Artistic Representation of Double Consciousness

Yelnur Abdushev

Every human being experiences double consciousness. Double consciousness is the act of perceiving yourself through two lenses. One is how you see yourself, another is how society views you. There are multiple texts, narratives and songs where we can observe the double consciousness in the authors’ experiences. Two texts I am comparing are  Du Bois’ narrative “The Souls of Black Folk” and Kendrick Lamar’s song “Blacker the Berry.” The two texts echo similar ideas about how African Americans are forced to abandon a part of their identities, to be accepted by society.

Du Bois  discusses how there is a constant battle between the two ideals:One is his African background, another is his American part of his identity. He writes, “One ever feels his twoness,—an American, a Negro; two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings; two warring ideals in one dark body, whose dogged strength alone keeps it from being torn asunder.”Du Bois wants people to understand that to be a whole the two parts of the African Americans’ identities should exist as a whole, however society makes it impossible, as they only want the “American” part. To better reach his audience, Du Bois uses repetition, such as “ two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings; two warring ideals” to highlight the split identities of African Americans.

In the song “the Blacker the Berry”, Kendrick Lamar writes,  “The blacker the berry, the sweeter the juice.” According to Kendrick, certain people find the African American culture as second-class, unnecessary,  unimportant and unwanted. They only want the “whiter berries.” In fact, they want African Americans to abandon a part of their identities  and fill the abandoned part with the white mold to fit in the society. Black berries are only able to become whiter,when they mold. They lose flavor, color, taste until they rot and decay. In this quote, the author discusses the importance of African Americans remaining their true selves, that way they are the best form of themselves. Black color of  berries is an indicator of ripeness, readiness and maturity and of great taste, as the “blacker the berries, the sweeter the juice.” 

Du Bois’ book“The Souls of Black Folk” and Kendrick Lamar’s song “Blacker the Berry” share a similar idea. Like Kendrick, Do Bois wants people to understand that African Americans are experiencing double consciousness, as society forces African Americans to demolish a part of identity to survive in the whitewashed world. Yet, Kendrick Lamar takes the idea further by describing African Americans’ experience, addressing the reader directly. Black berries grow, develop and mold when no one is willing to eat them.