Dr. Channon Miller
The film Do the Right Thing was written, produced, and directed by Spike Lee, who is a notable African American. The film, which was released in 1989, took place in an African-American neighborhood in Brooklyn. The racial conflict played a significant role in the film and caused the audience to judge which is the right thing to do under certain circumstances. This film also made me rethink deeply towards African Americans and the situations they were facing.
Mookie, acted by Spike Lee, is the main character in this story. He works as a delivery man in a pizza restaurant. Sal, an Italian American, runs this pizza restaurant which sells most of his food to the black community. Different ethnical backgrounds people in this community own and the various beliefs they practice contain a potential contradiction. The conflict stimulated when a black guy, Buggin Out, questioning about the all-white “Wall of Fame” in the restaurant. Another character, Radio Raheem, decided to work with Buggin Out to force Sal hanging up African Americans’ pictures on the wall. In order to get more African Americans’ representations on the wall, Buggin Out and Radio Raheem protested by playing loud music and refusing to leave the store. The damage Sal made on Raheem’s music box finally infuriated Raheem. He attacked Sal and fought against the police to be in a chock hold to dead. Due to Raheem’s death, the crowd of bystanders was enraged and they burned down Sal’s restaurant.
The film had a significant amount of hidden messages and symbolic meanings. This clever twist on storytelling also meant that the first viewing of the movie was rather confusing. Near the middle of the movie, characters development stopped suddenly and the scenes transitioned into a compilation of racist comments from all racial groups. This decision confused me initially as it had nothing to do with the previous scene. However, after putting it in the context of the whole movie, I believe this scene served a very special purpose. Before the compilation, the main character Mookie was having a conversation with Pino, the son of Sal. During the conversation, Pino was not discrete regarding his distaste for African Americans. However, when Mookie asked Pino to name his favorite celebrities, all the celebrities Pino named were African Americans. As stated by Mookie during the conversation, the bias, whether for African Americans or any other race is not necessary based on personal encounters with them but rather built upon the pressure from the environment.
This reminds me of the discussion in class of better control African Americans during the early stages of the new world. The idea of African Americans being inferior was established to justify the existence of slavery. During that time where information is not easily accessible, master narratives influenced people’s belief and became the dominant cultural idea as people intentionally spread out to establish control. As time passed, the racial ideology became rooted within the culture that person grew up in, and discrimination became the first instinct for most of them. The conversation clearly demonstrates this idea. The first reaction from Pino was a distaste for African Americans, but his list of favorite celebrities clearly indicates that he is strongly in favor of African Americans. Pino himself failed to provide any form of justification towards his dislike of African Americans. However, he was able to list multiple points he liked about each African American celebrity. I believe this is because discrimination is rooted within his beliefs as stated above. Pino never gave many thoughts as to why he doesn’t like African Americans since he grew up in an environment that discriminated without providing any form of justification. As shown in the compilation of racist comments that followed this conversation, all races had a negative description of the other races. These descriptions are all built upon stereotype and are often misleading.
In conclusion, we are like Pino, who may own discrimination against the stereotypical African American; however, when he got to know African Americans such as those celebrities, he was definitely in favor. I believe the compilation at that specific point to remind us of the danger of belief in the master narrative. To remind us to form our own opinion about a specific group by learning more and interacting with them instead of believing in the stories told by the mass.