Double consciousness refers to the phenomenon of experiencing one’s self-awareness as encompassing what others think, thus creating a sense of identity that is divided into multiple parts. Always measuring yourself through the eyes of others. This play “Dutchman” emphasizes the idea of what a black person should be and the mask that society forces him to wear; and the negro his true self. He wants to assimilate into white culture, and another wants to express his anger to the white culture. Clay struggles with trying to deal with both sides.
Clay goes through a struggle with Lula, who represents white culture. Dubois advocates for a merging of the American and the Negro souls. Baraka in response, argues that there is no reconciliation but instead that black men become victims of assimilation. Baraka explores sterotypization and the sanity of African Americans based on these stereotypes and limited opportunity to truly be themselves. Clay, in the American side of himself, shows his lack of desire in the way he dresses in a jacket and tie and his belief that he is “a black Baudelaire”. Lula continues to claim that she knows him like the palm of her hands. This assertion comes from the belief, as a representation of white society and culture, that all black men are the same type of person, specifically black men that attempt to assimilation into white culture. She claims he is a well-known type. To truly destroy Clay, Lula must make him see through the veil white society has out in place for him; she must make him remove the mask of the African American man. She does this by continually calling him uncle tom and a dirty white man. She made him believe that his kind could never be on the same level as white people. With this exploration, it is possible to see the internal struggle that is involved in Clays double consciousness.
Clays last speech before Lula kills him illustrates the internal struggle he deals with as he tries to form a personal identity in a white culture that wants him to adapt, but at the same time denies him the right to do so. Clay tells Lula to “let him be who he feels like being, even if that’s a middle class fake white man” (Dutchman 557). This is his will to be whoever he wants to be, fully aware of how he sees himself. Through becoming Lula’s victim, Clay becomes a victim of white culture by way of assimilation. Clay serves as an example to Baraka’s audience, as Baraka is trying to make them better able to understand that they are not only the brothers of victims but also that they themselves are victims. Clays death is Baraka’s way of showing the audience that assimilation into white culture only leads to loss of identity and eventual demise. Baraka makes a statement with Clay about the impossibility of assimilation into the white world. Through Lula, he also makes a statement about the scheming and conniving racism of white America in that the culture teaches black people to be white, but at the same time constantly reminds them that they are other. In his decision to speak honesty about his feelings despite his attempts to assimilate, Clay breaks the mold made for him as an assimilated black man. Lula’s seduction and murder of Clay is meant to expose the victimization of the socially assimilated African American. Not only does Baraka reject Du Bois idea that the American and negro sides of the black men can be reconciled, but he also argues that a reliance on the American side can only lead to death.
This play “Dutchman” emphasizes the idea of what a black person should be and the mask that society forces him to wear; and the negro his true self. He wants to assimilate into white culture, and another wants to express his anger to the white culture. Clay struggles with trying to deal with both sides. Both characters play a role in demonstrating the role of American Americans and Whites. Double Consciousness is being shown in this play among African Americans.