Have you ever watched a movie that continues to echo in your mind for days after? I saw Spike Lee's Black KkKlansman Friday and I'm still finding myself thinking about the film.
Black KkKlansman, directed by Spike Lee and produced- in part- by Jordan Peele, recounts the true story of how a young Black police officer infiltrated the KKK. It's based on the book, Black Klansman: Race, Hate, and the Undercover Investigation of a Lifetime by Ron Stallworth. John David Washington plays Ron Stallworth, a rookie police officer who works undercover, first to investigate a local Black Student Union and later, under his own insistence, to investigate the Ku Klux Klan. As Stallworth is very apparently not a White, Aryan man, he enlists the help of his colleague, Flip Zimmerman (played by Adam Driver) to be White Ron Stallworth for face to face meetings with the Klan. Zimmerman is a Jewish man who feels disconnected to Judaism and doesn't really feel connected to Stallworth's crusade against the Klan. "I've never really thought about it," Zimmerman muses about Judaism at one point in the film. But the Klan thinks about it a lot, especially Felix Kendrickson (played by Jasper Paakkonen) who subjects Zimmerman to almost constant interrogation and intimidation.
One of the most chilling parts of this film is that it reveals that members of hate groups are also enlisted in our military, working in our government, and are ensconced in other positions where they can wield some sort of power. Just like in the old days, when one of the men wearing a white hood might just be the local sheriff, members of hate groups have infiltrated several organizations. According to one PBS article from 2016*
, the FBI detailed the threat of white nationalist/skinhead infiltration back in 2006. These white supremacists, sometimes referred to as "ghost skins," are able to covertly push their agenda without marching down the street waving a Confederate flag or donning a white hood. In the film, surveillance revealed that some members of the Klan were enlisted in the military with access to weapons.
What I love most about this film is that it could have just been a theatrical recounting of Stallworth's story. Instead, it examines racial relations in the United States, both in the past and currently. The film mixes in real life (and recent) encounters with the Ku Klux Klan and Neo-Nazis along with those from the and also offers biting commentary on the current President's administration and his role in emboldening the racists of this country. Lee juxtaposes the Klan of the 70's with 2017's Klan march in Charlottesville. He seems to say: "This isn't just a story from yesteryear- this is our current reality." Black KkKlansman is an excellent mixture of story-telling and social commentary and I would venture to say this is one of Spike Lee's best. Definitely top five.
Black KkKlansman is in theaters nationwide.
*FBI Warned of White Supremacists in Law Enforcement 10 Years Ago. Has Anything Changed? Kenya Downs Oct 21, 2016 PBS Newshour