Spike Lee’s Blackkklansman is the first great film of the Trump era, showcasing how America suppresses other cultures into feeling numb over certain issues, how one man tried to take on the racist regime of the police from the inside, and the fatality of it all.
Blackkklansman opens with the iconic wide shot from Gone with the Wind where Scarlett walks through the grounds of her town, seeing the wounded soldiers lying there. The camera keeps zooming till we see that film’s Confederate flag morph into an American Flag waving proudly across the screen.
This patriotic moment is then followed with a surprise cameo of Alec Baldwin delivering a PSA saying that America is losing its heritage, that black people and Jewish people are taking over our country.
Baldwin’s Dr. Kennebrew Beauregard flubs his lines, gets corrected, and overall makes a fool of himself throughout the entire PSA. Spike Lee is not interested in getting into the psyche of a racist, rather, he wants to expose the ridiculousness of racism, how media influences them, and how we got to the present day of having “Agent Orange” as our president.
Ron Stallworth (played by John David Washington) has good intentions but as Laura Harrier’s Patrice Dumas, president of the black student union at Colorado College explains, “You can’t change the system from the inside.“
I’ve seen many people since the release of Blackkklansman say that “Spike Lee has sold out!” or that the film is a centrist take saying the police will solve racism. I feel as though that’s a ridiculous take given how the much discussed ending proves that while Stallworth tried to do some good his actions were left futile.
Throughout the film, Dumas talks to Stallworth about how a cop can’t solve the many, many years of racism that linger this country, not even from the inside. Even though it’s not explicitly stated, I think deep down inside even Stallworth knows that.
During the Kwame Ture Rally scene, our protagonist’s first stint as an undercover agent, Stallworth heavily agrees with the words of Ture.
Ture talks about how America has made them feel like they are not beautiful, how they are not valid, and wants them to rise up to fight the racism of the state.
This seems like even more of a motivator for Stallworth to fight the KKK when the police seem to think the Black Panther movement is more dangerous than the KKK.
While Stallworth could only see from the outside what the KKK was doing, Stallworth’s physical substitute, Flip Zimmerman, played by Adam Driver, who’s real name is kept confidential in the book and changed to Flip in the film, sees in person what the Klan really is like.
Zimmerman’s character goes through a huge change similar to Stallworth where he realizes the importance of his jewish identity.
There’s a profound scene in the midpoint of the film where Zimmerman talks about how he never really thought about his culture before this. “I never thought about it till now. Now I think about it all the time.” This helps connect the two Stallworths. Both having identity crisis’. Both are two men pretending to hate themselves.
I’ve seen many white people ask, “Why can’t I celebrate my white heritage?”
You cannot celebrate being white because it coincides with pain, suffering, and prejudice that white people inflicted on many minorities. What Spike Lee says is that Black Power is about learning, sharing, and compassion for the fallen. White Power is about elitism, dominance, and superiority over others. There is no love in White Power, only hate.
Throughout the film there are subtle nods to Trump that people have complained about, specifically two scenes.
One where Stallworth says, “People will never elect a man like David Duke as President.” While blunt, is this really something we should criticize the film for? Cause I definitely remember that MANY people, including me, thought there was no chance that Donald Trump would even be a candidate, let alone the President of the United States.
We were blind by thinking the government was doing okay and that the Klan were long and forgotten. Spike Lee knows this, with the ending of the film being footage of Nazis, members of the Ku Klux Klan, and the alt-right marching through the streets of Charlottesville, hurting people, killing one, Heather Heyer.
This shook the people who kept a blind eye to all the prejudice that is deep within this countries blood. But not only that, the leader of this country had the gall to say that “there were bad people on both sides.”
Spike Lee knew that America needed Blackkklansman to remind us that if we ignore history, all we will do is repeat it. The final image being an upside down American flag fade to black and white. Some situations there’s a grey area. This is not a grey area. This is black and white, clear as day. America must wake up, or we are doomed forever.