Spike Lee Speaks on Eric Garner and Americans Doing the Right Thing (Video)
I will never forget the scene in Spike Lee’s Do The Right Thing where the character Radio Raheem was savagely choked to death by a police officer. The brutality was unlike anything I’d ever seen before. The life was literally sucked out of Raheem as one officer did the choking and two others helped to subdue him. And, it went on and on and on. For 40 seconds I watched and hoped that it would stop and he would be revived (as choking victims always seemed to be in pro wrestling matches), but there would be no such redemption. I watched his feet go lifeless and then I left shortly thereafter, stunned, angry, depressed.
Although I knew at the time that the scene was based in part on the real life choking death of 25-year old Michael Stewart in Brooklyn in 1983, never in my wildest nightmares did I believe I would one day see an even more harrowing scene and it would be part of a real-life snuff film. The footage of the choking of Eric Garner is disturbingly similar, one officer does the choking while others hold him down. That video has been shown ad nauseum. So much so that it should cease for the same reasons media collectively decided to stop showing the omnipresent footage of the World Trade Center buildings being destroyed: it’s not healthy for the human psyche to watch the death of another fellow human being again and again and again.
You won’t see the video here but in my struggle to find something, anything to address the latest chapter in one of the most tragic periods I can remember in this country, I did find something that offered intelligence, insight and even a bit of hope in the midst of mass grieving and outrage across the country at the decision to not even take officer Daniel Pantaleo to trial to determine whether he should be charged in Garner’s death. And, fittingly, those words come from Spike Lee, 25 years after Do The Right Thing. He sat with CNN’s Anderson Cooper and spoke on Mr. Garner’s death, the parallels with his film, the grand jury’s decision not to indict officer Pantaleo and more. He even had some words of hope regarding the potential federal case against the officer and expressed how he’s been inspired by the activism many Americans (of all colors and ages) have taken in light of both this decision and the decision not to indict officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson. Here’s the video.
Radio Raheem’s Death