Leave it to Spike Lee to make me want to go see a movie about the Klan. I went to see this movie for two reasons. One, John David Washington because he’s nice to look at, and two, they told me this was a TRUE STORY about a black man who was a certified Klan member. As a side note, I’m surprised no one had thought of this sooner and if they had, Spike would probably be the one to do it. I lied. There were three reasons. Spike Lee and Jordan Peele.
So the jist of this movie is that Ron Stallworth (John David Washington) gets a job as the first African American police officer in Colorado Springs. It was one of those affirmative action initiatives. Stallworth is tasked with desk duty and he hates it. I mean no one in the department respects him and he has to avoid being the angry black man, which we can see and some of us know is the hardest thing to do in life. Frustrated, he goes to his boss and asks to be put on assignment. Boss doesn’t think it’s a good idea until Stokely Carmichael comes to speak at a university and the police want to know what trouble he’s stirring up. Bright idea: send the black guy to the talk. Maybe he’ll be able to find something on Stokely that they can use to possibly arrest him (for no reason). Now while at this talk, he meets the president of the Black Student Union, Patrice Dumas (Laura Harrier). She’s fly and he’s fly so they decide to go out later on. More on her in a few. Now here is the trippy part of this story that I think might have been exaggerated for the sake of the movie. After telling his boss that there was nothing to go on with Carmichael, he’s back at his desk milling around. He’s reading the newspaper and sees an ad for the KKK. Now, things like this from the past tickle me because an organization like that, I would think, would want to be a myth, a legend or not easily found but not the Klan. So there’s an ad and a number to call if you want to join and like any good police officer would do, Ron calls the number. I want to pause here for a second. John David Washington is not only the son of Pauletta and Denzel Washington but he is also known for the HBO Ballers. You will notice that his accent in the film is vastly different from that show. He sounds so much like his dad it’s scary. But back to the movie. Ron calls the Klan and gets invited to a meeting. Here’s the obvious problem, he’s black. So he recruits a fellow cop…who happens to be part Jewish. Now the fun begins.
I think what Lee does flawlessly in this film is his ability to transition from laughter to pain in a split second. From the Birth of a Nation viewing, which threw me for a whole loop, to the ridiculousness of the order of the Klan meetings. I found myself laughing in one minute but shifting in my seat HOT in the next. Fabulous, Mr. Lee.
At first glance, Patrice just seems like a throw away love interest but I found her role to be much more than that. You see, he made sure not to tell Patrice about his job but he did probe her with questions in order to get a black perspective on a how a black person looks at cops. Patrice was his moral compass. In watching the film, I always felt that when he was in those intense moments he thought of Patrice. Ron was caught between being an honorable cop and keeping people safe and being a black man who, to some, may have been viewed as a sellout. It was a hard line to toe and the introduction of Patrice to juxtapose Ron was a brilliant idea. Also, she gave a break from the Klan and we got to know who Ron was when he wasn’t in uniform.
I also like how in a subtle way Lee dealt with the “you talk white” phenomenon that black people go through. Just in talking with Duke on the phone, Duke says something along the lines of “I can tell you’re not one of those jungle bunnies with their jive talk. I can tell you have pure white, Aryan blood running through your veins.” This is hilarious and then, he gives examples of that jive talking is. I don’t know who that man knows but no one talks like that.
I left this for last because it is a very sensitive subject because it happened so close to where I live. I live in Richmond, VA and it just so happened I was in New Orleans for a conference. I will never forget that I was about to checkout, waiting on my momma. I looked up and saw CNN in full red, which means breaking news. From the footage, it looked like something that was happening in Syria or Iran or somewhere across the globe. When I looked at the words “Charlottesville, VA”, my heart sank. It was the worst thing I could ever imagine. That was what I was going home to and it never stopped. Heather Heyer died in that “rally”, and as you can see, it’s one of those moments where you remember exactly where you were when it happened. When it is all said and done and you think the movie is over, they play the footage of the events on that weekend and I cringed. It brought me right back to that day in News Orleans staring at that red screen. I was ok until I got there. David Duke, who plays a major role in this film, was at the rally and was giving a “speech” to his followers. I never really knew who this man was, and after seeing the movie, didn’t know he was in Charlottesville for this rally. I’ve watched Spike Lee Joints all my life and I know what to expect with his films but I was not and would never be prepared for the movie to end like that. There were only three people in the theater when I went to see this movie, me, my momma and a white guy who sat two rows in front of me by the aisle. When the movie was done and the lights came up, he just sat there. He didn’t speak, he didn’t move, he just sat there staring at the screen as if he was in a trance. This is the type of movie you will be walking into.
Should you see this movie?
Much like The Hate U Give, I think it’s a film everyone should see at least once. I can see how this can become one of those films that you see because you know it’s important to but you would never watch it again. But watch it at least once…ALL THE WAY THROUGH.
Where can I find this movie?
Blackkklansman will be out on DVD November 6th but it is available now on Google Play, Amazon and YouTube.
You will get a lot out of this movie and I think it’s a movie that was made at the right time for the right reasons.