Last week I went to Williamsburg, Virginia for a family vacation and we watched Blackkklandsman. And I’ll tell you up front—I wasn’t ready.
There’s a lot in that movie that would take more than this post to address, so I’m just gonna boil it down to four key things that stood out to me.
For those of you who don’t know anything about the movie, here’s the lowdown: Ron Stallworth is the first black police officer in Colorado Springs in 1979 and poses as a white man to go undercover and dismantle the KKK from the inside. And oh yeah, it’s based on a true story. Let the surprises begin…
Here are just two things I thought were really cool about this movie…
Ron’s inner circle was composed entirely of woke white men. They were rooting for him in the beginning, standing up for him in the middle, and celebrating for him in the end. And they weren’t stereotypical, “I can’t be racist because I have black friends.” kind of white. They were acutely aware of the racism around them, how it was wrong, and they wrestled with it. They fought for Ron, not because it made them feel better about themselves, but because they believed it was right.
Without spoiling anything, there’s a point where one of the villains sets a trap for black people and ends up getting caught in the very trap himself. The message seems to ring loud and clear in the scene that in the end, your own racism will destroy you.
But there were also two things that made this movie really unsettling for me…
The film opens with a scene from Gone With the Wind. This has ironic implications, namely because it’s used to show that said film was apparently much more racist than we had imagined. But it’s soon followed by a passionate monologue by Alec Baldwin that’s so outrageously racist it’s almost funny. In this monologue, he declares, referring to white supremacists, “We lost the battle, but we have won the war.” The reason this is unsettling is because the entire rest of the movie basically proves this claim. Without spoiling too much, after Ron goes through Hell and high-water and successfully thwarts the KKK, he gets a knock on his door and goes outside to see a cross burning in the distance.
This is what it feels like to fight racism today. We win battles every day when a white police officer stands up for a black man, when a white person at work speaks up against a racist comment or when we elect a black president. But then we turn on the news and see another unarmed black man killed and realize that we’ve still lost the war. The cross is still burning.
As I watched the movie, it was easy to distance myself from it. It was set in the 70’s so behind the Shaft references, the disco music, the basketball-sized afros, and the very fact that it was still after all just a movie, I was able to maintain that this was all made up. Yeah, it was still relevant to today, but it was still just a movie.
But then came the ending, which was a montage of actual footage from the Charlottesville riots. And it hit me. This had happened last year. Not twenty years ago. Not in the 70’s. Not in the 1700’s. Last year. Not much had changed since the time of Ron Stallworth. And here I was, watching this movie in the same state where these riots had happened and the realization couldn’t have been more sobering. This isn’t a movie. This is a war. And we’re losing.
When the credits rolled, I left the theater feeling helpless. My family and I went out to eat frozen yogurt afterwards and I felt like a zombie. A group of teenage white girls walked in after us and I literally thought to myself, “If they throw something at me, I’m passing out.” I was overwhelmed by the weight of a three-hundred pound gorilla of hopelessness on my back. I’d seen the tsunami of racism towering over me and I realized that all the movements, petitions, hashtags, and protests were just sand castles being washed away.
What was the point of fighting? We’ve already lost the war.
But I had to remind myself that, as bad as the situation is, the cross is bigger than racism. It sounds cliché to say it out loud, but Jesus was no stranger to racism. Spike Lee is woke. He’s great. But he doesn’t have all the answers. And this is why we need more Christian writers and artists to write things that will show the world exactly how the Gospel is the silver bullet that splits open the head of racism. Because in reality, racism has won the battle, but Christ has already won the war.