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Application: Double Consciousness and Avoiding Stigma


Double consciousness, covering, and passing are all ways in which people respond to stigma. Double consciousness is seeing yourself through the eyes of a critical observer. For example, Arthur Ashe, a professional tennis player in the 1960s and 1970s, experienced double consciousness when he saw his daughter playing with a white doll. He saw himself both as a father who wanted his daughter to enjoy herself and as a black father, who was concerned about the perception the black community might have if they were to view his daughter’s behavior in public. He was aware or conscious of two selves, his inner self, which is not critiqued by the outside world, and the self that represented the stigma of being black during this time in history. He was faced with an identity conflict. Should he allow his daughter’s behavior and identify with his inner self, or should he ask her to change her behavior and avoid the discomfort of his potentially stigmatized self? People can avoid stigma in two ways: covering or passing. Families who are involved in transracial adoptions often feel the effects of double consciousness and are confronted with a dilemma similar to the one faced by Arthur Ashe.


To prepare for this assignment:


Review the “Framework Essay” in Section II and Readings 22 and 23 in the course text. Pay particular attention to the concepts of covering, double consciousness, and stigma.


Review the article and video clip, “Mother and Son Offer Transracial Adoption Insights.” Focus on the pros and cons of transracial adoption.


Think about how families involved in transracial adoptions relate to the concept of double consciousness.


Think about the advantages and disadvantages of covering and passing as a means of handling stigma related to race or identity.


Consider how covering and passing can be used to both cause and resolve individual identity conflicts.


The assignment (1–2 pages):


Describe the concerns held by adoptive parents and adopted children in transracial families. Explain how these concerns relate to the concept of double consciousness.


Explain the advantages and disadvantages of covering and passing. Address how they can be used to both cause and resolve identity conflicts.




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