In BlacKkKlansman, Spike Lee delivers another powerful joint. Based on the true story of Ron Stallworth, Colorado Springs first black police officer, and his infiltration of the KKK in 1979 with the help of his white partner Flip Zimmerman, Lee taps into the past to cast light on the present.
The writing revels in knowledge that the characters can’t possibly have, spitting it out as a foreshadowing of America today. It’s easy enough to catch the references to “America First” and making America great again. Those less steeped in politics may fail to realize that the real David Duke, played by Topher Grace, was a Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan and ran for president as a Democrat in 1988 and a Republican in 1992. Making (movie) Stallworth’s belief that such a thing couldn’t happen all the sadder and more naïve.
Lee’s powerful message is on point and strikes at the heart of his audience. Seamlessly edited cuts race between the KKK ritual David Duke is running and the Black Power meeting where Jerome Turner, played by Harry Belafonte, is describing in detail the torture and death of Jesse Washington, a mentally retarded black teenager in Waco, TX. The tension mounts as Stallworth’s and Zimmerman’s identities are discovered at the KKK meeting. All of the pieces are there to bring about real tragedy, including a bomb and police brutality against one of their own.
BlacKkKlansman, however, stops short of being an indictment against all white people. Instead, it points at those who espouse racist views, those who refuse to stand up to demagogues (in a brilliantly ironic speech given by Duke), those who implement budget cuts for nefarious reasons, and those who passively allow racism to continue unobstructed. If this Lee joint enrages you as being anti-white, maybe you need to take a hard, long look in the mirror and question your beliefs, values, actions and inactions.
For the viewer that isn’t able to keep up with the MAGA and America First references, the ending shows actual news clips to bring the message into focus: Not much has changed in the last 30 years; America is as racist as ever. BlacKkKlansman is clearly a cry to bring America together through the elimination of bigotry and hate. If Stallworth could do it as the first black police officer in Colorado Springs, so can we.