In the New York City borough of Brooklyn, in 1989, there was Do the Right Thing, written, produced, directed, and acted by Spike Lee. Do the Right Thing earned widespread international acclaim. Its controversiality is fully acknowledged by Lee in quotes on violence by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X, ending the film.
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-defence. I don’t even call it violence when it’s self-defence, I call it intelligence.
– Malcolm X
To do the right thing is to make it right.
Cowardice, not self-defence, is most often the underlying motivation for doing the wrong thing, manifesting concomitantly in unwarranted violence.
What offends you, tempts you. You can’t have it; so you don’t want anyone else to have it. You’re afraid to have it; so you don’t want anyone else to have it. You find it alluring, mesmerising, fascinating, but it is not in your network, not cool with your family and friends, neighbourhood, church, and party; so you hate it. Censorship, however it is manifest, is intolerance, felt justified by the perceived majority – which, in fact, is majority only in the number of its voices in positions of power and control. Censorship, too, then, however it is manifest, is cowardice, hiding behind the skirt of the majority, again only perceived, tied to its apron strings.
Tolerance is a two-way street. Should I tolerate your intolerance of me? Should you tolerate my intolerance of you?
No, and no. Yes, and yes.
What angers you, possesses you. No one should be held to blame, censured, for the lies others live. Between hypocrisy and truth, there is tolerance.
To make it right, to rectify a wrong – any act that results in hurt – either intentional, or accidental, through misperception, through misunderstanding; without reluctance or hesitation, the inflicter of the hurt must turn it around. Apologies – expressions of regret at the event, or word, or tone, or behaviour that caused the hurt – promises – never to make that mistake again – all mean nothing if the behaviour that sponsored the mistake in the first place is not permanently altered, ensuring that it will not happen again.
Can the society and the system that created and nurtured a bad, cowardly cop change sufficiently to ensure right? Will that bad, cowardly cop ever be inclined towards atonement, and the demonstrated, thorough alteration required to prove his or her genuine remorse? Or is an eye for an eye the only way? The societies that engender bad cops are the very societies which savagely, inhumanely claim that the penalty for sin is death.
There is no sin without guilt; no guilt without shame; no shame without fear; no fear without servility. Without servility to the powers that be, but should not be, having to right to be.
To all those who secretly do not favour me, even though you hardly know me, please be informed herewith that far from being dismayed in any way by your hypocritical outward display of reluctant acceptance, it merely confirms how dissimilar we are. Please be assured as well that your offence by me does not make you right, nor does my offence of you make me wrong. To disemburden you of any dejection you may feel concerning my seemingly unfortunate intrusion into your life, however transient and tangential, be persuaded, too, despite and still, that though I do earnestly wish you well, I just as sincerely do not give a damn how you regard me – mistakenly, genuinely, or otherwise.