King Jr. recognized that being separate but equal was a form of tokenism. He understood that African Americans would never be able to truly be proud of something because they were never given the true opportunity to truly achieve things and be great until they were equal. This is not to say that there were no great African Americans, rather to point out that there was a false sense of achievement. For example, every African American should have had the opportunity to go to an elite school. While this was a theoretical truth, the reality was another. Therefore, there was one only James Baldwin rather than 50 or 60.  James Baldwin was praised because he overcame many obstacles, but is that to say that there were only a handful of African Americans with talent? No. There were probably hundreds of talented African Americans.

While this seems to only affect the African American community, it affects everyone in society. In recent times, we have banished things like the Jim Crow laws but we must make sure that our pop culture stays pure from these prejudice ideologies. That is to say, we often hear about how certain cultures experience informal segregation. For instance, we often classify neighborhoods this way: “Mexico town” or “Mini Cuba” or “Black neighborhood”. While we may simply be observing trends, we must be reminded of the fine lines between observing trends and detecting segregation and signs of tokenism. Its books like Why We Can’t Wait that reminds us (as a society) the importance of constantly taking a stand for unity and equal representation in all aspects. Like Martin Luther King Jr. points out, socioeconomic factors are strong influences. It may have been African Americans feeling the pressures of prejudice, but any group is susceptible if we forget.



What it Means to be Simply Human

James Baldwin

We often read about the struggle that African Americans endured during slavery. In such works, we hear about the harsh realities of slavery and the life struggle those individuals faced. Then, we have writers like W.E.B. Du Bois and James Baldwin. These writers are particularly interesting because they explore the aftermath of slavery. Both of these writers explore the psychological and social imprint left behind by slavery.   W.E.B. Du Bois introduces and expands on   ideas like the Veil and Double-Consciousness.  He explains that the Veil is the imaginary blanket of social inequality that still hung over many African Americans, even after the Emancipation Proclamation. Du Bois talks about how the freed slaves are left with a double consciousness because they are neither Americans nor true Africans and are told what they ought to be.

These ideas are also echoed by James Baldwin. What is particularly interesting is Baldwin’s personal life. James Baldwin was an African American who wanted to write. He was discouraged by his father’s apprehension. Even so, James Baldwin pursued writing. Around the age of fourteen, James Baldwin became involved at church in order to avoid the streets of Harlem. He would preach and write sermons. This was a crucial moment in his life because it prepared him, in many ways, to become a writer. He had a profound understanding of what religion meant to the African American community, but also what it meant for the White community. However, his passion for reading and writing led him to really approach religion with an analytical eye. James Baldwin was able to lift the Veil that Du Bois talked about and shift his perspective and life style. James Baldwin began to explore the true meaning of love and identity.

In his book, The Fire Next Time, he talks about how Christianity gave the African American hope, but it many ways it harbored the doctrine of hate. James Baldwin understood that when the bible mentioned that one must love their neighbor, it was not discriminating against color. Therefore, the apprehension and anger that many African Americans had towards the White community was not in accordance with Christianity. However, this idea did not end there. James Baldwin stressed that every idea was a double sided coin. He recognized, like Du Bois, that slavery was really a binary. James Baldwin discovered that an underlying question was really about the definition of love. This was something that he really sought out, he himself being a homosexual African American male. That is to say, James Baldwin understood what it was to be the “other” and really questioned the relationship between freedom, love, and identity. He viewed love and identity as something that is universal to humans as a whole. He recognized that the aftermath of slavery, the veil and double-consciousness, was something that affected the community as a whole. James Baldwin realized that at the bottom of these different conflicts, the way in which we define love was important and essential because it defines who we are as humans.