Listen and follow Still Processing
Apple Podcasts | Spotify | Stitcher
Weeks later, we’re still thinking about the witnesses in the trial of Derek Chauvin, and the way they were connected in telling the story of how George Floyd lost his life. This phenomenon is reflected in works of art, like Spike Lee’s “Do the Right Thing,” which explores the conflict inherent in a community.
On Today’s Episode
‘Do the Right Thing’ (1989)
Wesley called the 1989 Spike Lee film “the greatest American movie ever made about community.”
Although the film is now 32 years old, it has striking parallels to the circumstances surrounding the tragedy of George Floyd. For one, the murder of Mr. Floyd — and the gathering of witnesses — transpired outside of Cup Foods, a corner store in South Minneapolis, where Mr. Floyd had tried to buy a pack of cigarettes. In “Do the Right Thing,” the locus of action is Sal’s Pizzeria, where the Black customers from the neighborhood clash with the Italian-American owner.
The film explores “what it means to be in a community that can also turn into a pressure cooker,” Jenna said. “The ultimate tragedy about this movie,” Wesley added, “is that it is going to be ageless.”
◆ ◆ ◆
Capturing the Trauma of Racism
In the last five years, a class of films and television shows made by and starring Black people “purport to speak to an aspect of what’s so difficult about being Black in this country,” Wesley said. They’ve spanned genres, like horror (“Get Out” and “Them”), science fiction (“Lovecraft Country”) and drama (“Two Distant Strangers,” “Queen and Slim” and “Judas and the Black Messiah”).
“We’re drowning in things that are trying to capture the feeling of what racism is like in this country,” Wesley said. But the reason these properties ultimately feel limiting is because they’re fixated on emphasizing the violence of racism. This sentiment was recently encapsulated in a Twitter post made by the author Brit Bennett:
Hosted by: Jenna Wortham and Wesley Morris
Produced by: Elyssa Dudley
Edited by: Sara Sarasohn and Sasha Weiss
Engineered by: Marion Lozano
Executive Producer, Shows: Wendy Dorr
Executive Editor, Newsroom Audio: Lisa Tobin
Assistant Managing Editor: Sam Dolnick
Special thanks: Nora Keller, Julia Simon, Mahima Chablani and Desiree Ibekwe
Wesley Morris is a critic at large. He was awarded the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for his criticism while at The Boston Globe. He has also worked at Grantland, The San Francisco Chronicle and The San Francisco Examiner. @wesley_morris
Jenna Wortham is a staff writer for The Times Magazine and co-editor of the book “Black Futures” with Kimberly Drew. @jennydeluxe