Do The Right Thing (1989)
“Do The Right Thing” is another one of Spike Lee’s wake-up calls to the masses, controversial initially for being accused of inciting violence, the film unveils a day in the lives of a racially diverse community in a lower class neighborhood in Brooklyn, New York. Against the backdrop of today’s demonstration of institutionalized violence against Black Americans at the hands of the state, “Do The Right Thing” is more relevant now than ever.
It explores the contours of racial inequality and resulting racially motivated murders of Black Americans along the likes of Radio Raheem in the film and George Floyd in today’s times. Instead of hinting towards racial reconciliation and providing a surface level “solution” to the problem of racism, “Do The Right Thing” picks up a more nuanced approach, which raises uncomfortable questions, instead of portraying an impractical and unreal peaceful version of a very violent history and consequent reality.
The film provokes the audience, forcing them to acknowledge their perspectives and prejudices, all the while clearly highlighting the institutionalized oppression of white supremacy and the instruments of state that are used to dispense it. In Radio Raheem’s case, the police.
Very similar to Spike Lee’s take in Blackkklansman, where he demands the audience to wake up to the forces of racism residing within the system, which are in fact systemic and do not exist on just the individual level.
The film remains polarizing in different circles even today and that polarity is embodied best in the two opposing quotes from Dr. Martin Luther King and Malcom X played in the end of the film, regarding violence vs. Non-violence.