Crisis and conflict characterize the film “Do The Right Thing”. However, explicit racial divisions and tones that the characters who belong to different races in the film bring out the motive in this crisis.
Spike lee intends to bring out the notion that human beings are different and unique in their own ways and there is little human beings can do to hide from that fact. It brings out the notion that, differences between people are the source of all prejudice, stereotyping, and intolerance. Amid all the chaos, Spike Lee seeks to show that there are some voices of reason through the character of Da Mayor.
That, human beings have a choice to live positively and all the ills that the community in the film embodies can easily be avoided by only doing the right thing. The community in the film has intertwined interests that apparently make it difficult to do the right thing, be it for personal or communal benefit. From the onset, the film presents a multiracial community brought together by various interests.
All the people who live in the block have developed some interdependence while some characters are caught up in situations that demand that they commit their loyalties to different parties. People in this community have kept alive racial awareness and the interdependence that exists is only for convenience and survival.
John Turturro and Buggin Out who have not cared to hide their views about racial awareness and won’t waste an opportunity to hit out at people of different races proof this. The presence of the Radio Raheem the Radio personality, Smiley the retard and the “cornermen” especially the radio disk jockey who comment on almost everything give rise to a complicated but thriving community. There is also white owned business that serves a dominantly black neighborhood.
Mookie the deliveryman has a Puerto Rican girlfriend with whom they have a baby. He is aware of the sentiments that black people hold about whites but he needs a job hence he has to work for the whites to make a living. Comments like those of black people like Mother, Sister and Buggin out clearly show the reservations that blacks hold against whites despite acknowledging the importance of people like Aiello, albeit grudgingly.
The community is a reflection of the black population in the US. It brings to thefore the ills that afflict such a community. Police brutality as shown by the shooting dead of Radio Raheem’s wife which fuels the tenacity of such communities to use force as the only means of protection.
The police show little remorse as they leave his body and speed off. The touchy issue of racism and advocacy for equal rights is dominantly present throughout the film. Racism is deeply rooted in the community in the film perhaps a reflection of the American society at the time.
Through Buggin Out, Aiello’s prejudiced mentality comes out. After Buggin Out’s query as to why there are no black faces on the restaurant owner’s wall of fame, Aiello retorts that he only recognizes the achievements of his fellow Italians and by extension white people. Given that he represents whites in the film, the subtle message here is that white people think lowly of blacks.
Smiley sells postcards bearing the photos of Luther King and Malcolm X both of whom are black. This is comparable to recognizing Italians only faces on Aiello’s case. The resentment present in the black community and the need to have someone who represents liberation breeds adoration of the two black leaders from the black community.
Malcolm X and Martin Luther Kind are the emblems of black struggle for equality in the US. Black representation comes out through the two public figures although their approaches to black representation and liberation struggles were parallel.
The use of the two black figures brings out an argument on what actually is right. Martin Luther King is known to have advocated for peaceful means to solving crises and tensions in the community especially racism. On the other hand, Malcolm X advocated for the use of force where necessary to get what one believes is rightfully his/hers. The title of the film emphasizes the importance of doing what community generally accepts as right.
This presents an argument that what is “right” is comparative. For instance, peace and equality it’s possible to achieve peace through both force and diplomatic means. It is an argument that life in this community brings out clearly. After Radio Raheem is shot, people are upset and apparently put the blame on Aiello. Objectively speaking, Aiello has little to do with Raheem’s death. The police should take most of the blame for his death. People could not listen to Da Mayor when he tries to appeal for reason.
However, the root cause of the problem is Raheem and Aiello’s approach and their provocative ways that are nowhere near diplomatic. They do not at all embody any of Martin Luther King’s principles. No one knows for sure if their violent confrontations could have produced respect and subsequent peaceful coexistence between the two.
The tragic end to Raheem’s live and Aiello’s business is quite a pointer to what violence advocated by Malcolm X is but no one knows for sure if there could have been a positive out come. Moreover, none can either deny. After all, what other form of self-defense is available to depressed people?