Dinner Party with Spike Lee

One of the regular podcasts I listen to is The Dinner Party Download (is a fast and funny ‘booster shot’ of news and culture designed to help you dazzle your friends and family at this weekend’s dinner party.).  Last week’s “dinner party guest of honor” was Spike Lee, promoting his new book on the Making of Do the Right Thing.

As we get into Black History Month, looking back into this film with Spike Lee was really interesting with two white dinner party hosts.  One of the gimmicks of The Dinner Party Download is the hosts, Rico Gagliano and Brendan Francis Newnam, ask the guest of honor (the person being interviewed) what’s the questions people shouldn’t ask you if they happened to be seated next to you at a dinner party.  Spike Lee’s response was that one of those questions for white people is “Why did Mookie throw the trash can?”  Black people living in America don’t have to ask that question, Spike Lee said.

Lee also pointed out that film critics and many movie goers back in 1989 got focused on Mookie throwing the trash can and Sal’s business getting burned and looted, yet passed over Radio Raheem’s death.  The dramatic contrast between the concern for the loss of a white business and the lesser or lack of concern for a Black man’s life was and continues to be troubling.  During the Dinner Party Download conversation, the group discusses 1989’s Oscar winner “Driving Miss Daisy” portrayed a Black Man America could handle, but Radio Raheem it was not ready for (is still not ready for) and was/is afraid of.

Lee mentioned that twenty years on, not many people are teaching Driving Miss Daisy and they are teaching Do the Right Thing. I used to teach Do the Right Thing for years when I taught moral theology in a Catholic high schools. I hadn’t watched it in a number of years now, however and seeing as my son is home sick today, and old enough to watch it and interested in making movies (maybe even study with Spike Lee at NYU in a couple of years), I sat down to watch it again.  It still holds up. Its lessons are still hard.    We are too far down the road and have seen too many Sal’s Famous incidents to take The Mayor’s advice to do the right thing lightly or pass over without deeply pondering the wisdom of Martin and Malcolm.   Perhaps in the end we defend ourselves best, avoid violence most by practicing love – as best as we are able.


Violence as a way of achieving racial justice is both impractical and immoral. It is impractical because it is a descending spiral ending in destruction for all. The old law of an eye for an eye leaves everybody blind. It is immoral because it seeks to humiliate the opponent rather than win his understanding; it seeks to annihilate rather than to convert. 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 think there are plenty of good people in America, but there are also plenty of bad people in America and the bad ones are the ones who seem to have all the power and be in these positions to block things that you and I need. Because this is the situation, you and 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

Let me tell you the story of right hand-left hand. It’s a tale of good and evil. Hate: it was with this hand that Cain iced his brother. Love: these five fingers, they go straight to the soul of man. The right hand: the hand of love. The story of life is this: static. One hand is always fighting the other hand, and the left hand is kicking much ass. I mean, it looks like the right hand–Love–is finished. But hold on, stop the presses; the right hand is coming back. Yeah, he got the left hand on the ropes now, that’s right. Ooh, it’s a devastating right and Hate is hurt. He’s down. Left-Hand Hate KO-ed by Love.

– Radio Raheem

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