Spike Lee's, "Do the Right Thing" is centered in the Bedford-Stuyvesant district of Brooklyn, New York City in the later 1980s, early 90's. The director focused on the idea that the film is a notice to everybody, not only African Americans, to look at what is occurring around them (Lee). The film follows Sal Fragione, owner of a local pizza parlor, and his consideration of how his neighborhood has changed in the time he has been there, to a now composed niche of primarily African Americans and Hispanics. For Sal, the restaurant represents a part of his life, and community. A simple complaint made by one of his customers, Buggin Out, (who wonders as to why he only possesses pictures of Italian Americans, when the majority of the customers are black) disintegrates into violence and frustration. The intense hate slowly shifts into violence between the different races. The film is ultimately a chilling morality tale that demonstrates police brutality, which leads to intense race riots. Lee's vibrancy and comedic use of the art is seen to come eye to eye with the real world, spark a national conversation about race, and essentially change race dialogue in film.
Outside of the film, in 1989 New York, racial tensions were defined, exposing elements of race, justice, crime, and power. The court case known as the "central park jogger" dealt with five Hispanic/African-American teenage boys, known as the "central five" who were falsely accused, and charged for the rape of a white woman. In addition to this case, the era consisted of many other racial tensions in particular, involvement with police, which is referenced in the film. This includes the cases of Michael Stewart, Eleanor Bumpurs, Howard Beach, Bernhard Goetz, etc. In addition, the democratic mayor of the time Ed Koch, was on his fourth term of re-election, which sparked controversy within the African American community.