Spike Lee won the first competitive Oscar category of his long career Sunday night for his screenplay for “BlacKkKlansman.” Not that the controversial filmmaker was happy, mind you. He still had a tantrum when “Green Book” won Best Picture.
“I thought I was courtside at the Garden and the ref made a bad call,” Lee told reporters, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
Still, he managed to give one of the most political speeches of the night — unsurprisingly — when accepting his screenplay award. And he did it under the banner of “love,” as opposed to the “hate” President Donald Trump supposedly espouses.
“Our ancestors were stolen from Mother Africa and bought to Jamestown, Virginia, enslaved. Our ancestors worked the land from can’t-see in the morning to can’t-see at night,” Lee said, according to a Washington Post transcript.
“My grandmother, Zimmie Shelton Retha, who lived to be 100 years young, who was a Spelman College graduate even though her mother was a slave. My grandmother who saved 50 years of Social Security checks to put her first grandchild — she called me Spikie-poo — she put me through Morehouse College and NYU grad film. NYU!
“Before the world tonight, I give praise to our ancestors who have built this country into what it is today along with the genocide of its native people,” he continued.
“We all connect with our ancestors. We will have love and wisdom regained, we will regain our humanity. It will be a powerful moment. The 2020 presidential election is around the corner. Let’s all mobilize. Let’s all be on the right side of history. Make the moral choice between love versus hate. Let’s do the right thing! You know I had to get that in there,” he concluded, referencing his first major feature film, “Do the Right Thing.”
ICYMI: #SpikeLee’s acceptance speech.
“The 2020 presidential election is around the corner. Let’s all mobilize. Let’s all be on the right side of history. Make the moral choice between love versus hate. LET’S DO THE RIGHT THING!” ?????? #Oscars pic.twitter.com/oCTRZUB8zQ
— theGrio.com (@theGrio) February 25, 2019
It’s pretty obvious who he was talking about, even if he mentioned no names. The left was predictably applauding. In a tweet, The New Yorker talked about the director’s “extremely weird, wonderful acceptance speech,” linking to a piece about it that seemed roughly as long as the speech itself. What people didn’t want to point out was that Lee’s past hasn’t exactly been, well, loving.
Conservative radio host Larry Elder decided to remind us all:
“The 2020 presidential election is around the corner. Let’s all mobilize…Make the moral choice between love versus hate.”
–Spike Lee, 2/24/19
“I give interracial couples a look. Daggers. They get uncomfortable when they see me on the street.”
–Spike Lee, Oct., 1992#Oscars
— Larry Elder (@larryelder) February 25, 2019
That “daggers” quote was from a 1992 piece written in Esquire by a white female journalist in which Lee spent an inordinate amount of time belittling said white female journalist for being white and female.’
(The headline, aptly enough, was “Spike Lee Hates Your Cracker A**” — though Esquire wrote the word out.)
Here’s the “daggers” quote in its full context, which doesn’t sound particularly better. It comes during a part of the interview where writer Barbara Grizzuti Harrison, a memoirist known partially for her links to the jazz scene in Greenwich Village, reveals to Lee that she’s dated a black man previously.
“I’ve been crazy about one black man in my life. I was not, I feel called upon to say, a groupie; I wasn’t in love with the genre,” she writes.
“‘Yeah,’ he says, ‘white women when they want to be with black men, they just know all they have to do is go to some club.’ Not the kindest thing he could have said under the circumstances. ‘Okay, maybe you didn’t,’ he says, his eyelids drooping with cynicism. He is making a sawing motion with his right arm, fist clenched, back and forth, back and forth. He howls with laughter. ‘I give interracial couples a look. Daggers. They get uncomfortable when they see me on the street. Hand in hand and arm in arm. I just hope they’re on in it for the sex mythology.'”
And it continues: “White women who go out with black men are ‘muggy.’ He quotes one of his characters: ‘Most black men don’t be having no Penthouse pets, they be having outhouse pets.’ Not the kindest thing he could have said under the circumstances. ‘And they have nothin’ going for them, nothin’. Doesn’t matter what she’s doing, what she’s about, she’s just there, and you have a prize—a white woman on your arm. A trophy. Sick.’
“Not very different from the old white businessman who has to have a decorative girl on his arm, I say. ‘Why you keep bringing up white men and women?’ he says. ‘I can’t worry about that. I can only worry about issues that are relevant to me.’ Okay. And what do white women get out of this, I ask; what’s their part in sexual mythologizing? He makes that sawing-in-sawing-out motion again; there’s no mistaking what it means. ‘Simple as that.'”
Spike Lee has a career’s worth of controversial quotes on race and America that could rebut that whole “love” thing, but you could do worse than this 1992 interview. In fact, Trump sent out a tweet Monday morning lamenting Lee “doing his racist hit on your President.”
Trump needn’t have bothered; all he should have done was have linked the Esquire piece — which also contains some choice bits about how Lee thought the rape of a female character in one of his movies could reasonably be viewed as “empowering her sexuality” and how “in (Farrakhan’s) Nation of Islam, you get what’s yours now. Forget that pie in the sky.”
America could have figured the rest out.
Spike Lee is a man who’s utterly lacking any sort of moral compass; from his remarks in the past, we can see we’re dealing with a racist of massive proportions. And yet, on Sunday night, he was given the Oscar stage to use as a secular pulpit by a media establishment with no interest in checking the preacher’s credentials.
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