Dr. King’s Day: Movie Moment — Do the Right Thing

Do the Right Thing (Spike Lee, 1989).



Do the Right Thing culminates in terrific racial violence in the Bedford-Stuyvesant Park part of Brooklyn, New York.




After the film ends, two quotes, one from Dr. King, and one from Malcolm X, are presented along with a still iconic image of them shaking hands.



The quotes advance two different philosophies for accomplishing an agenda of social change. The two philosophies presented in the quotes underscore the clashing sides of the issues boiling over in the time of the film’s setting.




Dr. King’s quote is, “Violence as a way of achieving racial justice is both impractical and immoral. 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 convert. Violence is immoral because it thrives on hatred rather than love. It destroys community and makes brotherhood impossible. It leaves society in monologue rather than dialogue. Violence ends up defeating itself. It creates bitterness in the survivors and brutality in the destroyers.”

(This quote mainly comes from his 1964 Nobel Peace Prize lecture, except for the “everybody blind” part. “An Eye for an Eye leaves everyone blind” is an attributed quote that was not included in the Nobel speech. I’ve actually been unable to find it at all in his legitimate writings, but it is a good axiom nonetheless.)


This picture is shown throughout the film and at the closing.

Malcolm X’s quote is, “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.”

During his presidential campaign, I remember hearing that the Obamas saw this movie on their first date and stayed up all night debating the events in the movie, using the Civil Rights leaders’ quotes as a launchpad.

Screencaps originally by the awesome-possum buses on the lj, then edited by me. Huge thanks!)

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One Response to “Dr. King’s Day: Movie Moment — Do the Right Thing”

  1. Rick Rosendall Says:

    The “everybody blind” line is a quote from Gandhi.

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