The Double Consciousness of Danny P Ocean
Written by Danny P Ocean on May 13, 2016
“It is a peculiar sensation, this double-consciousness, this sense of always looking at one’s self through the eyes of others, of measuring one’s soul by the tape of a world that looks on in amused contempt and pity. One ever feels his two-ness, 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. The history of the American Negro is the history of this strife- this longing to attain self-conscious manhood, to merge his double self into a better and truer self. In this merging, he wishes neither of the older selves to be lost. He does not wish to Africanize America, for America has too much to teach the world and Africa. He wouldn’t bleach his Negro blood in a flood of white Americanism, for he knows that Negro blood has a message for the world. He simply wishes to make 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”
As a youth growing up in the city this was an obstacle that I faced in some shape or form on the regular. On one hand I wanted to be accepted by the community from which I came, and on the other, to a lesser degree, I was taught to be accepted by the mainstream. This problem was compacted by the fact that I didn’t have a male in my life to tell me the basics on how to move in a room full of vultures. Catch my drift? Life was a beam that I had to balance in the midst of a strong gust that was there to knock me off.
In the 80s, I had to figure out what was the perfect balance between “Black” culture and “American” culture. The culture I was baptized in my days of youth was peppered with “hip hop.” My style of dress, walk and talk oozed the boom bap that my radio speakers would blast. And unfortunately, that culture didn’t mix well with the so-called American mainstream culture. Hip Hop culture was the Jedi to America’s Sith if you will. If you listened to It Takes A Nation of Millions, or Death Certificate it was hard to turn around and eat a plate of bacon singing God Bless America.
So the more and more I matured in hip hop x Black culture the more I became disenfranchised with what it meant to be “mainstream.” In my mind the two couldn’t coexist, similar to one person having two souls in their body fighting for the main stage, there was only one light, and one mic. With that rebellion naturally came a distrust to the educational system that I was no longer wanting to be a part of.
Let me tell you about blackness,
Grits and cornbread how can you act this?
Was I wrong? As I began to look deeper in what it meant to be Black in America during the 80s, early 90s I uncovered the nasty, dirty veil worn by Lady Liberty who JUST got off the back of Jim Crow. Many of the lessons, thoughts, and teachers I came in contact with were products of a racist foundation whose wounds were freshly scabbed. Mainstream was not conducive to me and my reality. Mastering education, in turn, became corny and unnecessary.
If you take a look into education and the American way of schooling the youth, you will find that it was a system designed to place White males into colleges and universities. As years went by others were included. Our inclusion was never meant to be equal to our counterparts. In other words in order for the mainstream to retain its position of superiority, Blacks, and other groups often times received a lesser quality of education from teachers who wasn’t feeling us. So at a young age, the conclusion I arrived at was why should I care to assimilate into a system that couldn’t care less about me and my culture. It wasn’t until I began to see an example of how education could be “cool” that I began to care about obtaining one.
It took A Diff’rent World and School Daze for me to see what it meant to be smart and cool from examples I could identify with. All of a sudden being smart didn’t seem “white” or uncool. It became a path that led me to go to Grambling State University. There I saw what it meant to be educated and Black. Thousands of students looked like me, dressed like me, and wanted to succeed. While being a student at GSU I learned the gentle balance of acquiring an education but maintaining my sense of self throughout the process. My feet remained firmly planted in the soul of my culture. I was taught how to utilize my gifts and tools to maneuver in a world that didn’t look like me. I understood what it meant to be Black, educated, and proud.
Double Consciousness in America is real as The Real Deal Holyfield. It is an issue that is still prevalent to this day for young Black kids growing up in a world that is as racist as ever. However, the difference between now and my day is that where I had example of Black educated coolness, these students do not. Where I could turn on the tv or watch a film that reaffirmed what it meant to be educated, these kids may not have that luxury. Young Black students are given the task of “making it” in a system that wasn’t designed for them to excel. What is the answer for the youth? Where will they get their Diff’rent World from? Who will tell them how to balance their double consciousness? Or will their light taper out before it is given the opportunity to shine?