Situational comedies, or more commonly sitcoms, are traditionally rife with common themes and lessons, as they are made to mimic life in short, nicely packaged thirty-minute episodes. As these sitcoms represent life, they often also depict sociological concepts that are applied to real life. Black-ish is a sitcom that focuses on a modern, middle class black family. In particular, the episode “Switch Hitting” deals with the concept of double consciousness and directly interacts with it.
Introduced in his book The Souls of Black Folk, W. E. B. DuBois’ concept of double consciousness states that African-Americans have two selves. He claims that an African-American, in addition to seeing themself as they truly are, must also see themself through the contemptuous eyes of White America. These two selves exist in contrast to each other and prove detrimental to African-Americans, who, as they struggle to better themselves are challenged by the internalization of anti-black sentiment. DuBois writes that rather than exist as solely an American or solely as black, an African-American “wishes it possible for a man to be both a Negro and an American, without being cursed and spit upon by his fellows, without having the doors of Opportunity closed roughly in his face.” (9)
The episode “Switch Hitting” addresses directly the concept of double consciousness when the main character, Dre, has his “blackness” called into question by a seemingly hip, white, potential client, Jay, who is attempting to appeal to a black demographic. Dre, as a successful black professional contradicts Jay’s stereotypical idea of what an African-American should be. At the beginning of the episode, Dre stands in front of a mirror an...
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...heir situations don’t just lead them to switch from the black self to the American self, but rather drives them to act in hyper real performances of how people would like to imagine them: Dre in baggy clothes, huge gold chain, and athletic flat brimmed hat and his father in a checkered smoking jacket and pipe. That these two selves cannot merge sees Dre lash out at the client and his father so frightened he is willing to flee. The episode also attests to how widespread and common it is for black people, demonstrating how double consciousness exists for someone as authoritative as Barack Obama, to someone as normal a the local weatherman. It also indicates that this is something that they regularly struggle with, as Dre’s father commends him on his ability to effectively make the switch in everyday life and admits that it is something he admires and envies in his son.
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- W.E.B. DuBois' The Souls of Black Folk W.E.B. DuBois, in The Souls of Black Folk describes the very poignant image of a veil between the blacks and the whites in his society. He constructs the concept of a double-consciousness, wherein a black person has two identities as two completely separate individuals, in order to demonstrate the fallacy of these opinions. J.S. Mill also describes a certain fallacy in his own freedom of thought, a general conception of individuals that allows them to accept something similar to DuBois’ double-consciousness and perpetuates the existence of the veil.... [tags: DuBois Souls Black Folk Sociology Essays]
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