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Spike Lee’s movie “Do the Right Thing” exposes the events that transpired during the struggle for black recognition in the US at the height of racial intolerance. The whole issue emanated from the general feeling that black Americans were regarded as a minority group, thus leading to several protests that at times culminated in a tragic end.
Interestingly, Lee’s story captures some of the perplexing and amusing occurrences. A critical scan of the chain of events reveals a community that is determined to get what it wants by whatever means. In other words, even if securing the demand means, for instance, resorting to violence, it is still perfectly acceptable. Sometimes, this leads to deaths of members of warring parties in the conflict.
As an analyst of socio-political events, I hereby detail some of the happenings that interest me most about Lee’s work. As a multi-talented artist in the film industry, Lee has employed some powerful stylistic devices, such as metaphors, in his final production. His work depicts irreconcilable differences between the two races, i.e. white and black people, but eventually the two protagonists reconcile. The movie emphasizes the need for people to preserve their racial identity without losing it. At the same time, it exposes hypocrisy at the highest level and shows that the two races have a right to protect their individual identities. However, advocating a cause is one thing, but doing the actual thing is quite another. The white men, therefore, also had the right to protect their Italian identities just as the blacks wanted.
Together with others these preceding analyses form the basis of my arguments as indicated in the below paragraphs. The perception that if one party offends the other then the offended must do the same as a justification is unacceptable. Violence is never justified under any circumstances and two wrongs do not make a right (Martin Luther King Junior).
My first centre of interest about Lee’s movie is the defiant restaurant owner (Mr. Salvatore), simply known as Sal. He lives in the black neighborhood and does business with them, but detests their culture. Mr Sal proudly hangs on the wall of fame in his restaurant pictures of some Italian white men, but refuses to do so with some of the celebrities of the black race. Most amusing is that his ultimate clients are the blacks, not white people, which exposes his blatant ignorance. When asked by a black client (Burgin Out) to do so, he flatly refuses, a move that nearly escalates into a full-blown war.
Another area that draws my attention is the division within Sal’s own family. His elder son, Pino, hates blacks and pours a lot of vitriol on them. He takes after his father in this issue, and this is evident in the way he treats their black employee (Mookie). On the other hand, Sal’s younger son, Vito, embraces Mookie as his best friend, thus signaling his passion for the blacks despite his white background. This incident almost led to a wide rift between the two brothers. To my dismay, the same scenario is also witnessed in Mookie’s family. Mookie accuses his sister Jade of being too close to Sal, the white man he hates. They are later found to be on the same side of their respective families when the war breaks out.
There is an incident where Radio Raheem complains that some Puerto Rican men bother him by playing their radios too loud when he himself is a culprit of that! He walks around with his boombox releasing a deafening sound which even caused commotion at Sal’s restaurant. The fact that his name also portrays his gadget (radio) is another reason to raise eyebrows. Raheem’s sudden death by just being put in a chokehold leaves a lot to be desired. Just as controversial as he was, that is how he came by his death.
The episode goes a head to expose some of the most intriguing events. A mentally challenged person (Smiley) seems to be properly fit in mind. He plays the role of an equal-rights crusader, by holding pictures of some of the most influential figures in the world’s history, such as Dr. Martin Luther King Junior and Malcolm X, who are his role models. Being aware of the mistreatment and killing of one of his friends by the police, he mobilizes the crowd and single-handedly sets Sal’s restaurant on fire in a fit of anger. I later realized that after the restaurant was razed down, Smiley proudly suspended the pictures of the two leaders he cherished. He capped this incident with a broad smile, just like his name sounds. All these happenings do not portray Smiley as a mentally sick person, but rather as a perfectly normal one.
Then comes the issue of Da Mayor regarded as a drunkard. Quite contrary to what the name suggests, his actions portray him as a sober-minded person. He has always acted as a mediator, trying to cool tempers that flare up whenever there is a confrontation between the warring groups. He also saves a boy from being run over by a car. Funny enough, there is an incident where the said mediator pulls the restaurant owner out of the mobs’ way, hence creating them chance to destroy Sal’s property. This is quite amazing since Sal and his two sons might have trusted Da Mayor for the safety of their lives and property. In this case, Da Mayor is playing double standards, because he tries to please both sides of the conflict.
Intervention by the police in the ensuing chaos also brings to fore some of the most interesting situations. Their actions obviously show a deliberate racial discrimination. They only apprehend and ruthlessly deal with the young blacks, but do nothing to the Italian guys. Perplexingly, they are entrusted with protection of life and property, but they leave the Italian trio and their property to the menacing mob, who are at liberty to deal with them as per their wish, including killing them.
It is Mother Sister’s predicament in the ensuing melee that profoundly surprised me. She has been watching the whole incident from the comfort of her brown stone. The question posed here is how she then lands at the heart of the violent mob? Until she is grabbed by Da Mayor, she is in great trouble. Another interesting incident is that Da Mayor has been trying to please Mother Sister by all means and is, therefore, looking for an opportunity to prove that. He does that when he rescues her from that scene of chaos while she is screaming.
Mookie, having personally participated in the burning of his workplace, goes back to the owner, Mr. Sal, and reconciles with him. The most surprising thing is that after participating in such an illicit act, he demands his dues from the same employer and is given them without hesitation.
The film then ends with two quotations. One is by Dr. Luther in which he asserts that violence cannot be justified under any circumstances. The other one is from Malcolm X who claims that violence is just intelligence when defending oneself. The two are great leaders and political heavyweights whose approaches to violence are at variance: one is in favor of violence, while the other is opposed to it. Finally, it is surprising that the advocates of non-violence are the perpetrators of the same. These people too agitate for equal racial rights, but only recognize the two black leaders, hence they are also racists.
In conclusion, I find the movie satisfying, but at the same time imbued with double standards and inconsistencies.