In “Do The Right Thing,” the 1989 comedy-drama that was nominated for two Oscars and is widely considered an all-time great film, John Turturro’s character (Pino) unwittingly shows that he is fond of African-Americans despite his frequent use of a common slur.
The revelation arrives subtly, under questioning by Spike Lee’s character (Mookie).
Mookie: “Who’s your favorite basketball player?”
Pino: “Magic Johnson.”
Mookie: “And not Larry Bird? Who’s your favorite movie star?”
Pino: “Eddie Murphy.”
We soon discover that Pino’s favorite rock star is Prince, which leads Mookie to conclude that some of Pino’s favorite people are the same ones he refers to with the n-word.
Pino: “It’s different. Magic, Eddie, Prince are not n—–s. I mean, are not black. I mean, they’re black, but not really black. They’re more than black. It’s different.”
Like many consumers of American pop culture, Pino gets much of his information from mainstream media, where black celebrities can be among the most prominent individuals in their fields. Though he’d probably harbor different emotions if Magic Johnson was a janitor, at least he’s able to admit affinity for Magic Johnson the NBA star,.
That mindset is bad enough, but some folks’ are even worse.
There are those who can’t get past pigmentation at all, whether it’s athletes on a field or worshipers at a Bible study.
Thankfully, everyone who’s blinded by color doesn’t act out their beliefs like the wicked Dylann Roof in Charleston. There are gulfs between mere dislike, pure hatred and cold-blooded murder. But the journey isn’t made in one trip, rather via a series of easily overlooked steps that subconsciously can move us closer to the extreme.
For instance, coverage of black athletes can play a significant role in shaping some opinions of blacks in general. Cynthia Frisby, a professor at the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism, points out the problem in a new book, “How You See Me, How You Don’t.”
Her research finds that black athletes are more likely than white athletes to be portrayed negatively in the media.