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As the film progresses, Gillespie moves from a desire to maintain peace to a realization that justice is better than peace. This is evident through two separate occasions during the film. The first event was when Virgil Tibbs was arrested solely based on the fact that he was black. After searching Virgil they found over $100 in his wallet. The second event was when the Chief arrested the suspect who stole the dead mans wallet. Since the man had his wallet, Gillespie laid the murder charge on him without further investigation. Through Virgil and the course of the film, Gillespie realizes that there is more to being a police chief than maintaining civil order.
As the plot deepens, the Chief risks his neck several times to maintain a good relationship with Virgil. Through these events I feel that the Chief has overcome his racism, and can become friends with an African American. One event that proves this was when the four hoodlums were about to attack Virgil when Gillespie came to the rescue. The boys called the Chief a nigger-lover, which he just absorbed and didn’t let it get to him. In my opinion, if this same event happened a week earlier before Virgil came into the picture, Gillespie probably would’ve snapped and either arrested the boys or give them a good lashing. Another event that backs this point is when the Chief invites Virgil over to his place. Now normally this wouldn’t have been a big deal, but since Virgil was a Negro, it was a big deal. Through these events, I feel that Chief Gillespie overcame his racist ways.
Through time, Chief Gillespie starts to realize that Virgil is his equal, and he learns that he can have a relationship with a black man as his equal. During the autopsy, Virgil starts to display knowledge of forensic science superior to anyone on the police force. While this is going on, Gillespie realizes that Virgil may have superior knowledge than himself. This is when the chief starts to view Mr. Tibbs as his equal. Later on in the film, the chief allows Virgil to remain in his office while the pregnant girl was telling Gillespie how Sam Carr supposedly impregnated her.
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"Overcoming Racial Discrimination in the Heat of the Night." 123HelpMe.com. 27 Feb 2020
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