Review: Spike Lee’s ‘BlacKkKlansman’ Journeys Into White America’s Heart of Darkness

John David Washington and Adam Driver star in a movie based on a crazy true story from the 1970s, pitched to the crazy realities of right now.

Comments: 27

  1. First, Spike Lee has nailed it again.

    That said, the Klan has been largely (and thankfully) marginalized to operating in the shadows - although that is reversing a bit now that Trump has empowered them.

    That said - the Klan and its splinter groups have always been the militant wing of the Lost Cause. They exist only because they were taught the hate through family, segregated churches, and pro-Confederate propaganda placed in textbooks in their schools.

    The real damage that creates Klan members continues to be done by the ideological wing of the Lost Cause - the Daughters of the Confederacy and their related offshoot the Children of the Confederacy.

    The DoC operates openly to this very day with multiple chapters in every Southern State. Their members hold key positions in Southern governments and community organizations.
    They champion Confederate heritage and promote the lie of Confederate nobility. Their work to preserve monuments to the Confederacy, influence text books, and numerous other nefarious acts to glorify traitors are a large part of why Southern racism persists 150 years after the civil war.

    When will we do something to bring their continued effort to preserve hate into the public consciousness so they can be confronted like their Klan brothers, husbands, and fathers? Sadly, as long as they are allowed to operate below the radar we will get new generations of Klan sons.

  2. "...racism is what makes us white."

    No, racism in blacks or whites makes one a jerk. For example is Spike Lee's thoughts on gentrification.

  3. Exceptional review about an important film.

  4. The trailer for the film makes it apppear to be only a light and jaunty experience (about the Klan!), perhaps in attempt to persuade certain white audiences they won't be confronted by the "angry black man (or woman)." I understand that humor is present, but it is clear from reading the accompanying article about how Spike Lee approached the creation of the film, and this review, that humor is clearly not the emotion driving this piece of art.

  5. "Racism is what makes us white" Yes absolutely - if racism is also what makes us black, brown and yellow. But our more important transcendent common humanity and a shared longing to see well intentioned people of all races and creeds unite to fight evil in high quality films bring the crowds to the theater. That and the air conditioning and the popcorn. Thanks Spike!

  6. I look forward to seeing this. Kevin Willmott, who co-wrote the screenplay, also directed the extraordinary *CSA: Confederate States of America*, a 2004 mockumentary that all too accurately speaks to our own condition today: what if the south had won the Civil War? The answer is that in many ways, it did.

  7. "Racism is what makes us white." I don't know what that means. Here I am, thinking I'm white because my parents were and my ancestors were. What am I missing? If anything? Mr. Scott's remark sounds like facile sloganeering, and empty sloganeering at that. But he describes what I believe is a very good movie, despite his desire to become part of the narrative.

  8. @CKentI take it to mean that without racism colour isn't an issue. We wouldn't label ourselves as this colour or that color.

  9. @CKent are you aware that at times in the relatively recent past, Italians were not considered white? This applied to other groups within the Caucasian "race" as well.

    Why were they considered not-white? Why did the change happen that led to them being considered white? If you dig into this before-and-after story, you'll find both (a) the story of how we define "white" today (and throughout time - the results vary but the definition is essentially serving the same role every time) and (b) racism.

  10. Love those big afro blowouts! Reminiscent of the years I was active in the Civil Rights Movement with Kwame Ture and others. I sat with Oretha Castle and others at the McCrory's lunch counter.

    Can hardly wait to see this film! I know it will be remarkable!

  11. "Maybe not everyone who is white is a racist, but racism is what makes us white."

    A startling punch in the mouth (and a great sentence). Whiteness as a category is something we created to distinguish ourselves from blackness. To create a permanent underclass, one which could never rise above its station, because its station was based on an immutable physical characteristic--blackness. Out of blackness we made whiteness, and suddenly every northern European in America, no matter how poor, found himself in a social class that provided him with the certainty that no matter how bad things got for him, at least he could never fall onto the bottom rung of the social ladder. New groups of immigrants fought to be white--people who often had little in common with the northern European, protestant majority already running the place. But they were not-black, and so could be white. And white is what you wanted to be.

    Being white, or more accurately, being not-black, provides enormous benefits. We used blackness as a barrier beyond which economic, social and educational benefits would not pass. Being white is so beneficial we've convinced ourselves that "whiteness" is somehow a naturally superior state of being, that the benefits of being white arise from whiteness itself, and not as the result of centuries of social and economic policies designed to ensure that the blessings of liberty and prosperity were exclusively offered only to those who happened to be not-black.

  12. Readers should also read WSJ’s joe morgenstern review of the film. I’m with joe on this one. No more hate movies by angry, black celeBRATS, like spike lee, although I understand Washington is outstanding in this film. I get it about the KKK and one of its democrat principals senator Robert Byrd of WVA....he is long gone and so is this story. Time to move on.

  13. @Pvbeachbum Meaning no disrespect to your opinion, why don't you see the film before you pass judgment? I just saw it, and it was powerful. By the way, I saw it in Charlottesville, which is basically on lockdown right now, and you could hear people crying when the film ended. I think that's how you can know that the story is still relevant.

  14. John David Washington and Adam Driver star in a movie based on a crazy true story from the 1970s, pitched to the crazy realities of right now, and brought to you by the maker of 'School Daze', so you know that this is 'quality' (NOT) and who will show his hate for most Americans, meaning white folks.

  15. For Spike Lee to put the words, “I was always just another white kid,” in the mouth of a Jewish character is an aggressive act of anti-semitism that attempts to erase from history the millennia of genocides, expulsions, expropriations and other heinous acts of oppression against Jews too numerous to list here.

    However much it is in the interest of Spike Lee, A.O. Scott and many others to forget what is obviously for them an inconvenient history, most Jews refuse to do so. Never forget, more timely now than ever.

  16. @MSK

    I'm Jewish and that line resonated with me. I think you're over-reacting a bit.

  17. @MSK
    With this bit of dialogue Spike Lee definitely got it right! MSK you know what you can do with your whining Jewish white privilege.

  18. @MSK there was actually an entire film surrounding that line, it wasn’t floating around by itself. Context.

  19. Yet another approved of by our elites major propaganda event meant to further divide this nation into warring tribes. So that there will not be a coherent majority of "melting potted" together citizens to challenge our mostly white 1%s riggings of this society in recent decades ... by flooding the USA with 10's of millions of desperate immigrants to kill wages and shipping most manufacturing jobs of black, brown and white workers to China, Mexico et al to be done by the functional equivalent of no rights slaves overseas.

  20. @Winthrop Staples - This only divides for those who have sympathy for the Klan and the twisted immorality of White supremacy. For the rest of us it unites by restating, loudly and with conviction, that we as Americans reject ideologies of hate and supremacy.

    Consider that at its core this is about a White man and a Black man - working together - to impose the rule of law and justice on evil men. That it reminds us to be vigilant because those evil men still wield power today is a good thing. If anything it provides hope that good folks united can triumph yet, because all that is necessary for evil to triumph is for the good to do nothing as you seem to be suggesting.

  21. @winthrop staples so, you saw the film and didn't like it, then?

  22. @winthrop staples, did you actually read the article? Your comment doesn't have anything to do with the movie.

  23. We saw this last night -- I think it's Lee's best picture yet. I heartily recommend it.

  24. A small film with a large, important message. Credible performances. Well worth seeing.

  25. Of all the things Democrats have created in this country, I am gladest to see all those Ku Klux Klan Dems go away.

    As hard as Spike Lee the Political Advocate wants to sponsor hate against his current political enemy, President Trump, the name Ku Klux Klanwill always be what the Dems were doing while the Republicans were busy helping get the NAACP going.

    I've tried to watch film based on political fervor from both sides, and none of it has held my interest. Politics and film simply cannot be combined - you have to do one OR the other.

  26. I find tremendous irony here. Spike Lee is celebrated for a true story of a black man who speaks in the voice of a white man to infiltrate the KKK. Earlier in the month, The NYT reported on the apology by the Nation and poet Anders Carson-Wee for publishing and writing a poem about the invisibility of the homeless speaking in the voice of African-American Vernacular English (AAVE). Does Roxane Gay's admonition to "stay in your lane" apply only to white artists? Or is the difference that: Spike Lee is making a movie *about* someone engaging in cultural appropriation, which is not the same thing as *actually* engaging in cultural appropriation? Or is it not cultural appropriation if the culture being (not) appropriated is the dominant one?

  27. The film is very entertaining, but it has one major flaw. It's becoming a bad cliche to portray Klan members as dumb buffoons. I grew up in a tiny southern town where many of my neighbors were Klan members. They were the fathers of kids I played with. Most of them were businessmen and professional guys who worked at local companies, schools, the airport, etc. They wore suits to work and drove nice family cars, not always rickety pick-up trucks. Being in the KKK was a deep secret for most of them. I only found out about it when one of my buddies showed me his father's white robes one day. I was stunned. His father was, I thought, a nice guy who played football with us, barbecued at family get-togethers and was a good dad. Fortunately, my parents wanted better things for me and my brothers, so we were kept out of the local public school and attended Catholic school 20-miles out of town. There, I was in classes with kids of all ethnic groups, and I grew up knowing that racism was hideous. The Klan is an awful organization in so many ways, but believing that its members are all fat, dumb clowns is taking the easy road, and Hollywood directors can't resist it. The truth is those men are often not dumb at all. That's what makes them so much more frightening than the way Spike Lee and most other directors portrays them. If you look at the video from Charlottesville, you can see many of those men are guys you would never suspect as KKK members.