This past Friday, director, and musician Boots Riley decided to give us a three-page manifesto on Spike Lee’s latest joint BlacKkKlansman, stating that the storyline is false and was used as cop propaganda to promote a better relationship between cops and minority groups.
In the three page essay, Riley blatantly calls the film ” a made-up story in which false parts of it try to make a cop the protagonist in the fight against racist oppression.”
It’s being put while Black Lives Matter is a discussion, and this is not coincidental. There is a viewpoint behind it.
Spike Lee’s movie is allegedly based on the life of a real FBI detective by the name of Ron Stallworth and his 2014 memoir Black Klansman, in which Stallworth infiltrates the KKK with the help of his Jewish partner Flip Zimmerman. But according to Riley, it did not go down as such.
In fact, he states that Ron Stallworth worked as a spy on the black liberation organizations in the late ’70s.
The real Ron Stallworth infiltrated a Black radical organization for 3 years..where he did what all papers from the FBI’s Counter Intelligence Program (Cointelpro) that were found through the freedom of information act tell us he did—sabotage a Black radical organization whose intent had to do with at the very least fighting racist oppression.
After doing some research into Cointelpro, the sole initiative was to disrupt and dismantle the black liberation movement. Led by FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover in 1960, the initiative expanded to include White Hate Groups, such as the Ku Klux Klan, the Socialist Workers Party, and the Black Panther Party. Ultimately ranging from 1956 to 1971, Cointelpro was later deemed unconstitutional as it (1) abridged the first amendment rights and (2) for “other reasons.” If you don’t believe me, copies of FBI Records which detail the Cointelpro cases can be found here.
In relation to the Black Power movement of the ’60s, Cointelpro was responsible for a range of assassinations and wrongful convictions of several Black Panther leaders such as Fred Hampton, Mark Clark, Zayd Shakur, Geronimo Pratt, Mumia Abu-Jamal, and Marshall Conway. Although the FBI attack was used to undermine socialist, feminist, anti-Vietnam, and other groups, it was famous for terrorizing black radicals by black undercover cops.
“Without the made up stuff and with what we know of the actual history of police infiltration into radical groups, and how they infiltrated and directed White Supremacist organizations to attack those groups, Ron Stallworth is the villain,” Riley writes. “For Spike to come out with a movie where story points are fabricated in order to make a Black cop and his counterparts look like allies in the fight against racism is really disappointing, to put it very mildly.”
And apparent as well.
If you recall in the film, Ron Stallworth’s initial Cointelpro assignment was to spy on a Black Student Union rally led by famous activist and scholar Kwame Ture. As Kwame preached about freedom, liberation, double consciousness (W.E.B Dubious) and revolution, Stallworth’s experienced a “revelation” after attending one black liberation rally and abruptly recognized his blackness (being the first black cop in his bureau) which fueled his motive to infiltrate the KKK with his Jewish partner, Zimmerman.
It seems plausible, but with a closer glance, it can be seen as Spike’s way of making the protagonist relatable to black viewers, further cover the alleged truth and make cops look like heroes in the race war. Let’s be clear, this would have never happened in the 70’s. Just think about it. A black man asking his white chief to infiltrate the KKK to sabotage and dismantle their plans to kill black people? This is nothing more than a fantasy to brainwash black viewers. If this was true, why are we just learning about Ron Stallworth and his “mighty and noble” efforts to liberate black folk?
Riley’s essay also references a New York Post article in which Spike Lee and his company were allegedly paid $200k by the NYPD in 2016 to “improve relationships between minorities and police” through an ad campaign.
Whether it actually is or not, Blackkklansman feels like an extension of that ad campaign.
Riley’s criticisms are noteworthy and what I would deem true. Hollywood has always distorted the truth to further enslave us mentally through detrimental narratives in black culture and history. Riley’s words question the legitimacy of Lee’s inspiration and motive behind the film. It does paint a heroic depiction of police in the fight for racial equality, which would have never happened in the larger context of white supremacy. But I don’t want to plant an idea in your brain, rather help you question the bullshit around us, by us and for us.
You can read Riley’s essay below and I encourage you to please comment and research more surrounding the legitimacy of these claims, Spike Lee’s ad endorsement, and Ron Stallworth’s life.