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.
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.
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.
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 open discussion, Uncategorized and tagged bigotry, Get on the bus, instutionalized racism, million man march, racial profiling, The Five Heartbeats. Bookmark the permalink. 17 Comments.