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Spike Lee takes on the Ku Klux Klan

NOTHING EVER CHANGES: Spike Lee explores the parallels between 1970s America and the post-Trump reality we’re living in – with a poignancy and comedic relief

LIVING IN a world dominated by Brexit and Trump, where social media and “fake news” seemingly dominate, it can often feel like we’re living in a movie.

Reality doesn’t feel all too real, and the steady rise of racism, xenophobia and discrimination leaves us feeling like we’re going backwards instead of forwards.

The Spike Lee-directed BlackKklansman plays off that notion beautifully, using a real story with modern references, which reflects on the current state of the black experience in America and its lack of change over time.

BlacKkKlansman is based on the real life experiences of Ron Stallworth (John David Washington, below), the first black police officer for Colorado Springs.

Through the character of Ron, Lee addresses many themes and experiences that a lot of us can relate to – from the micro-aggressions Ron experiences at the workplace to suggesting he cut down his afro and alter his appearance in order to progress in the police force – his confident persona was linked to his ability to comprise elements of his blackness in order to assimilate into a white space and get ahead.

Something that many black people both then and now can relate to.

Due to this experience, Ron perfects the “model negro” stereotype he needs in order to get right in the thick of the police force – he’s black enough to go undercover but not too black to cause any problems, he can speak both “jive” and the King’s English and he is able to stay stoic in the face of both covert and overt racism.

Ron is seemingly able to take it all in his stride, as his cool confident persona and resilient attitude leads him to pursue a case that nobody saw coming.

This is where the movie really kicks into high gear as Ron begins an undercover investigation, which saw him and his co-worker Flip Zimmerman (Adam Driver) artfully infiltrate a local Ku Klux Klan faction, and ultimately earn him the respect of KKK leader and grand wizard, David Duke (Topher Grace).

Throughout the movie, various themes are explored with much of the commentary reflecting American today. For instance, ahead of Flip Zimmerman’s first meeting with the KKK faction, he is told not to use the phrase ‘KKK’ but instead call it the ‘organisation’.

It’s explained that they go by the term ‘the organisation’ in an attempt to stay invisible – something which remains today through systematic and institutional racism that allows organisations to be covert with their racism without the whitehats and feverish use of the “N word” – publicly, anyway.

Another striking moment, which bears similar to today, came from a discussion between Ron and his girlfriend, student activist Patrice Dumas (Laura Harrier, below left).

Here we see two black people and their internal debate over blackness – or to put it into social media terms, 'a discussion over pro blackness’.

Discussions surrounding ‘problackness’ is often debated on Twitter timelines everyday and is reflected in both Patrice and Ron as they discuss the best way to fight white supremacy and whether protesting on the outside or changing things on the inside is the best way to challenge racism. And while the male perspective is strong throughout the film, some of the most telling moments were exhibited by both the black and white female experience.


In a scene where Patrice is stopped by the police while driving pan African activist Kwame Ture (Corey Hawkins) to the airport, she is both discriminated and treated poorly for being black and touched inappropriately for being a woman.

This impeccably mirrored the intersectional struggle that black women face when both gender and race overlap and speaks to the experience that many black women can attest to today.

Equally, Lee holds no punches with the perception of white women in the film, showing how many of them were complicit within the KKK and upholding white supremacy – and this is perfectly portrayed by Connie (Ashlie Atkinson), the wife of KKK member Felix (Jasper Pääkkönen).

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