“A most disagreeable mirror”: race consciousness as double consciousness by Lawrie Balfour in Political Theory opens with a quote from James Baldwin that posits that the United States is a nation haunted by racial brutality and inequality, that race-blindness is failing as a solution to racial inequality and that race consciousness could “defuse the accusatory ring of racism”. The author reasons that “Race consciousness is morally and politically imperative as long as Americans’ inability to talk openly about race perpetuates racial injustice”. As we have discussed in class, Americans find it difficult to openly discuss race, and because of this the problems and issues associated with racial inequality are never fully addressed and thus never solved. The article discusses the understanding Baldwin has of Dubois’ double consciousness and “Rather than reading double consciousness as a black “problem,” [the author] mines The Souls of Black Folk for clues about how Du Bois uses double consciousness to convey the struggles of a whole society haunted by a history of racial oppression. [He] then turns to Baldwin for an expanded account of this American “problem.”
This article incorporates various elements I have been seeking. It discusses separate societal understandings of race, it poses a solution to the problems which arise from these disparate understandings and incorporates a key element of the IMW neighborhood: mirrors. Note: “For mirrors are double devices: they reflect and, as glass, they cut”.
The article also succinctly and eloquently discusses what we have wrestled with in class: “Attempts to overcome “the relentless tension of the black condition” may manifest themselves internally in battles for the mantle of authenticity. As Cleaver’s assessment of Baldwin indicates, struggles over what Amelie Oksenberg Rorty calls “the right of authoritative description” serve to dehumanize members of the very group in whose name the struggle is undertaken”.
Balfour’s work will act as a political theory element to the notion of double consciousness alongside the literature that I will discuss.