Get our free newsletter
Plenty of people have pointed out Bloomingdale’s striking gentrification. But last week, neighborhood resident Natalie Hopkinson again analyzed the yoga studio/public housing dynamic in an article for The Root about ‘Do the Right Thing.’
The movie, directed by Spike Lee, is now 20 years old. In its pivotal moment, a black man throws a trashcan through the window of his employer’s shop—-a white-owned pizzeria—-after a black man dies at the hands of white policemen (see a ‘Do the Right Thing’ summary here). Although it is set in Brooklyn, Hopkinson looks at the themes of black nationalism and racial strife through the context of her own neighborhood, which she describes as “in the throes of gentrification.”
Hopkinson writes: “Today I find myself agreeing with the original critics of Do the Right Thing who condemned Mookie (the pizza deliveryman played by Spike Lee) for throwing the trash can through the front window of the pizzeria, kicking off the riots.”
She then argues that riots and destruction of property often hurt the perpetrators just as much as the property owners:
Property cannot and will not ever equate to a human life. When Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in 1968, hundreds of black Washingtonians made the same (false) equation between property and life, and they burned black parts of Washington, D.C., to the core. What followed were decades of pain, decay, dysfunction and isolation.
Over in Bed-Stuy today, chances are Sal’s pizzeria would still be shuttered, leaving its denizens with no place to get a decent slice. And by now, many blacks of means would have moved on (Spike Lee himself moved to Manhattan years ago), allowing the place to rot, literally and figuratively.
The ultimate message, which can be viewed before ever reading the piece, is in the story’s headline/subhead:
Why Mookie Did the Wrong Thing
Can you believe ‘Do The Right Thing’ is 20 years old? The film’s promise of a United States of Black America was a nice fantasy. But now it’s time to welcome Sal back to the neighborhood.