who is to blame?

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In Chiraq spike lee really focuses in on the conditions of the, urban center of Chicago particularly focusing on gun violence and murder. Throughout the film lee glazes over what actually causes these conditions in the communities where they occur. He sometimes alludes to systematic and institutional racism but never really delves deep into these ideas in the film. Lee then further complicates this idea of responsibility and who or what is to blame for these socio-economic conditions at the end of the film when the main character. Chiraq confesses to committing the accidental murder of Irene’s 11-year-old daughter and in an ending scene he begins to recite the lyrics of a song. As Chiraq walks down the aisle of the church there are praise dancers dancing in white behind him. The lyrics talk about gang and community members making change where they live and taking accountability for their own lives and actions. The significance of the praise dancers dressed in white dancing during his soliloquy is that they are affirming his message. The fact that praise dance is religious and they are dressed in white, a color associated with purity, good energy and cleansing affirms that Chiraq is doing the “right thing”. This sequence says to me that the conditions of Chicago are brought on by the people who live there, themselves as opposed to the conditions of violence and poverty being a result of a system. A system that fails to provide the urban centers of the world with adequate resources and opportunity, and so as a result poverty and violence are spawned. With this movie ending on that note I don’t really know how spike views this influx of violence limited to urban centers. I’m not sure if he deems it the fault of the people who inhabit these spaces or if he alludes is to system that is failing them. So the question that remains to me from the point of view as the audience for this film based on what spike has provided us with, is who is to blame.

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Get on the bus together

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I think this notion of togetherness is one that is often present in Lee films. I find this is especially true with race, gender and sexuality in his films, because the films that he creates fall well within the genre of realism. In the world outside of Lee films, people of all races, genders (and people who do not conform to gender) and sexualities are forced to coexist and inhabit the same spaces and as a result this is something that Lee often carries over into his work. The “together” in the excerpt for me doesn’t describe unity, collaboration, consensus or even solidarity; in fact it describes the involuntary act of coexistence among many who are different.

 

I found this to be true in the Film get on the bus. The film itself takes place on a bus filled with black men. They are headed to the million-man march. A march where, hundreds of thousands, of black men gather in Washington, DC, to hear Farrakhan speak. The purpose of attending this march for many is to talk about the advancement of the black race. The bus acts, as a safe haven for the black men in many instances, because anytime they exit the bus or someone who is not a black man boards the bus there is turmoil. This is true in the scene where they get off the bus “in the middle of nowhere” at a majority white diner and upon the entrance, you can feel the racial tension, between the black men who were on the bus and the white men at the diner. Especially in the scene where smooth (Everett Jr.) is talking about the march to the white men, explaining it to them in a way that is unapologetic and some might even consider brash. This turmoil is prevalent again when the bus is stopped by police officers and they board the bus in search of drugs and anything suspicious. Gary who is a police officer in California, steps forward in an attempt to mitigate the situation, to no avail. These men share the same identity in term of race and gender and so in that regard they are together, but things go awry when Flip, one of the men on the bus finds out another one of the men on the bus is gay, he taunts him, degrades and bigots him the entire bus ride, with slurs and crude comments. This is where they are not together; unity does not exist in places where parts of their identities do not correlate.

 

I think Lee wants us to take from this that the world is made up of people who are different. Even though we cannot all relate on one accord, I think he wants us to recognize that we are all still here inhabiting the same spaces weather we want to or not. There is no escape from the togetherness of coexistence, so while we are here we should learn to if not love each other, accept each other despite our differences.