Do the right thing analysis and reflection

Jarvis Lu

HIST 218

Do the Right thing analysis and reflection

In search of learning more about African American history during the African American history month, I attended the showing of the movie “Do the Right Thing”. In this essay, I shall provide an overview of the movie and personal analysis of its meaning.

Before actually watching the film, the title gave me the idea of it being about the story of African Americans overcoming some struggle with their environment and coming to terms in a peaceful manner. However, the film turned out to be anything but that. The stories started with DJ love daddy, a radio host in a neighborhood mostly filled with African Americans. He then introduces us to the town that he lives in and the main character, Mookie. Mookie is a delivery boy at a pizza restaurant that most people in the town eat. Sal is the owner of the pizza restaurant. Sal also happens to be one of the few white Americans living in this community filled mostly with African American, Hispanic and immigrants of other racial ethnicities. The differences in cultural background and beliefs certainly warranted tension between Sal and the community members. A character named Buggin Out had an unfriendly history with the owner Sal. Sal has a wall of fame in the restaurant full of white Americans. Buggin Out is offended by the lack of African Americans on the wall and demanded pictures of Africans be hanged. Sal refused his request as he did what he saw fit in his store. Buggin Out tried to get support from the crowd but failed to do so since they all had a long history of eating at Sal’s place. With that being said, Buggin Out is not the only person unsatisfied with Sal. Another character called Radio Raheem had an unpleasant history with Sal for playing his music too loudly in Sal’s restaurant. As their rage grew, Buggin Out and Radio Raheem decided to force Sal to hang up pictures of African Americans in his store. They marched into the store with blaring music demanding action from Sal. After some argument, Sal broke Radio Raheem’s music player to finally stop the music. In his rage, Radio Raheem attacked Sal and was arrested by police officers that arrived at the scene later. During the arrest, Radio Raheem fought back constantly and was choked to death by an officer. The crowd was enraged by this and burned down Sal’s place. The film ended with DJ love daddy announcing the news and stating it is going to be yet another hot day.

The movie was titled “Do the Right Thing”. However, I believe in the movie, nobody really did the right thing. Near the end of the movie, After Radio Raheem was killed. The angry mob was getting out of control. Mookie redirected their anger towards the store by throwing a trash can through the window of the restaurant. I believed this was the right thing to do at the time as the mob focused on trashing the restaurant instead of attacking Sal and his son.  However, the story ended with Mookie getting fired, and DJ love Daddy announcing it is going to be yet another hot day. I believe the hot day not only signifies the temperature the town is experiencing, but also the tension between the ethnic groups. So in the end, things never changed. Mookie saving Sal’s life saved him at the time, but he couldn’t solve the bigger, more systemic issues that are the root cause of the problem. Racial inequality and the lack of opportunity is the reason why the community is poor and discriminated against. In the story, Buggin Out and Radio Raheem decided to counteract this through the use of violence. They were merely searching for an equal representation of both whites and blacks on a wall of fame in a remote cafeteria, yet it ended up costing Radio Raheem his life. Although it seems like an irrelevant demand when taking in the big picture, I believe this struggle is a reflection of the bigger issue, equal access, and representation. As discussed in class. African American representation has always been very limited. African American representation is intentionally limited to a one-sided story can be told. As shown in the film, the wall of fame contained a one-sided story of white American being better than African Americans. It contained only pictures of white American achieving great heights. For an uninformative observer, after looking at the wall of fame, the only logical conclusion that the person can draw is praises for the white Americans. By doing this, a one-sided story is formed. The observer would walk away with the conclusion that no African Americans achieved enough to qualify for the wall of fame, making this person more susceptible to other one-sided stories that promoted racial inequality. I believe this movie is called do the right thing to refer to the right way to fight for set equality. As shown in the final scene of the movie, a picture of Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr was hung up on the remains of Sal’s wall of fame. Two great civil rights leaders who spent their lives fighting for social justice under very different principles. Much like Malcolm X, Buggin Out and Radio Raheem tried to force Sal to change the picture through violence. And much like Martin Luther’s approach, Mookie saved Sal and kept only what he earned for his pay. I believe the title do the right thing doesn’t mean that anybody actually did the right thing in the movie, but more so, how to fight for your goal in the right way.

Near the end of the movie, DJ love Daddy stated it is yet another hot day. I believe signified that the tension in the community didn’t decrease due to the riot that just happened. A life lost due to the struggle for equality, yet very little was achieved through it. Had Buggin Out taken a different approach such as campaigning for African American representation or presenting a petition, maybe the violence and conflict could have been avoided. The easiest thing for Buggin Out to do was to demand representation through force, but the right thing is usually not the easiest thing to do.



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