Spike Lee, famed black filmmaker, had a chance to soothe race relations, stoke reasoned discussions and raise a rational question or two about the current political atmosphere and culturally accepted norms.
Instead, he went low. About as low as he could dredge.
In a recent Cannes Film Festival speech that touched on the 2017 violent protests in Charlottesville, Virginia, Lee slammed President Donald Trump as “that motherf—r” who refused to “denounce the motherf—ing Klan, the alt-right and those Nazis motherf—rs.”
And then some.
“We have a guy in the White House — I’m not gonna say his f—ing name — who defined the moment not just for Americans, but for the world, and that motherf—r was given the chance to say we are about love, not hate,” Lee said, while promoting his new film “BlacKkKlansman,” at Cannes, the Wrap reported. “And that motherf—r did not denounce the motherf—ing Klan, the alt-right, and those Nazis motherf—rs. It was a defining moment, and he could have said to the world, not just the United States, that we were better than that.”
Now was all that really necessary?
Lee’s new movie, in case you missed it — and given the tone and content of his anti-Trumper remarks, it’s entirely understandable you did — is based on the real-life journey of a black police officer who infiltrated the KKK in the 1970s. Good stuff; interesting stuff. But the film wraps with a montage of video footage from the Charlottesville standoff between those who wanted the Confederate monuments to stay and those who wanted the Confederate monuments to go — the latter group of which included racists and alt-righters, one of whom ran down and killed an attendee, Heather Heyer. ‘Lest it be forgotten, though: The Keep-the-Monuments side also included plenty of patriotic veterans and others who simply oppose the revisionism and destruction of history for politically correct causes.
Lee draws the battle lines much more narrowly, and intolerantly. And that’s a real shame. He could have used his voice at Cannes to promote his movie in a manner that draws in peoples of all colors — not just the angry blacks of the world. He could have used his platform to inspire reflection — even self-reflection.
Instead, he offers this: “[Trump], that motherf—r has the nuclear code.”
It was a missed chance, a forsaken opportunity, a snarled lip and shoulder shrug in the direction of national healing. And Lee, who commonly covers black-white issues from the unapologetic and aggressive perspective of an angry black man, ought to know this best: Denouncing, degrading and denigrating the perceived-but-false enemy accomplishes nothing more than patting one’s own ego. If it’s true change that’s sought, the path toward reform is paved with good will and peace.
• Cheryl Chumley can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter, @ckchumley.
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