Spike Lee Did The Wrong Thing
Did Radio Raheem die in vain? Spike Lee's decision to tweet (Spike Lee's Incorrect Tweet Causes Elderly Couple to Flee Home ...) the address of Trayvon Martin's shooter George Zimmerman, speaks volumes about the director. The fact that Lee got the address wrong and, and as a result, endangered the lives of two innocent seniors, makes one question Lee's judgement. Spike Lee has subsequently apologized to and compensated the McClain family, but not before his actions had the potential to be fatal for two innocent people.
One can't help but be saddened when thinking back to Spike Lee's 1989 landmark film Do The Right Thing. Spike Lee had made one of the most compelling movies ever about race relations in America. The movie was complex and real. It showed the confluence of African American, Italian, Puerto Rican and Korean communities in the neighborhood of Bedford-Stuyvesant in Brooklyn. Toward the end of the movie, a mob descends on Sal's Famous pizzeria. The mob is out for immediate justice and unfortunately, the entire community suffers from the consequences.
Do The Right Thing accurately reflected and foreshadowed the state of race relations in the late 1980's. The Rodney King trial was about to happen. The Tawana Brawley case had just concluded. These were tense times and Spike Lee accurately captured these explosive sentiments on screen. While the movie was controversial, it was easy to defend. Sometimes situations get worse before they can get better. Lee was clearly using the movie and the mob's rush to judgement as a lesson. Or was he?
Unfortunately, Lee's choice to retweet the address of the wrong Zimmerman's, has set in motion an irrational attack on two innocent people. Lee's knee jerk reaction to a very sad situation could have been deadly. The Trayvon Martin case is supposed to be about protecting the innocent. Lee's decision to ignorantly target the address of the McClain's was itself an act of potential violence.
Spike Lee's reckless and irresponsible tweet as well as his initial indifference to offering an apology, provides insight into Lee's world view. Do The Right Thing concludes with two quotes, one by Dr. Martin Luther King and the other by Malcolm X (see below). These quotes resonate as the credits of the movie roll. It seems certain that these two quotes were juxtaposed to prove a point. The point being, Dr. King's argument is based on love, forgiveness, redemption and understanding. This is in direct contrast to Malcolm X's confrontational message that justice can be pursued "by all means necessary".
The riot that ensued in the movie served no one, with the main casualty being the community itself. The struggle between a divisive or inclusive society pushed the narrative to a boiling point. Isn't it obvious we need to follow Dr King's approach, albeit acknowledging the anger, disappointment, and resentment that is genuinely felt in the African American community? Not according to Spike's Lee's tweet. Maybe we missed his point after all.
..... Violence is immoral because it thrives on hatred rather than love. It destroys a community and makes brotherhood impossible. It leaves society in monologue rather than dialogue. Violence ends by defeating itself. It creates bitterness in the survivors and brutality in the destroyers.
- Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
.... I have to preserve the right to do what is necessary to bring an end to that situation, and it doesn't mean that I advocate violence, but at the same time I am not against using violence in self-defense. I don't even call it violence when it's self-defense, I call it intelligence.
- Malcolm X
Spike Lee has now compensated the McClain family for the enormous disruption he has caused in their lives. While this is the right thing to do, it shows what can happen when we act emotionally instead of thinking rationally. We need our leaders, both political and community based, to be the voice of reason. Let's hope cooler heads prevail.