In response to the death of George Floyd, Lee had released a short film, Will History Stop Repeating Itself?, that intersperses footage of Eric Garner, George Floyd and Radio Raheem, his character from Do The Right Thing, in police chokeholds. Prefaced with a graphic content warning, Fallon played the entire film on Tonight Show.
Lee told Fallon that the Radio Raheem scene was fictional, but based on the killing of graffiti artist Michael Stewart. “Radio Raheem is a fictional character from my 1989 film Do The Right Thing, but his murder is based on the real murder — so that’s where I got the idea,” he said.
In response to whether Lee felt that “things wouldn’t have changed since then,” Lee said “When I saw Eric Garner, I’m like, ‘That’s Radio Raheem based on Michael Stewart.’ And then to see our brother [George] Floyd, and I know he saw what happened to Eric Garner, so he’s seeing that in his mind as his last eight and a half are being suffocated out of him.”
Lee suggested he’s more optimistic now about a possibility for change. “Jimmy, my brother, people are there,” he said. “The young white generation, my sisters and brothers, they’re out there, it’s not just Black and brown people. I’m very, very enthusiastic that people around the world were galvanized by the horrific murder of George Floyd.”
You can watch the entire clip above.