Adam Driver, left, and John David Washington, right, play cops who infiltrate the KKK in Colorado Springs in the 1970s in Spike Lee’s “BlacKkKlansman.” Unfortunately, the movie creates entire characters and critical plot points from thin air, apparently because the actual history wasn’t propagandistic enough.
As I watched “BlacKkKlansman” on Sunday, I knew that it was a biased story, in which a good number of whites are evil, an equal number (or so) of them are just indifferent, and blacks by definition are good because they’re perpetual victims.
Still, “BlacKkKlansman” has some good acting and some great scenes and at many points, especially when references were made to the Pussygrabber regime’s thinly veiled racism and white supremacism, I laughed out loud.
But I was deeply dismayed to later read Slate.com’s article “What’s Fact and What’s Fiction in BlacKkKlansman” and find out that, among other things:
- The real-life Colorado Springs Police Department black cop Ron Stallworth’s partner who physically infiltrated the KKK (because Stallworth obviously could not) “is white and not Jewish,” so the whole anti-Semitism subplot was made of thin air. (Was the script written for Adam Driver, with his darker features? As I watched the movie, I found it hard to believe that the KKK would have accepted someone who looks like Driver [that is, non-Aryan] — and that’s because the KKK did not.)
- The real-life Stallworth did not date the president of, or even a member of, the black student union, yet the conflict between Stallworth’s being a cop and his girlfriend’s work for black liberation is central to the movie.
- The incredibly racist, despicable and vile white cop who badgers Stallworth throughout the film (when he isn’t shooting innocent black men or sexually assaulting innocent black women) “appears to have been largely invented for the movie as well,” Slate.com notes.
- That climactic phone call at the end of the movie in which Stallworth finally reveals to David Duke that he’s black? Oh, that phone call never took place.
- That climactic bombing at the end of the movie? Apparently that never happened, either. “No planned attack on the Black Student Union is described in [Stallworth’s] memoir,” notes Slate.com, adding, “Stallworth does write, however, that the Klan was planning to firebomb gay bars in Colorado Springs, in addition to [perpetrating] cross burnings. As in the movie, all the Klan’s plans for domestic terrorism are thwarted by Stallworth and the CSPD.”
- The climactic arrest of the evil, perpetually sneering white supremacist cop for his past crimes at the end of the movie? You guessed it: never happened, either.
I’m glad that no bomb actually went off in real life, but why do most of the inventions in “BlacKkKlansman” apparently serve to make whitey look even worse? Spike Lee & Co. have an agenda — I get it — but at the beginning of the movie is a note that it’s based on a true story, and I (stupidly, in retrospect) trusted that.
I don’t expect a little subtitle or the like to notify me every time the screenplay has diverged from history, but Spike Lee & Co. had my trust but then lost it after I read the Slate.com article. Apparently they didn’t believe that the core story — a black police officer infiltrating the KKK with the help of a white comrade — was interesting enough without very liberal embellishments. Or damaging enough to white people.
I think that it’s easy to overstate how dangerous many if not most of the mouth-breathing, knuckle-dragging, basement-dwelling white supremacists — whose pathetic example constantly negates the entire concept of white “supremacy” — are today.
Any actual danger that they pose shouldn’t be ignored, of course, but it also serves no good purpose to exaggerate their influence or their danger. Reuters, for instance, reported that Sunday’s white-supremacist rally in Washington, D.C., “drew two dozen [white-supremacist] demonstrators and thousands of chanting counter-protesters on … the one-year anniversary of racially charged violence in Charlottesville, Virginia.” (Footage from the Charlottesville incident is shown at the end of “BlacKkKlansman.”)
Yes, individual actors, like the crazy white-supremacist asshole who murdered Heather Heyer last year in Charlottesville, can be a danger, but can’t they always be? A mentally ill lone wolf can strike anywhere at any time if he is smart enough to plan and keep his mouth shut about his plan.
I don’t think that we are seeing anything like a real resurgence of the KKK. (I mean, fuck — tiki torches…) We’ll have the KKK wannabes with us for some time to come, but as a group, the KKK and other white-supremacist groups are pretty toothless. For the most part, they have their little white-supremacist-nerd circle jerks and they know better than to commit any serious crimes, less they put their circle jerks and their freedom in jeopardy.
In the meantime, there is a lot of racial reconciliation to do, and grossly misrepresenting history as “BlacKkKlansman” does does not help in this at all.
How many millions of people will see this movie and take it as historical fact, not knowing that there was no climactic bombing, that the black cop’s partner wasn’t Jewish, that the black cop didn’t actually have to deal with a beyond-awful white supremacist on the police force, that his girlfriend wasn’t a member of the black student union, etc., etc., etc.?
Yes, of course, Spike Lee & Co. are allowed a certain amount of creative license, but with “BlacKkKlansman” I just feel punk’d.
Before I read the Slate.com article, I had considered “BlacKkKlansman” flawed (probably especially at the end it goes overboard with the agitprop) but with some merit and worth seeing.
But knowing now what the movie’s creators very apparently just fucking made up for convenience and drama and apparently to “win” a racially charged political argument — in this age of “truthiness,” where objective truth is on fucking life support, and where nasty racial divisions persist — it’s hard for me to see “BlacKkKlansman” as much more than a dishonest propaganda piece that causes more harm than good, or that at least cancels out what good it otherwise possesses* with its unnecessary, mostly racially inflammatory fabrications.
*The story of the lynching of Jesse Washington in Waco, Texas, in 1916, which “BlacKkKlansman” recounts, is one of many that we never should forget, but at the same time, we don’t have lynchings anymore. Yes, there still is violence against black men — even some black cops sometimes lose it and beat black men — and while some would love to liken some of today’s violence against black men to lynchings, we don’t have actual lynchings anymore.
So we must never forget, but what does it say about our intentions and our honesty when we are reaching all the way back to 1916 — 102 years ago — to make a point today? Just asking.