Cultural Capital: Not Enough Space

From the very beginning, Do The Right Thing has an underlying tension to it. Throughout the film, Lee introduces to a community in which different cultures fight for space and coexist simultaneously. Do the Right Thing is brilliant in the way it condenses economic and cultural realities into the most basic actions and objects. At first glance, Sal’s Pizzeria seems innocent. However, one can’t ignore the fact that Sal is an outsider profiting off a primarily black and latino community where other outsiders own most of the property. Hand in hand with this idea of unequal economic capital, is the idea of cultural capital. Do the Right Thing seems to be arguing that the latter is just as important as the former, if not more.

The character of Radio Raheem is undoubtedly linked to the expression of black culture he keeps with him at all times: his radio blasting Public Enemy. This radio can be seen as a statement: Raheem uses it as a way to mark his territory in a sense. We see this when he enters Sal’s Pizzeria with his music all the way up. The parlor’s wall is filled with images of Italian culture, yet Raheem’s music is an expression of black culture. This conflict over the images on Sal’s wall brings up the question of who really owns the Pizzeria. It’s significant that when Sal finally uses his bat on something (there are various instances in the film where he prepares to use it but is calmed down-this builds up tension to the moment where he actually attacks something), it is Raheem’s radio that he attacks as opposed to Raheem himself. Lee is searching for the roots of the conflict between the inhabitants of this community, and the film suggests that a large part of the conflict is that there isn’t enough physical space for each group to express themselves.


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