A series of vignettes set during one hot summer day on a block in Brooklyn, Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing depicts the American melting pot at boiling point. The movie’s refusal to downplay or soothe the racial tension on display is just one reason alarmist critics initially denounced it. Lee plays Mookie, the black deliveryman for the Italian restaurateur (Danny Aiello) who has operated a pizza shop on the same street for years. As Mookie makes his wayward deliveries, we meet the various characters in the mostly African-American neighborhood – the Korean grocers, the black homeless Da Mayor (Ossie Davis), the Hispanic teenagers, the white cops – and get a feel for the simmering animosity among them. Lee doesn’t mean to condemn the sort of ignorance that leads to racial conflict, but instead rub our noses in it – that’s what the famous montage of various characters spewing epithets directly toward the camera is all about. And yet there is something to the movie that makes it, ultimately, a cathartic experience. Perhaps it is the honesty, or perhaps it is the sheer exuberance of Lee at the pinnacle of his filmmaking talents. For all its emotional and literal violence, Do the Right Thing is a movie of deep humanity. In its quieter moments – Mookie’s midday tryst with Tina (Rosie Perez); Da Mayor’s persistent wooing of Mother Sister (Ruby Dee) – Do the Right Thing argues that nearly everyone on this block is deserving of dignity. Lee simply chronicles the tragedy that ensues when no one is given it.