Since I first heard the term while studying in Cuba, I have been interested in the idea of double consciousness. In Du Bois essay titled Strivings of the Negro People, Du Bois brought to the forefront many secret struggles of blacks in America as well as the battle that we go through trying to figure out how we should identify ourselves. Are we black first and then American, or are we American then black? Is it possible for us to be both without having conflict? It was the first time the idea of being two separate entities in one body had occurred to me. I knew there was racism and discrimination but I never thought about how this affects the way we identified ourselves. In USA, my professor in Cuban studies professor told us, among Afro-Americans there is this idea of double consciousness. The idea that when we are out in the world we are two things, black and American. But which do we identify as first? Well in America it can be argued that we are first in foremost black, then American follows. This frame of mind is hard to be avoided since so much negative attention throughout the decades has been brought to the idea of being black. We were enslaved, segregated, and treated as second class citizens. We once only counted as 3/5 of a person. Often quick judgments about a persons character are made based on skin color. The fact that we even have to have a movement to declare that Black lives indeed do matter draws attention to the fact that we have a problem. Our lives don’t automatically matter because we are also American citizens, just the same as our white counterparts. Instead our lives matter because we are black.
In Cuba, we were told in our culture class, most afro Cubans identify themselves as Cuban first and then black. They identify stronger with their nationality than their race. This could be because the segregation was not as severe in Cuba as it was in America. Cubans all struggle on the same level. Because of the socialist regime, no person is supposed to be any better off than the other. They are all in the fight together on a pretty even playing field (Gates). According to many Cubans, they do not believe that discrimination exists. This is not to say that they are a perfectly blended society without flaw. In Cuba there is still the idea that the whiter you are, the better opportunities you will have in life. Which could appear to be true as you look at the “good” jobs in Cuba, hotel workers, are generally dominated by lighter complected people. While the people in the square, entertaining tourists under the hot sun, are often darker complected. But because of their unified struggle in their little country, they are all Cubans first, though they be of many different skin tones.
Jr., Henry Louis Gates. “One-on-One With Afro-Cubans: What It Means to Be Black in Cuba.” The Root. N.p., 18 July 2015. Web. 15 Sept. 2016.