the line & consciousness

I found myself thinking both figuratively and literally about the line last class.

In one of my sociology classes last semester, my professor mentioned race consciousness and progress, specifically Obama’s statement of “stepping backward.” My professor drew two “lines” parallel to each other to demonstrate his point, though technically they existed in distinct planes, one line being history and the other progress. However, the lines do not move backward or forward in a linear fashion but waver, sometimes meeting, when they would effect change, and diverge again to continue forward in their separate ways. History is not a “straight line,” although often depicted, for purposes, perhaps, of visual streamlining, in a “timeline,” but moves in cycles, circles (which recalls “Urban Mixtape”) and trends. We are often taught about history in a linear fashion, so it was interesting and relevant that we began reading The Souls of Black Folk from the final chapter.

The line I keep coming back to in Souls was about Du Bois’ idea of double consciousness. I started thinking about consciousness existing in two different planes and what Du Bois refers to as a “longing … to merge his double self into a better and truer self” (9). In a mathematical sense, these lines would never intersect. Du Bois also articulates the “waste of double aims, this seeking to satisfy two unreconciled ideals”; instead, he mentions how “all these ideals must be melted and welded into one” (15). Then how might consciousness look if it were plotted as points? Perhaps one potential answer is M. NourbeSe Philip’s “Zong! #1,” the violence implicit in the “breaking” of multiple consciousnesses.

Through our discussion last class, Kazon mentioned the dirge, a mournful song or dead march, the issues we must deal with, and the Second Line, the movement from this life to the afterlife or the movement mentioned in Walking Raddy as a march, dance, funeral – a line of people. A dirge also recalls what Du Bois called Sorrow Songs. We had discussed the seemingly trivial difference of being “in line” and “on line.” But as Lytton referred to Brian’s idea, that “in line” can refer to being “in formation,” which ties back to the Second Line, I began to see seemingly disparate points connecting – something that wouldn’t have been possible, as Mary articulates in the epigraph of this class. Something to anticipate that will be both challenging and rewarding is connecting seemingly disparate and distinct parts that inform and contribute to this class, both as a member of this class and as a class.

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