Before we get into BlacKkKlansman, we have to shine a spotlight on the “KkK” in that title. For some people, the Klu Klux Klan is just a chapter in high school. They treat it lightly along with Nazis, Hitler, and the concept of white supremacy. It’s almost as if it was a fairytale that never happened, or like a horrific period that’s gone and forgotten. For others, it’s an actual group of people that they admire and cherish. Then, there’s me and people that live the same experience as me. Since their establishment in 1865, the KKK has haunted our families for generations. They are still alive and very well.
There were six founders: James R. Crowe (Jim Crow), John C. Lester, J. Calvin Jones, Richard R. Reed, Frank O. McCord, John B. Kennedy. These men would contribute to one of the most notorious, vicious, sickening disgusting gangs in American history. The KKK’s atrocities against black people in America are honestly sick to even ponder. The fact that the US government has not classified the KKK as a terrorist organization is a blasphemy.
Spike Lee, one of the greatest directors in existence, shows just how dangerous these ideas and people are in his 2018 Academy Award-winning BlacKkKlansman. The film follows Ron Stallworth (John David Washington), the first African-American detective in the Colorado Springs PD as he infiltrates the KKK. Along the way, he has to create a fake voice persona and include his Jewish (white) partner Phillip Zimmerman (Adam Driver) to embody the physical persona.
As the two and their fellow detectives infiltrate the KKK, they unravel a terrorist plan to bomb a group of college students. This is especially notable since this group recently invited Kwame Ture AKA Stokley Carmichael (Corey Hawkins) to their school to speak. So while he is working to stop the clan, Stallworth develops feelings for the student president Patrice (Laura Harrier), and ends up doing everything he can to save her.
While this film is based on a true story – with Ron Stallworth’s 2014 book Black Klansman serving as a primary source – Spike Lee put his own heart into this film. Lee and his fellow writers Charlie Wachtel, David Rabinowitz, and Kevin Willmott gave an incredibly powerful story. If I’m being honest, it was flawless. The editing was amazing, and the cinematography had a beautifully old school aesthetic. Of course, the costumes themselves fit the period, but even the film quality matched the period as well.
What makes BlacKkKlansman amazing, however, is its disturbing relevance to modern times, especially in 2020. There’s no reason black people’s fear of police and the KKK in a film should be relatable, right? Wrong, it’s very much relatable and it hurts to see it still happening 150+ years later. The film introduces The KKK’s Grand Wizard David Duke (Topher Grace). In the film, there’s a bit with Duke about how one day the nation would progress and accept the ideals of the KKK. At the end of the film, there’s a clip from August 12th, 2017 at the Charlottesville protest where Duke is uttering the same nonsense. He essentially crowns Donald Trump as the white savior he’s been speaking of.
The clips of the Charlottesville protest at the end of BlacKkKlansman are heartbreaking and infuriating. Heather Heyer was a soul that was lost way too early. These are the effects of White Supremacy, the KKK, and the violence they have drenched over this country since their founding. The KKK’s hatred isn’t exclusive to black people. Yes, we are the main group, but not the only group. The KKK hates any and every race or ethnic group that isn’t “purely white.”
The relevance of BlacKkKlansman in recent years is frightening and unsettling. It proves something no U.S. citizen would truly want to admit. The country has moved nowhere since the 1960s. Sure, desegregation happened, and we elected our first black president in 2008. But things are still the same for black people. It’s also the reason Donald Trump even was able to run for president. His entire campaign was built on hate speech and “making America great again.” It is literally what David Duke has been preaching since he became the Grand Wizard of the Clan.
If you’re reading this and feeling a tad a bit uncomfortable, GOOD. Nobody should feel comfortable with what is happening in this country right now. We need to have conversations within our society to make it the Utopia we all long for it to be. I also encourage you to avoid films about African-Americans that involve a white savior (The Help, Green Book, etc.). There are many films from Spike Lee alone that can help you understand the best you can the situation at hand.
In the years to come, movies about these things should just be history lessons, true stories of the past, and have no relevance to current events. Remember, we never said your lives didn’t matter. Everybody’s lives should matter, sure. But until Black Lives Matter and immigrant children, women, and men aren’t in cages anymore, not all lives matter. – Rascal F. Kennedy
BlacKkKlansman is currently streaming on HBO Now/Max.
The film stars John David Washington, Adam Driver, Laura Harrier, Topher Grace, Jasper Pääkkönen, Alec Baldwin, and Harry Belafonte.