Have you already thought on the possibility of a black cop infiltrating on the Ku Klux Klan – the biggest white supremacy group on USA – during the 70’s? The movie BlacKkKlansman is exactly about that!
With this crazy premise and based on a true story, Spike Lee’s movie makes us understand better the movement for black people equality on the USA, aside from showing us the crazy thoughts of extremist and terrorist groups based on white supremacy.
Besides that, the movie also brings parallels with current issues: movements in favor of the black people fight because of – but not exclusively – deaths of innocent blacks by the hands of white cops.
In spite of it all, the movie brings with a sarcastic humor all issues that we unfortunately face until today, bringing identification with the theme or making who’s watching to face their own privilege in a society primarily in favor of white people.
I, Art, am going with my train today to Colorado Springs in the 70’s – if you want to follow me, jump on my wagon and let’s go!
Ron Stallworth and the Infiltration on the Ku Klux Klan
Before talking a little more about the movie, I think it’s nice if we get to know about the historical facts!
Way before the 70’s, the movement for civil rights on USA was already fighting for the end of racial segregation and equal rights for the black people. Hekate talked about this theme in a very nice way on her post about Nina Simone – so I suggest reading it to understand it better!
With movements in favor of civil rights, there was a rise in the opposition: the Ku Klux Klan got back into shape to go against the movements. Many of its members were sentenced for murder – like the bombing in Birmingham in 1963, mentioned on Hekate’s post.
But what is the Ku Klux Klan?
Founded after the North American Civil War (1861-65), having disappeared and returned many times during history, the Ku Klux Klan is a group that strives for white supremacy through a hate speech, with positions such as: Nativism, Anti-Immigration, Anti-miscigenation, Anti-communism, Far Right Populism, Neo-fascism and Neo-nazism, Anti-Islam, Anti-LGBTQ+ and Christian Terrorism; attacking mainly black people – but also Jews, immigrants, homossexuals, leftists, Muslims and Catholics.
Phew. I never thought I’d write so many bad things based in hatred in just one paragraph, but here we are.
In 1979, Ron Stallworth – a black cop from Colorado Springs, on Colorado, USA – noticed an ad on the local newspaper, recruiting people for a new KKK chapter on the city. Answering to the ad by letter, saying he hated blacks, Jews, mexicans and asians, Ron soon received a call saying they were looking for people like him, and asking to meet him at a bar.
Sending a white cop as an undercover agent – who Ron calls “Chuck”, although this isn’t the cop’s real name – Ron infiltrated the Ku Klux Klan, getting even his membership card, that he keeps on his wallet to this day.
This membership card was supervised and signed personally by David Duke, Klan’s “Grand Wizard” back then. Ron could only talk about this story in 2006 and, until that year, David Duke had no idea Ron was black.
This operation lasted 7 and a half months. The results achieved by Ron’s team were avoiding three cross burns (classified as a terrorist act on the USA) and the identification of two Klan members on the North America Air Defense Command, who had access to top security info and, because of his investigations, were relocated by the Pentagon to what Ron refers as “the North Pole”.
He was so successful in his mission that he was appointed to be the president of Colorado Springs’ KKK chapter. Upon telling this to his police chief, he was oriented to finish the investigation at that moment and destroy all the files.
When no one was looking, though, Ron ook those files to his own home, refusing to destroy them.
I’ll leave below a video with Ron Stallworth’s interview for Business Insider, as he tells himself this incredible story:
“Groups like the Ku Klux Klan, neo nazis, skinhead… All right, call them what you will. They’re basically all the same. We need to be aware of who they are, what they are, why they are. And we need to address this issues when they come up. Too many people are afraid to talk about the issue of race. We should be ready to address it and, more importantly, when it rears its ugly head we should be willing to take a stand and try to stomp it out, whatever the action may be, at a particular time.”– Ron Stallworth for Business Insider
BlacKkKlansman: From Real Life to the Big Screens
With a story like that, who wouldn’t want to make a movie?
In 2018, Spike Lee brought us the movie BlacKkKlansman, with great actors like John David Washington, Adam Driver and Laura Harrier to lead the plot.
We follow Ron Stallworth’s (John David Washington) story as a black cop in Colorado Springs. At first designated to the files sector, he gets a field job to go undercover in a Black Panther – one of the greatest counterpoints to Ku Klux Klan – meeting, in order to make sure they wouldn’t become a radical group.
It’s at this moment we get to know Patrice Dumas (Laura Harrier), leader of the Black Student Union. Throughout the movie, Ron and Patrice start a relationship, although they have different ideas regarding movements on black people’s rights. While Patrice has a more radical and extreme position, Ron has a more moderated position, being that both work for the same objective.
During another day of work, seeing a newspaper ad recruiting members for Ku Klux Klan, Ron calls the number and says he hates, mostly, blacks, wanting to defend white America. That certainly sparks the attention of all his coworkers.
And that’s when he infiltrates the Klan. Needing someone to go on the meetings and pose as himself, Flip Zimmerman (Adam Driver) incorporates the role of “racist Ron Stallworth” and starts to attend Ku Klux Klan meetings.
The members refer to it only as “The Organization”, while spreading flyers through the city, causing unrest and apprehension on the black population. Meanwhile, the investigations keep on, being one of the main goals to gather info on David Duke (Topher Grace), Klan’s “Grand Wizard”, who is running for office and, therefore, presents a great risk if he gets into the country’s politics.
Anything else I tell about the movie, will spoil the experience for those who haven’t watched it! So I strongly recommend: watch BlacKkKlansman!
And Back to Real Life
Why did I decide to talk about this movie today?
Well, I believe BlacKkKlansman brings us so many things we need to think about privileges, racism, extremism, white supremacy, Black Power, terrorism, politics, police brutality… And the list is really extense.
The movie bothers us with wide open and stupid racism against, mostly, black people – in spite of turning it upside down when treating those situations with irony and sarcasm. After all, the movie is about a black man who is a member of Ku Klux Klan. You can’t get more ironic than that.
Besides that, it manages to show us to which point people’s ignorance can get. We have a scene in which a member of Ku Klux Klan strongly denies the Holocaust. I, while watching it, found it absurd and started laughing, because it wasn’t possible for it to be serious.
But it was. Human ignorance is so big when it comes to racism and supremacist manias, that it’s possible to exist people who believe in absurd things in order to defend their own point of view that are also absurd.
Another point the movie brings is the idea of “passing” as something. Both Flip and Ron try to fit in a society in which the meaning of success is having the average life of a while North American male, with the same beliefs and maintaining a privilege system of select group at the expense of others. Both characters connect more with their own identity instead of just pass as something they aren’t really only to fit in the system.
We also have clashes of extremist and radical ideas – very similar to what we live nowadays on politics between far right and far left – and scenes that serve as a direct and obvious counterpoint against the other (after all, who doesn’t notice the members of the Klan screaming white power as the blacks scream Black Power?).
It’s also interesting to notice the pattern of speech of the movie characters. David Duke uses expressions like “take America back” and “God bless white America” in a wide open parallel to Donald Trump, ex-president of the USA, with his speeches of “let’s make America great again” and constant racism against people of color in general.
To top that, the movie leaves us with a bad taste in our mouth at the ending, with recordings of protests against police brutality in the USA – more and more on the news, which ended up sparking movements such as Black Lives Matter in 2020 – apart from marches for white supremacy. It’s obvious that, having people in the government that support and accept those ideas – for most absurd they are – there’s an incentive for groups like the Ku Klux Klan to not remain hidden and, even worse, to enter elections and political matters in order to impose their oppressive ideals.
As a white person, the movie made me understand better about my privileges, about the absurds that exist in the world and the fight of the black people – and other minorities – for equality and respect. It isn’t enough just not being racist: we also need to oppose and speak up when we find a situation of racism.
I know it’s easier said than done. But we have to at least try. It isn’t an easy change and taking action may even seem scary, but as Ron Stallworth himself said, we need to take a stand and end it when racism raises its horrific head.
Racism does exist and it isn’t gone – like many movies like to make it seem, with happy and humorous endings. In 2020, racism is still alive and with less progress than expected on its fight against it. It’s important to educate ourselves and know to fight against this system imposed by obsolete ideas filled with hatred.
And How to be a Better Ally?
I am glad you asked.
I have been watching many videos about colorism, white privilege, use of black people’s vocabulary, cultural apropriation and etc. in order to understand better about all those matters – after all, I’m part of the society and responsible for part of the change, am I not?
On that research, I found a very interesting video with tips on how to be a good ally, made by the artist Ahsante: I’ll leave the link below so you can take a look!
Remembering that those aren’t the only tips: they are part of her point of view as a black woman in society. Apart from that, I think it’s a good place to start, always researching to become a better human being on our society.
Fisrt thing to remember: being an ally doesn’t mean you’re passive. The fact that you say “oh, what an absurd, racism is terrible, I understand you and I’m super against it” doesn’t automatically make you an ally to any cause of any minority.
“Allyship is an active process that you’re always working on”
Now, to the tips!
First: Listen and Educate Yourself! Feel free to ask questions, but remember that nowadays we have something incredible: Google! It can help you a lot! If you have any questions, or if you don’t understand concepts and, mostly, if you want to understand better about the movements, Google can help you with many resources, from lighthearted articles to scientifical articles.
“So even if you think you heard everything: listen.”
Second: Uplift Marginalized Voices! Use the diversity that exists in the world! There are many professionals, artists, writers, politicians – and etc. and etc. – that are part of the minorities: bring them to your means of discussions! Have other people to get to know their work as well!
“Wherever you can, bring diverse people into the conversation.”
Third: Speak Up! When you find a situation of racism, take a stand! Point it out to the person that is commiting this crime that in fact, they are being racist. Although it seems difficult and uncomfortable, I think it’s a lot more complicated someone has to defend themselves for being treated as less then a human for something so ordinary as their skin color then defending someone who’s suffering from it. As she says on her video: as ally, you’re in a position of privilege and have less probability of suffering from retaliation.
“Reach your communities that I don’t have access to; use your privilege to speak where other people would be silenced.”
Fourth: Respect Safe Spaces! No, no one wants to militate and participate on debates at every second. Everyone wants to be close to people with whom they can feel comfortable to be who they really are and with similar experiences, that already understand them and there’s no need to explain everything all the time. Respecting movements like Black History Month, LGBTQ+ Parades, inclusion of minorities on big means of media and etc. is needed.
“Respect the spaces and times of the year where people who are usually sidelined take center stage. If you’re an ally, you’ll be fine with the fact that this is not about you and sometimes that means politely excusing yourself from spaces meant specifically for marginalized groups.”
Fifth: Get to Work! Use your position and your privilege to help causes! Yes, you can go to protests, but sometimes this means contacting authorities from your city/state, be a volunteer or make donations to organizations that help those causes and many other possibilities!
“Whatever you do (as profession) can probably be used to do good for marginalized communities.”
Watch the Movie!
Now that we learnt a few things – and I hope I have contributed to deconstruct a little the concepts that are imposed to us since little children by a society that prioritizes only one race – how about watching the movie?
It can be found on Amazon Prime Video, Looke, Google Play e Youtube (updated Novembro/2020). I’ll leave the links below and I hope you watch it!