Radio Raheem: Art vs. Life

Black Culture took a direct shot to the heart following the loss of actor Bill Nunn. Nunn was best known for his role as Radio Raheem in the 1989 Spike Lee Film “Do The Right Thing”. For those unfamiliar with the role or the movie as a whole, the film centered around the racial and cultural tensions that plagued the Bed-Stuy section of Brooklyn, most notably the tensions present between NYPD officers and the black community. The movie comes to a breaking point following the death of Radio Raheem at the hands of NYPD, over Raheem’s refusal to turn down his famed boombox inside Sal’s Famous Pizzeria. Raheem was armed only with a boombox, not posing any imminent threat and was simply black at the wrong time in the presence of the wrong officer. Sound familiar?

In a time where tensions between black citizens and the police have reached alarming levels, it brings me to wonder how far we’ve actually come. Do The Right Thing celebrated its 27th anniversary in 2016, the same year where 200+ black people have been killed by the police, with 3 moths still remaining on the calendar. The recent shootings of Terrence Crutcher in Tulsa, Oklahoma and Keith Lamont Scott in Charlotte, alongside the shootings of Michael Brown, Alton Sterling, Philando Castile and countless others have become far too frequent. The choking death of Eric Garner at the hands of the NYPD bared an eerie resemblance to the chokehold that sent Radio Raheem to the morgue. Black folks in this country are being terrorized and systematically targeted, even under the eyes of the nation’s first black president. Civil unrest and uprising has taken place in just about every major city in this country, with thousands of black people taking to the streets to protest for their right to live and walk without fear of the police, much like the riot scene in Do The Right Thing. Spike Lee used Radio Raheem to shine light on an issue  America refuses to attack head on, an issue we deal with daily.

The constant narrative of “he should’ve complied” and “the officer feared for his/her life” have become emotionally and physically draining. The daily assertion that black lives are expendable vs. the painfully obvious “Black Lives Matter” slogan being used as a means to spread awareness have taken a toll on the collective psyche of Black America. The dismissive attitude displayed by whites in this country, even 50+ years post the Civil Rights Movement shows how far we haven’t come. Having to explain why “All Lives Matter” is an insulting and incredibly redundant response to “Black Lives Matter” has become tiring. Being denied the unalienable rights that are supposed to be automatic in this country is enough to send any demographic over the edge and black folks have had enough. Being black in this country comes with the constant reminder that you could immediately be executed at the hands of somebody who simply had nothing better to do. Whether or not you believe black folks have a legitimate grievance with the system is irrelevant. Whether or not you believe that we’ve come too far and some stuff we just have to get over is irrelevant. It just amazes me that almost 30 years prior to his fictional death, Radio Raheem is still a shining example of art imitating life. maxresdefaultimages


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