Get On The Bus

Christmas Eve, while the cornbread was in the oven, and the smoked turkey boiling in the pot waiting for the green beans to be added, I turned off Christmas music and tuned on the television.

GET ON THE BUS, Roger Guenveur Smith (second from left), director Spike Lee, Ossie Davis, Charles S. Dutton, Richard Belzer, 1996, (c)Columbia Pictures

GET ON THE BUS, Roger Guenveur Smith (second from left), director Spike Lee, Ossie Davis, Charles S. Dutton, Richard Belzer, 1996, (c)Columbia Pictures

The movie, “Get on The Bus” was on. Get on the Bus is a Spike Lee film, released in 1996 on the one-year anniversary of the Million Man March. In the film, there are 12 Black men from Los Angeles on a bus bound for Washington, D.C.   The only thing that the men have in common is their race. They are various ages and their careers range from petty thief to police officer.

There is a scene in the movie that takes place when the bus is pulled over by State Troopers in Knoxville, Tennessee.   Getting out of the police car with a dog, the Trooper, played by Randy Quaid, tells the men that they are checking for drugs. Gary, who is bi-racial and a Los Angeles police officer, introduces himself to the Trooper and shows his badge. It means nothing to the Trooper, who has the Sherman Shepherd dog brought on the bus.  As the dog sniffs each row of seats, the Trooper shines his flashlight into the face of each man, asking them if they wanted to confess to having drugs before the dog finds them. The men shielded their eyes from the blinding flashlight as the Trooper calls them “boys.”

The scene reminds me of one from the movie, The Five Heartbeats. It too happened on a road trip as the group was traveling to perform. In that scene, the police made them empty their vehicle of all luggage. Their luggage was searched and finding nothing illegal, the cops then demanded that they sing to prove their number 1 hit on the charts.

The most profound thing about both scenes is the silence that occurs after law enforcement leaves and the road trip continues.

Silence.

Although I’ve watched The Five Heartbeats many times, the silence in Get on the Bus was a reminder of how the directors show and not tell. Oh my. That was something we were taught in journalism class.  There are reporters who write what is commonly called the “5 W’s” and then there are journalists; there are script writers; there are directors.

Show. Don’t Tell.

What are directors Spike Lee and Robert Townsend telling viewers by using silence?

It has taken years for me to understand it, but the silence speaks more loudly than any dialogue ever could.

WASHINGTON, USA - MARCH 14: Protestors march in silence during a Black Lives Matter protest in Saint Louis, USA on March 14, 2015.  (Photo by Samuel Corum/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON, USA – MARCH 14: Protestors march in silence during a Black Lives Matter protest in Saint Louis, USA on March 14, 2015. (Photo by Samuel Corum/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

The loss of dignity. Humiliation. A feeling of being violated.  A feeling of being robbed at gunpoint. It comes at the hands of someone with the authority to take your life. It comes from someone with presumed credibility.   The men have no choice. They have no power. They have no rights. They have no voice and after the experience, they sit in silence.

In Get On the Bus, they were going to a gathering hoping to learn more about being the men that their wives, mothers, children, expect them to be. However, they can never be the men that American society expects them to be because of racial bigotry, and more so, racial bigotry in those with power and authority wearing guns.

Twelve different men of various ages, religions, relationship statuses, backgrounds and careers, yet they were all “boys” stopped for no valid reason.

The men could not, and cannot, change anything about themselves to make themselves good enough; intelligent enough; equal to men who do not look like them.

Miss Clairol cannot change it.

Colored contact lenses cannot change it.

Having the perfect body shape and working out cannot change it.

Earning a high salary in a position with an important job title cannot change it.

Education cannot change it.

Being articulate cannot change it.

Winning a war cannot change it.

Inventing something that benefits all of mankind cannot change it.

Being president of the United States cannot change it.

It’s the racially bigoted heart that has to change, or be removed from positions of power and authority in America.

 

 

Posted on 12/26/2015, in movies, open discussion, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 17 Comments.

  1. yahtzeebutterfly

    Xena,

    Your article is deeply moving and powerful.

    You have captured the message of the film.

    The condition of our country is sick… too many Whites either purposely ignore or willfully say “no” to the major task of tearing down the unfair and unequal white power structure and to the task of removing power and authority from racial bigots. This task is calling out to all decent members of my White community whose hearts have to know that things are not right and need to be changed.

    I implore Whites…citizens as well as those in power positions…to join me in the commitment to bring about the change that is needed.

    I pray that those with racially bigoted hearts will be healed of their depravity and then will be filled with love and kindness.

    Liked by 4 people

    • Yahtzee,
      Thanks for your wonderful comment and commitment.

      What can we say about institutionalized racism? What is it with the silence of the lambs when they are used as the objects of ridicule and hatred? Many, many questions.

      By the way, I noticed that certain people were really upset because there were more Whites than Blacks at the protest at the Mall of America. See, people of all colors are coming together and working for the same constitutional rights for all. The small group that doesn’t like that has an ugly voice, but they will not and cannot stop the positive change.

      We strive on.

      Liked by 3 people

      • yahtzeebutterfly

        Xena,

        ”What can we say about institutionalized racism?”

        An institution is only as effective/fair as the individual people who make it up.

        Sadly, a racially bigoted person can deal out injustices toward a member/members of a minority.

        This can occur when, let’s say, a Black individual applies for a job/to a college or when a Black person seeks redress when being a victim of racial discrimination in the housing market or the lending industry of banks.

        It can occur when a Black individual/family is a victim of an injustice/crime/police brutality and does not receive help because a racial bigoted individual within the justice/LE system is indifferent to the suffering/plight of the victim. For example, an indifferent LE detective can choose not to search for a missing person or can choose not to investigate a crime involving a Black victim. Often, it is left to the families of victims to do what should be the work/job of LE.

        It is not right that a racially bigoted person within the LE/Justice system has the power to decide whose lives and safety should be cared about and protected or whose victimization should receive justice or public attention.

        It is true that government agencies exist to address wrongs. However, from the very inception of the EEOC and the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division, these agencies were never properly funded to the degree that there would be enough personnel to work on the thousands of discrimination cases and cases involving the violation of civil rights. Why?

        Too often it seems as if the only way to attain some degree of justice is for victims or their families to seek out the help of private civil rights attorneys or civil rights leaders who can shine a national spotlight on the wrongs and sufferings endured by victims.

        Too often the mainstream media only gives attention to minority victims after their plight is spotlighted on social media.

        Hopefully, there will be change for the better.

        Liked by 2 people

        • Just imagine the only avenue of redress is having to sue financially! As if money could possibly relieve the pain of losing your kid. And especially when its the police, it never costs the specific officer a dime. Its the taxpayers paying for the police crimes.
          In a way suing police means the police officer then victimizes even more ppl, the taxpayer.
          He is stealing money from the taxpayer to pay his initial victim.
          Something has got to change.

          Like

      • yahtzeebutterfly

        “What is with the silence of the lambs when they are used as objects of ridicule and hatred.”

        Throughout the history of our society “the lambs” have experienced horrifically brutal repercussions when they have spoken out against and resisted the system of oppression.

        It seems that it has been/will be only when hundreds and thousands of advocates and protestors support and protect “the lambs” that “the lambs” have been/will be enabled to end their silence safely.

        Liked by 1 person

      • yahtzeebutterfly

        Xena,

        ”See, people of all colors are coming together and working for the same constitutional rights for all. The small group that doesn’t like that has an ugly voice, but they will not and cannot stop the positive change.

        We strive on.”

        Yes! We are on the move!

        Future generations must always be on the alert in order to push back whenever racial bigotry rears its ugly head.

        I firmly believe that a true U.S.A. patriot is one who advocates for and demands racial equality and justice.

        Like

  2. I’ll have to find this movie!

    I would love to see this change in my lifetime.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. 😥 “The loss of dignity. Humiliation. A feeling of being violated. A feeling of being robbed at gunpoint. It comes at the hands of someone with the authority to take your life. It comes from someone with presumed credibility. The men have no choice. They have no power. They have no rights. They have no voice and after the experience, they sit in silence.”

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yes! There’s that feeling of helplessness. What the LA cop character showed is that accomplishments; being “like them” was not sufficient to get respect. He was a “boy” in the trooper’s eyes.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Knowing your life is at the mercy of a person who may hate you, kill you and get away with it has to be extremely disheartening.

        Liked by 2 people

        • “Knowing your life is at the mercy of a person who may hate you, kill you and get away with it has to be extremely disheartening.”

          Absolutely!

          Liked by 2 people

  4. chuquestaquenumber1

    Thanks for bringing up these films. I remember the music and the love triangle from The Five Heartbeats. I forget about the racist police making then sing. A racist cop not to long ago,made a Black person he pulled over do a rap or face further legal damage. As for Get on the Bus. I had to rewatch the film to appreciate. It’s interesting that in hindsight ,Isaiah Washington plays a gay man who had to beat up a homophobe for constantly berating him and his partner. Of course,Isaiah would be prevented from working after being accused of homophobia.

    Final note.

    According to reports: Elaine Rothenberg of North Carolina drove all the way to Connecticut and pulled out a Beretta 92 style realistic looking BB gun in front of a police station. She threatened 2 civilians asked them if they were cops. She also talked about how she hated cops. Police arrive . She points the gun at the cops. Says shoot me. She allowed to drop the gun. No further incident.

    http://www.nydailynews.com

    Remember Tamir Rice and John Anderson.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Chuquest,
      You always stay on top of the news. Thanks so much.

      It’s really by comparisons that we learn “favoritism” and why some are treated differently/better than others.

      My son mentioned about Texas open carry and when I told him that open carry is allowed in Ohio, and that it made no difference when cops arrived on the scene with Tamir and John, he decided to catch up on the history of those killings. Also, just read a moment ago that several grocery store chains will not allow open carry in their businesses in Texas. By the way, a tornado touched down in that state about 15 minutes ago. I hope that no lives were lost.

      Liked by 3 people

  5. I watched ‘The Long Walk Home’ last night with Sissy Spacek and Whoopi Goldberg. About the Montgomery bus boycott. Another great movie!

    Liked by 1 person

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