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.

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Spike Lee narrates a sequence from his film, which celebrated its 30th anniversary in 2019 with a digitally restored Blu-ray edition from the Criterion Collection.Universal Pictures/The Criterion Collection

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.”

From left, Deborah Ayorinde, Melody Hurd, Shahadi Wright Joseph and Ashley Thomas in “Them,” a new horror series from Amazon. The malevolent force at work here is racism.
Amazon Studios

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:

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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