The Reality of Double Consciousness and Code Switching
When can Black people truly feel like they can be themselves?
In a world filled with stereotypes, you can find yourself often times wondering if you fit in certain spaces. Some of us might feel like we are “too Black” in all white spaces or not “Black enough” being in those spaces. On the other hand, we might feel like we are seen as “white” in majority Black spaces or not “Black enough.” This feeling can make Black people struggle with their identity. This concept of “double consciousness” was first explored by W.E.B. Du Bois in the 1903 publication, “The Souls of Black Folk.” Double consciousness describes the individual sensation of feeling as though your identity is divided into several parts, making it difficult or impossible to have one unified identity.
Because of double consciousness we might find ourselves “code switching,” which is the practice of alternating between two or more languages or varieties of language in conversation. When we are in all white spaces we might speak a certain way to make us seen more relatable or approachable. In Black spaces we might find ourselves using AAVE more than usual because we believe that is what will make us fit in in that space. We even subconsciously change our speaking and language to adapt to the space we are in.
If we have to code switch, it makes me questions how deep is our relationships with friends, family, work colleagues, etc. Are we even being authentic in certain spaces? If not, when do we feel like we are 100 percent ourselves where we do not have to code-switch? Does that place even exist?
In this episode, the So-Called Oreos discuss moving between Black and white spaces based off the concept of “double consciousness.” Rachel speaks on the challenges of coming from a majority Black community to going to a PWI for school, Kia explains how she has come to terms calling her all white town “home” after 20 years, while Amari and Janae express not feeling a deep connection to their hometown and having internal displacement. The four women talk about code switching in order to survive in corporate America as well as to fit in with Black people who already have a preconceived notion of you. The question arises whether you can be 100 percent yourself with a nonblack partner before Rachel gives tips on mentally preparing yourself before entering a new space.
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