Even though the film came out almost a year ago now, I had the chance last night to watch “BlacKkKlansman” for the first time, and it was really a shocking tale. The film, directed by Spike Lee and produced by Jordan Peele, is based on a true story from the 1970s and chronicles the experiences of the first black police officer at the Colorado Springs Police Department, Ron Stallworth. In his first few weeks as an officer, he joins the intelligence division and devises a plan to infiltrate the local KKK chapter of Colorado Springs. The story is largely a comedic one and displays Stallworth’s phone conversations with David Duke and others from the KKK and his partner’s attempts to engage with and be accepted into the local chapter. I don’t want to give too much away, but the infiltration is largely successful and Stallworth even finds a relationship with a certain beautiful and empowered Black Student Union president along the way.
The movie is an important and powerful one and impacted me more gravely than I thought it would at the beginning. Although the script is fictional, hearing the extremely racist and vile rhetoric of the KKK characters in the movie juxtaposed with the real-life racist Twitter tirade from our very own president just a few days makes me question how much progress this country has really made in the last 40+ years. Some of the tropes and discourse we hear from the president and other political leaders in this nation today are almost exactly the same as those which were perpetrated by the KKK in the second half of the 20th century. It’s important to realize that although we celebrated the election of the first black president and pride ourselves in electing the most diverse Congress ever, there are some people in this country that haven’t progressed past the mindset they held in the 1970s, and these people and their ideas are those that are threatening the diversity and unity of our country today. The hate and racism we’ve seen in the last few weeks isn’t new or unprecedented; it’s been lurking around for decades. And that’s something we need to find a way to address before the progress we have made falls apart.
These ideas aren’t new to me, and I’ve certainly recognized before that this problem is not a new one, but I praise the producers behind “BlacKkKlansman” for making it crystal clear to everyone, even those who live in liberal, progressive and diverse communities, where this kind of speech may seem antiquated or buried in the past, and begging everyone to think about the solution to this seemingly never-ending racism and bigotry.