Imagine that you are sitting at home relaxing. There is a television set turned on in front of you and you are idly watching it when what you see on the screen is an airplane striking the side of a building. You are bewildered. Upset. Confused. There is a commentator in the background talking, explaining, interpreting. But none of it makes sense. Imagine that you have been sitting there for a while when what you see next is a second plane slamming itself into another building. Now you are beside yourself feeling frightened, terrified, terrorized. If you can imagine all of that, multiply it by two and you will know what I felt last week watching the credits roll at the end of the movie on the screen in front of me.
The movie is Spike Lee’s BlacKkKlansman and yes, it is that powerful. A true story, it is based on a memoir written by Ron Stallworth, a Black Colorado Springs police detective who infiltrated the Klan in the mid-1970’s. Stallworth, played by John David Washington (Denzel Washington’s son), initiated contact with the Klan when he responded to an ad in the local newspaper which said the group was looking for new recruits.
Contacted days later by the head of the local chapter of the Klan (and then by David Duke who was the national leader of “the organization” as its members liked to call it), Stallworth managed to convince the Klansmen that he was a diehard racist. When he asked his supervisor for a white officer to play his counterpart in face-to-face meetings while he maintained contact over the phone, the chief innocently asked, “Can you do that?” and Stallworth answered, “Chief, with the right white man we can do anything.”
Movie critic A. O. Scott of the New York Times calls this movie “a furious, funny, blunt, and brilliant confrontation with the truth. It is an alarm clock in the midst of a historical nightmare.” It is also a movie that depicts and reflects white terrorism and racial hatred in today’s America with impassioned honesty, intense drama, and at times, hilarious accuracy. BlacKkKlansman is a movie not to be missed.
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