So my cousin and I went to see the BlackkKlansman by Spike Lee, starring John David Washington (Denzel Washington’s son). We didn’t know much about it other than the title – see my Nine Night Review for my view on the power of titles.
As we entered, I took note of my surroundings at the Ritzy Cinema in Brixton, and there was a ratio of 1/3 black looking people in a turn around since gentrification. I think as my position as the 'outsider' in London has developed, I automatically observe my surroundings in an attempt to safe guard myself! Strangely, my life seemed to be in reverse as my cousin turned to the white men on our row that laughed (uncomfortably maybe) at the minstrel introduction and asked
" Are you planning to laugh throughout the film"
To which they replied
and were then silent throughout.
I guess my cousin's candidness immediately made me feel Ok. I mean... it's important that we feel OK to begin with, right? As with a title like BlackkKlansman I defintely was bound to feeling uncomfortable.
Please Watch the below video with caution! As it highlights Racist Stereotypes which most will find offensive (not funny).
Spike Lee has always been an interesting director to me. He has this way where - in the middle of a scene he will zoom the lens right into the Black face. Almost like he is objectifying on purpose… making Black purposely visual?
See my Product Review of Aphroism the book [20:52] and the difference between Black lives and Black life.
Growing up starved of Black British faces, I remember watching films like Crooklyn, Do the Right Thing, She’s Got to Have it and loving a similar face to mine up real close. I found BlackkKlansman very much a Spike Lee joint and his directorial style is all over it. Black Power and White Power, their similarities and differences are themes that are clear and almost caricature in the approach.
I think Spike Lee in a past life was a painter. His themes are always so clear and bright, and this clarity shouldn’t be taken as an under developed piece, but just... well... a Spike Lee Joint. Saying this, I do struggle with storyline in his films, as they are not traditional or what I have been conditioned to expect. He tells his story visually and usually from a zoomed out perspective looking at how the political affects the personal. I love him for this, because I personally choose to look at life from this angle.
Saying all that, I'll say again that the BlackkKlansman’s storyline dragged! The mash up of Blaxploitation meets Mockumentary I think annoyed me as I wanted a story about race to be straight.
The flick between genres did offer some light relief to the weighted politics behind racism, murder and how it is still active though!
There is a real activist in Spike Lee and his inclusion of including real people that historically have actually led Black and White power movements is share genius for people like me who continually want to research!
Click on the names for a brief review on the real life people in BlackkKlansman
Kwame Ture [note Wikipedia’s disrespect of his name]
However this was not just a Black and White movie, Blackkklansman had some ‘grey ‘ areas articulated through character journey that I really enjoyed.
Flip is Jewish American but passes as European American and in this privilege doesn’t start asking questions of culture, identity and who he is until he is initiated into the KKK.
Ron is an African American who works for the police. This character frustrated me deeply at first - because I guess my judgement of him was someone just wanting to assimilate. Especially by working in an organisation that has been getting away with murder. But on reflection I recalled Ron’s moment of change, which happens quite early in the film. It is at the Black power meeting that Ron decides to not assimilate but infiltrate a systematically racist institution.
The BlackkKlansman film made me think about how necessary it has become to take the better person position to survive as a minority. I think the consequence of this, is enabling an attitude by the privileged to never fully understanding that we are not just fighting for equality but fighting because we are in fact equal. Isn’t that sad that we have to beg to be treated like what we inherently are!
I’d like to share with you a (true) story in relation to the scenes highlighted in the BlackkKlansman’s about accent discrimination as I work casually in a Call Centre.
Once upon a time, whilst at work I got disconnected from a customer. The customer then called back but got through to one of my colleagues.
After speaking with the customer for a short while, my colleague calls over to me (having put the customer on hold);
Colleague: Sharlene, did you just get disconnected from someone?
Sharlene: Yes – has she called back?
Colleague: Yes – She said she was just speaking to a coloured girl and the phone got disconnected
[may I describe my colleague as colour-less?]
Sharlene: What! Really? That’s not very nice I’m actually very offended by that!
My colleague speaks to the customer reassuring her that he is still there and will be with her in a moment
Sharlene: Nah! That’s out of order! When she said that what did you say?
He presses hold.
Colleague: Nah. Don’t be like that mate she’s lovely.
Sharlene: Well that’s not a lovely thing to say!
Unholding the Customer, my colleague finishes the call. After a short while I hear him say to another colleague...
Colleague: But how did she know though? I don’t understand how she knew!