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We need an undying love of black people wherever they may be,” said Kwame Ture, formerly Stokely Carmichael, while slamming on the lectern during an impassioned speech delivered to a room of his ardent supporters. While everyone who is seated in the audience in the scene didn’t initially enter out of unmitigated support for Ture’s message, everyone exists having succumb to his seductive message of love cloaked in a black power fist.

 


Set in the early 1970s Colorado, “BlacKkKlansman” details the real life story of Ron Stallworth; Colorado Springs police departments first black officer. In arguably director Spike Lee’s greatest and most timely film since “Do The Right Thing” in 1989, the film details Stallworth’s infiltration into a local Ku Klux Klan chapter. From code switching to romantic relationships to cross burnings, White America is invited into the terror of the black experience under the white gaze through Stallworth’s investigation into the KKK. Through Stallworth, Lee touches on the historical roles of white films, white women, white moderates, white law enforcement, and how white government has been complicit in the preservation of white supremacy. But what is most clear, is the juxtaposition of the hate that drives the preservation of white supremacy and the love that drives the liberation of black power.

 

At its core “BlacKkKlansman” is a story of the undying love of black people in the face of unmitigated hatred. A story that Lee has been telling through film since arrived on the scene in the mid 1980s. Lee masterfully unfolds the parallel storylines of love and hate by imploring the audience to fuse the brazen racism of 1970s America directly to 2018 America where now that same brazen racism is directly aligned with power. The film subtly pays homage to one of Lee’s iconic characters from “Do The Right Thing”, Radio Raheem. We see Radio Raheem’s famous story of right hand/left hand playing out in real life; except three decades later Lee doesn’t leave audiences with the sense that this time love will knock out hate.

 

 


 

While exciting and humorous at times, the film has a polished and bright quality that isn’t found in most of Lee’s films. His filmmaking style is imprinted all throughout the film with scenes that are unique to his style. Lee’s legacy as a filmmaker has been to explore the nuances of black culture within the backdrop of an oppressive American experience. Often his films ooze with references that we in the black community know to be uniquely our own, as Lee continues to cement our indelible impact on American culture through film. His films are for our culture and directed to us as an audience. However, I came away from the film confident that this films target audience wasn’t for Black America but rather White America. Similar to Ta-Nehisi Coates critically acclaimed book Between the World and Me, “BlacKkKlansman” confronts Black audiences with a narrative that many of us can recite with much aplomb. The films usage of racist language towards black folks was expected but it was the anti-semitic language towards Jews that drew the most discomfort from the mostly white audience. It reminded me of the empathy and commitment to justice that the word has given our Jewish brothers and sisters while our community remains largely forgotten. When the film ended, I could hear a few people sniffling and there was a reflective silence that covered the audience. Lee had been successful in pointing White America to a dark reflection of itself that Black America has been intimately familiar with for centuries.  

 

In Disney’s “The Lion King”, the main character, Simba finds himself in need of a wake up call. Rafiki, a spiritual guide, finds Simba and then leads him to a water hole where he implores him to reflect on who he is. It’s with a slow point to Simba’s reflection in the water that Rafiki reminds Simba to “look harder…he lives in you.”

 

 


In the same way, “BlacKkKlansman” is a dark reflection of White America that the American government and education system has intended to keep buried deep within the American conscious. Just like Simba, today most of White America chooses to only see vestiges of racism and refuses to recognize their connection to a long violent legacy of white supremacy. At first glance many will not see their own reflection in the film but will choose to see a historical narrative of an America many thought was dead. However, Lee similar to Rafiki, is pointing White America – deeply in need of a wake up call – to confront their own reflection in “BlacKkKlansman” in order to prevent continuing to stoke the dangerous flames of racism. To stop the surging spread racism we will need to expand on Ture’s quote and not only have an undying love of black people but ALL people undergirded against the spread of white supremacy and oppression. For the sake of the nation, I hope that we all see this film and take heed to Lee’s wake up call before it’s too late.

About The Author

Soulful Silverback is a collection of heartfelt musings of a contemplative Silverback from the East Flatbush neighborhood in the Republic of Brooklyn. A lifestyle collective embracing the beautiful complexity of modern urban black millennials. The vision is centered around reflections on social activism, love, life, faith, travel, entertainment, and fashion. At a high-level, focusing on Community, Culture, and Style & Entertainment.

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