Get on the Bus: Gary and the redeemed

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When I watched this scene I found myself very conflicted. In class, it seemed there was a general consensus that Jamal was the redeemed character in this story. It was pointed out that Gary was not progressive in his thinking and was trying to hold back Jamal’s redemption. The way I read this scene was not so clear cut though. 

I do not think it is fair to label Gary as the unprogressive thinker, holding other people back. That role could certainly be filled by Flip, as we see Flip instigate fights over homosexuality and with Gary himself over being biracial. Gary’s motivation was clear though, he was struck with the tragedy of his father being murdered as a cop by a gang-banger, which has fueled him to become the adult he is. The argument that Gary is being nearsighted with regards to Jamal’s redemption maybe holds up, but for me it is really about Gary’s moral code that his personal tragedy was accredited to sculpting his ideology. Could he let Jamal go free after confessing to numerous murders? Certainly, and for all we know he might have, resulting in Jamal being given a second chance for redemption paralleling Malcolm X’s conversion.

But one cannot blame Gary for wanting to arrest Jamal (from the way I read it), simply labeling Gary as unprogressive and Jamal as a redeemed character. The line is much more gray than it was made out to be in class, I do not think anyone would say that murder is now a forgivable act or one that Gary should just look the other way on, especially considering he is a cop who dealt with this same tragedy. So does this make Jamal the redeemed character? He certainly found his way, converted to the NOI and tried to start repenting for his sins through helping youths at risk but a common theme for redemption is sacrifice. Maybe if one was to continue the narrative on the bus ride home and Jamal was indeed arrested for his murder, this would be the beginning of his path of tribulations to redemption much like Malcolm’s. Jamal certainly recognizes the wrongness of his actions and is trying to do his best to make up for them now and he very well may have redeemed himself. But when is one redeemed after murdering a dozen or so people? This is a question without a tangible answer. As well, it would be just fueling the cycle to throw him in jail when he is now trying to give back in a good way, but nonetheless this does not make Gary an unprogressive thinker in this instance (although his lack of seeing the value of women in the march is a different story).

Gary represents a very conflicted and complicated part of being biracial in the 90’s. He is too black to be considered white by white people and too white to be considered black by many black people, he is not driven by white hatred, his father was killed by a “brother,” but he wanted to see progression and unity for black people by participating in the March. The bottom line is, I believe Gary to be a more complex character than he was made out to be in class discussion and do not think that he can be simply labeled as the unprogressive thinker on the bus.

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