‘BlacKkKlansman’ echoes ongoing equality crisis
The United States faces a disparate equality crisis.
Unlike the civil rights era of Martin Luther King’s calls for peaceful protest and integration, the nation has in the 21st Century a multiplicity of diverse groups grasping to gain or retain leaps toward inclusiveness. Laws of the land do not mean that everyone accepts the nondiscriminatory commands that range from race and gender to religion and disabilities.
Director Spike Lee takes us back to the blistering 1970s to illustrate changes accomplished, challenges still faced, and attempts to roll back diversity acceptance.
Based on a true story, “BlacKkKlansman” reveals the pioneering inroads of Ron Stallworth (John David Washington), the first African American hired as a Colorado Springs policeman. Assigned to clerical duties, Stallworth has a passion to make a difference, which leads to a undercover detective assignments, first in drugs then intelligence. His first assignment – infiltrate a black university student speech by activist Stokely Carmichael (Corey Hawkins) to ensure he does not incite subversive activities in Colorado Springs.
Blending into the group exposes internal and external conflicts. The young black officer identifies with black pride chants; his fellow officers focus on Carmichael’s commands to resist law enforcement. At the same meeting, Stallworth takes a liking to student leader Patrice (Laura Harrier) which forces him to fervently apply “stop hiding your blackness” emotions.
Activities of the KKK lead the officer to answer an ad via phone persuading the recruiter that he’s “white” by abandoning lots of “jive” speech and turning his racist toleration into solidly hateful mouthfuls, which convinces the recruiter to invite him to join. This leads to his partner Flip Zimmerman (Adam Driver), a Jewish cop attending meetings in Ron’s stead. Meanwhile, his accent allows him to strike up a telephone friendship with then KKK grand wizard David Duke (Topher Grace) who’s determined to mainstream the organization’s white supremist rants.
Despite succeeding with strong subtle symbolism, director Spike Lee has “bookended” the film with past and recent out of the headlines incidents to pound his points into viewers brains.
Otherwise, Stallworth’s 70s memoir accents discriminatory progress (and lack thereof). Tiptoeing through verbal mine fields. Stallworth’s grumbling of just typical for blackness includes a scene of an all black wait staff at a country club induction ceremony. Bellowing about the superiority of the “pure” white race, includes second class treatment of women (they stay out of the room when told) and Jewish religious bias.
It doesn’t take Albert Einstein to mentally segue into currently dominant Hispanic and Muslim stereotypes.
Allusion concerning local KKK cell terroristic threats and vetting them as vents or possibilities harkens back to pre-9/11 and pre-random shootings when continuous verbal rages 99 percent of the time expressed anger and hate with few carrying out their “threats.”
Almost ironically, split screen juxtaposition underscores similarities of challenges whether to preserve the status quo or climb the equality ladder i.e. Lee’s message is most groups seek similar treatment and extremists exist on both sides of the political curves.