In case you missed Obama’s speech yesterday, here it is. And in case you haven’t pondered the unique “double consciousness” we grow in American, SPR’s Tom Baxter does so for you:
When W.E.B. Dubois introduced the concept of double consciousness, on the eve of the 20th Century, he was talking about the dilemma of African-Americans in his own time, of “measuring one’s soul by the tape of a world that looks on in amused contempt and pity.”
Those aren’t words Obama or those of his generation would use to describe their inner selves today. But in an ever more hyphenated world, Dubois’ idea of seeing things through different lenses in the same set of eyes has proven to be intellectually elastic, and useful for talking about many aspects of modern life.
The Obama speech could be read as a new – and to those used to thinking of a fundamentally divided America, surprising – twist on the concept of double consciousness. Its critical section is the one in which he relates his divided feelings about the black minister who baptized his children and the white grandmother who helped raise him, and who both expressed racial sentiments he rejected. To understand its importance fully, we have to think of this in a generational perspective.