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A Chief Lieutenant of the Tuskegee Machine

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Salashia Jackson

December 7, 2015

ENC 1101

It has been over twenty-five years that Spike Lee comedy drama Do the Right Thing has been out and is one of the best made black movies. This movie was inspired by actual events that happened such as the police murdering Michael Steward in 1983 and six white men raping Tawana Brawley in 1988. I argue that In Spike Lees, Do the Right Thing (1989), showed how poor black people were living in Bed – Stuy. It also showed the build – up anger between black people and other races with racial problems and tensions. The main charters that will be focused on are Bull Nunn who played as Radio Raheem, a young black man who is known around the neighborhood for carrying a big boom box and plays the song “Fight the Power” everywhere he goes. Spike lee that played as Mookie, a young delivery guy who works for Sal. Rosie Perez who played as Tina, she was the charter who opened the movie with her dancing. Danny Aiello played as Sal, the man who owns the pizzeria.

In the beginning scene, Tina is dancing in the streets of Bed – Stuy in New York City. Her dance sequence is all about violence. The song “Fight the Power” is the theme song for the movie. “In the context of the history of race relations, 1989 was indeed another year in a long struggle for equality for African Americans, but it was also worthy of note. To some, America seemed to be neglecting the problems brewing in decaying inner city neighborhoods.” (Shmoop) The song plays in the background and is played throughout the movie often. This song is also Raheem song of praise in the film. Lee wanted to define an angry song for his movie so he asked Public Enemy to write that song for him. This opening scene is introducing the theme of the movie which is calm yet aggressive between races. The colors that Tina is wearing represent the main conflict, which is racism, of the movie. She has on a red dress; the background is warm colors representing not only the heat but racial problems and tensions between the charters. She is also wearing a black and white boxing fix which were the two main conflict of the movie. The indication of the boxing match showed just how quick tension could escalate. Boxing is also reference in the scene where Raheem is explaining how love overpowers hate. In the climax of the movie Lee shows a picture of a black man and a white man in a boxing match. The red boxing gloves represent the bad blood that white and black people have towards each other. She also has on a blue dress with a black jacket on. In the movie, the people that are dressed in blue were the ones that're supposed to usually calm situations down. Even though the outlook of the police is still negative. While in person everyone may seem fine and have cooled off the hate of racism still remains on the inside.

         Heading to the end of the movie, a riot took place. Sal destroyed Raheem's radio; they got into a big fight which made the whole, angry neighborhood come out. A quote from Lee Weston Sabo stated, “Do the Right Thing ends the morning after Radio Raheem’s death, but we have enough details to know how the rest of the narrative will play out. Radio Raheem was always scowling. He liked aggressive hip-hop. He wore brass knuckles. He tried to choke Sal and resisted arrest. He will be forced into the same narrative role as Michael Brown, and his killer, an anonymous white cop, will go free. The comic strip world resets for the next day’s paper.” (Brightlightsfilm) Raheem was a youth who played his the song “Fight the Power” everywhere he goes. He was well respected in the movie and stayed to himself often. The police killed Raheem by cocking him to death, the crowd blamed Sal and his son for this action. The chocking of Raheem was a based on the death of New York City’s graffiti artist Michael Steward who was murdered by the police also. Mookie, in the movie, was the cool funny guy that everyone in the neighborhood got along with. Yet, after Raheem was killed Mookie threw a trash can into Sal’s pizzeria. Another quote from James S Kunen gives a description of how this scene took place, “The garbage can sails through the air as swift and silent as hatred itself, shattering the pizzeria's plate-glass window, and with it the fragile peace that had existed between black residents and the white shopkeepers on a sweltering ghetto block. A match is struck; the store explodes in flames. As the camera pans over the inferno, the rap song on the soundtrack exhorts, "Fight the power! Fight the power!" (Peoples Magazine) When the window was broken it was a trigger for the people who had so much anger build up to ruin Sal’s pizzeria. When Mookie threw the trash can this represented that he could no longer be in between working for Sal and being in a black neighborhood. He had to pick a side at this point which was the black neighborhoods side. I personally asked some people (2 black and 1 white) has who has seen this movie several times, what did the think about the end of this movie. Many replied that what Mookie and the crowd did not have to trash Sal’s pizzeria like they did. I find this weird because the people that I asked about the movie did not once mention anything about Raheem being killed by the policemen. They never really thought about why the trash can be thrown at the pizzeria in the first place.



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