One of the interesting conflicts in “Do the Right Thing” is Bugging Out’s demand to put “brothers on the wall. ” Bugging Out complains to Sal that there is no African Americans on Sal’s “Wall of Fame. ” Sal, as the owner of the shop, gives out a racial response “American Italians only. ” This certain conflict of having “brothers on the wall” presents the larger issue of black Americans who aren’t recognized for their notable achievements.
Bugging Out and Sal’s actions suggest the double consciousness that W. E. B Du Bois ascribes in The Souls of Black Folk, as “two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings; two warring ideals in one dark body”(Du Bois) and in which McKelly describes it as “an effect of the contradictory positioning of African-American culture within the dominant social order of “white Americanism”(Mckelly).
I think that these two “thoughts” are seen throughout the conflict of “brothers on the wall” between Sal and Bugging Out. As Bugging Out demands African Americans to be put on the wall, Sal becomes the dominant social order; being the owner of the restaurant that maintains its economic firmness from the black customers in the neighborhood. Bugging Out’s “brothers on the wall” and Sal’s American Italian “Wall of Fame” represent McKelly’s “double consciousness. Du Bois’ view of double consciousness does not entirely match with these two characters because he ascribes it as “two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings; two warring ideals in one dark body”(Du Bois) That “One Dark Body” refers to these two ideals in one African American, however, here we do not see it in a single body; we see it in Sal and Bugging Out who have two opposing thoughts. In other words, Du Bois’ “double consciousness “is integrated in Sal and Bugging Out, just not entirely. On the other hand, McKelly’s “double consciousness” makes it clear that Bugging Out and Sal have opposing views.Order now
Bugging Out who wants African Americans to be recognized for their notable achievements and Sal who does not. During the scene of the conflict of “brothers on the wall,” Bugging Out says, “people are free to do whatever the hell they want to do” (DTRT). Sal responds, “Free! There’s no ‘free’ here! I’m the boss” (DTRT). I think that in this scene Bugging Out represents the black leaders who are not recognized. Sal gives Bugging Out no choice but to leave without achieving his goal of having “brothers on the wall. ” Bugging Out lost his recognition inside a “white” pizzeria.
Here, Sal is presented as the “dominant social order of white Americanism” (McKelly). Bugging Out’s demands of “brothers on the wall” get him nowhere because he is not the owner of the Pizzeria. As movie critic Roger Ebert states, “We see no black owned businesses on the street economic discrimination against blacks has been institutionalized for years in America” (Ebert). This statement connects directly with Bugging Outs and Sal’s double consciousness presented in the conflict with having African Americans on the wall.
It demonstrates the racial conflict between “two thoughts, two souls. ” These “two souls” are Bugging Out representing the black leaders who aren’t recognized and Sal representing “white Americanism. ” There is no black owned businesses, only an Italian pizzeria and a Korean grocery store. This is an example of McKelly’s “double consciousness,” “the contradictory positioning of African American within white Americanism” (McKelly). This contradictory positioning is seen with Bugging Out and Sal. And at a larger scale with the black neighborhood and Sal’s Pizzeria.
During the scene of the conflict of “brothers on the wall,” Sal says, “you want brothers on the wall, get your own place” (DTRT). I believe that in this scene Spike Lee wanted to give a message showing us that it wasn’t just about Bugging Out demanding recognition for his black “brothers”; He wanted to show us how bad the economic situation for the black neighborhood was. Their economic position doesn’t allow them to have a place of their own. Without a place of their own there can be no recognition for their black leaders.
Bugging Out has the value of leadership in the sense that he doesn’t hold back when offended, however, he doesn’t seem to have the “looks” to become one. “In one scene, Bugging Out goes around the neighborhood asking people who want to join his boycott against Sal’s Pizzeria. The people around the neighborhood are Bugging Outs friend, but they don’t support him in the boycott” (DTRT). Bugging Outs actions are those of a leader. He doesn’t give up after all the negative responses. This leadership and rejection represents the message given in the conflict of “brothers on the wall. Bugging Out isn’t being recognized despite all of the notable actions he is doing. I support Bugging Outs actions.
He wants to boycott a place that people have become fond to. This is why people don’t support him. Sal is a good person to the neighborhood, but he is receiving all the income from the black people. The black neighborhood doesn’t excel in income. Bugging Outs actions might suggest that bringing down Sal’s will help his “brothers” to be recognized. Bugging Out seems to be a person that likes to be recognized among his people.
He wants to be recognized for boycotting a “white” place (Sal’s Pizzeria) that is growing financially from the black neighborhood. His black friends seem to be too stupid to realize that, but Bugging Out knows that he has to do something for his people. The conflict of “brothers on the wall” give Sal an ambiguous personality. Sal is in constant conflict with two sides. Sal says that his business has grown thanks to the black neighborhood, yet he doesn’t give them recognition in his “Wall of fame”. His son Pino and Jade are examples of his conflict with his two sides.
Pino tries to remind him what they are and where they are supposed to be and Jade pulls him back to the start. She reminds him that Sal’s Pizzeria is where he has to be. As movie critic Roger Ebert states, “Sal is sincere when he says he likes his customers, and he holds his head in his hands when Pino calls them “niggers” and berates a simpleminded street person. But in his rage Sal is also capable of using “nigger” (Ebert). This ambiguity give us two ways to interpret his actions. It is a representation of the “double consciousness” presented by Du Bois. In one scene, Sal tells Pino that he has seen the kids grow in the neighborhood with his food and which is something he is very proud of I haven’t had any trouble with these people,” and in the scene with Radio Raheem he calls him a “Nigger” (DTRT). Sal thinks that doing the right thing is to stay in the neighborhood that has given his business life. But the double consciousness is what destroys him in the end. He explodes and calls Radio Raheem a nigger. This is followed by the destruction of his business. His purpose of life to run his business gets destroyed.
At its core, Sal and Bugging Out define McKelly’s “double consciousness” throughout the conflict of having “brothers on the wall. ” Do the Right Thing doesn’t necessarily present Bugging Out and Sal as a hero or villain. It just present us their actions to show us the truth about the racial conflict between the black neighborhood and “white Americanism. ” I think that Bugging Out and Sal where characters that presented the clearest example of the problems African Americans faced despite their notable actions. Here Bugging Out representing the black leaders and Sal representing the problem.
Du Bois, W. E. B. The Souls of Black Folk. Chicago: McClurg, 1903. Web.
Do the Right Thing. Dir. Spike Lee. Forty Acres and a Mule Filmworks, 1988. Film.
Ebert, Roger. “Do the Right Thing Movie Review (1989).” Rogerebert.com. Web. 26 Oct. 2014.
McKelly, James C. “The Double Truth, Ruth: Do the Right Thing and the Culture of Ambiguity.”