In Do the Right Thing, Radio Raheem wears what looks like brass knuckles on both of his hands. One spells “LOVE” and the other “HATE.” This is a throwback to another movie, The Night of the Hunter (1955) where a preacher does the same thing, only with letters tattooed on his fingers, not brass knuckles. Even the explanation Radio gives for the meaning behind these brass knuckles mirrors Rev. Powell’s explanation with slight differences in language. What they say is important for us to listen to today. The speech essentially says that these two hands war against each other, and just when you think hate is about to win, love digs down deep, gets a second wind, and wins the fight over hate.
I’m afraid that when we talk about hatred today, we tend to see it as a fight between people. Between the blacks and whites, the gays and the religious right, the Hutus and the Tutsis, the Muslims and the Christians, etc. But this is a mistake. Even though we see tension between all of these groups, it truly is hate being embodied in people that causes us to act out of hatred.
“But I don’t hate anybody!” None of us want to be known as hateful, and therefore, none of us believes that we actively hate others.
But make no mistake, hate is what it is. It’s easy to see hate only in its purest and most drastic form: yelling, hitting, lynching, throwing Molotov cocktails, and other such extreme behaviours. But it’s not like those behaviours were always a part of the lives of the people who do them. Hate begins small, as a seed, and grows. Or, as is stated in this movie’s IMDb plot description, hate smoulders.
It is in the small, subtle, and mundane situations of life that hate finds shelter and begins to grow in strength. When someone makes a negative comment or slur about a certain group of people and you don’t do anything to speak up for the people he’s slandering, that is hate sitting inside and smouldering. When you “wish those people would just…” hate is simmering, waiting for the cue to boil over.
I guess it takes all of us to take a painful and honest look at ourselves. Are we contributing to love or to hate. Which hand will win? My hope is that the story Rev. Powell and Radio Raheem tell is what happens in real life, for all of us.
“Mercy triumphs over judgment.” — James 2:13.
Congratulations Do The Right Thing. This is your week.
Best Actor: Denzel Washington in Malcolm X.
Best Actress: Teyonah Parris in Chi-Raq.
Best Quote: “My people, my people, what can I say; say what I can. I saw it but didn’t believe it; I didn’t believe what I saw. Are we gonna live together? Together are we gonna live?” — Samuel L. Jackson as Mister Señor Love Daddy in Do The Right Thing.
I realize that I don’t have any “how to” application above, as in “How do I feed love in my life and starve hate?” But for me, it’s more important to ask the questions, make the challenges, and allow people to act on their own volition and convictions. But if any of you have any ideas to share, please do so.