Warning, this article contains mild spoilers for the film BlacKkKlansman.
You’ll hear a lot of talk about how shocking Spike Lee’s new film BlacKkKlansman is, but it’s really only the ending that will stun you.
Up until that point, you’ll simply find yourself on one wild, incredible and hilarious ride.
That ending will, undoubtedly, leave you speechless. After spending the entire movie chortling at Lee’s tale, which is told with smart, acerbic humour, the last five minutes silenced the audience in a way that I haven’t seen in a cinema, ever.
It’s that ending that reminded me of something I haven’t thought for a while; as a mother, I’m so very glad my son is white, not brown like me.
However, let’s start at the very beginning, (as the decidedly non-white supremacist Maria Von Trapp once sang).
BlacKkKlansman tells the incredible true story of Ron Stallworth (John David Washington – yes, Denzel’s son), who in 1972, as the first black police officer in Colorado Springs, decides to infiltrate the white supremacist organisation the Ku Klux Klan.
He starts by adopting a ‘white voice’ on the phone, and is represented in KKK meetings by his colleague, Flip Zimmerman (Adam Driver). They both eventually meet David Duke (Topher Grace), the KKK’s Grand Wizard (such an appropriate title).
You can imagine how that goes. A lot of fun, soon-to-be-classic one-liners, and chaos ensues.
Whilst the tale is one hell of a ride, Lee also delivers one of the most visually sumptuous movies made in a long time.
From the sets, to the music, costumes and language, the audience is submerged in the soulful 70s. Lee didn’t have to do that, just as he didn’t have to tell the story with such wit – because the plot is certainly sensational enough on its own. But this movie is quite evidently the masterpiece of Lee’s stellar career, and it is as beautiful as it is brilliant.
Starting with the clever title, and the theatrical poster – which comically shows a hooded black man holding a wide-tooth comb that is commonly used on African hair – and trailer, the tone of the film is made clear: you will be in for a good time. Lee tells the story with ballsy wit that’s so refreshing, you’ll be doing one of those surprised laugh out loud faces for most of the time.
— BlacKkKlansman (@BlacKkKlansman) May 14, 2018
But while Lee makes the audience laugh, and cheer with truth bomb after truth bomb, he never waivers from his message: Black. Lives. Matter.
At its core, that’s what the story is about – the historic fight in America for black lives to matters, just as much as white ones do. Because, as evidenced in the movie, they haven’t.
If you have heard of the movement #BLM, and you feel attacked, and want to respond with #alllivesmatter, this movie will show you why the latter doesn’t need its own hashtag – but black lives do.
And just when you think Lee’s schooled you good and proper in historical fact, and you relax, because good has triumphed over evil, Lee brings you back to 2018 with a thud. The last five minutes of the movie are not pretty; they’re real, and emotive, and you will comprehend with blistering clarity the fight that black people still have ahead of them; especially in the Trump era.
I won’t give too much of that ending away, but the audience, which had been cackling and cheering the whole time, was completely silent when the screen went black – so effectively was Lee’s point made.
And that’s when I wanted to burst into tears, and probably would have, had I not been with a friend.
The ending is a punch-in-the-face reminder of what every person of colour, like myself, knows to be true: there is still an unfathomable amount of prejudice, discrimination and hate, no matter how far we have come.
And yes, we have come a long way; but man, do we also have a long way to go.
This naturally lead to me think of my son. Because, “as a mother”, that’s what you do – think of the way the world will impact your children.
That's what I did three years ago, when I wrote about the murder of American Eric Garner at the hands of NYPD officers; I wrote a piece admitting Why I'm Glad My Son Is White, Not Brown Like Me.
Watching Garner die before my very eyes, and reading about the backlash against New York Mayor Bill De Blasio when he admitted that he spoke to his biracial son about being careful around police, I admit I thought: I am glad I won't have to do that with my son.
I'm glad my son won't have to put up with the racism I have, as a woman of colour.
BlacKkKlansman's ending especially reminded me of that feeling: the relief I feel that my son won't face the numerous casual racisms I have - being told I speak good English (despite being born in Australia), being told to move to the back of the bus "where I belong", having hands put in my face by strangers because they discount my presence as a person.
I'm glad that my son will enjoy the safety of white privilege in the world - of not being questioned about his heritage and validity, based on merely the colour of his skin.
And for that reason, even though it saddens me to say it as a proud woman of colour, BlacKkKlansman reminded me I'm still glad my son is white, and not brown like me.
BlacKkKlansman is now playing in cinemas Australia wide. It is rated MA15+