Use of the word “racist” has become a method of subjugating others, a way to prove power over someone else. In most situations today, it means little more than “your arguments are so effective that I will resort to baseless name-calling.” Under that use case – “I can’t, beat you in a debate, so I’ll call you names” – the word “racist” is essentially a compliment, which is the exact opposite of what it should be. The word “racist” so naturally and so thoughtlessly slips off the tongue of some on the political left that many of the greatest thinkers of our era have been falsely accused of racism.
There are racists in the world. To lightly throw the word around devalues the claim of racism. Words have meaning. To treat words as if they have no meaning is destructive to communication and to thought. Hemingway bemoaned this tendency, writing “All our words from loose using have lost their edge.”
Effectively, the English language has been left without a word that conveys “the belief that all members of a race exhibit specific characteristics,” because the specific term “racist,” and the more general “prejudiced,” and “bigoted” have all been changed into words that no longer have meaning. They have all essentially become compliments shouted by emotional people at those who love reason and evidence.
We live in a world where concepts like unconscious bias, institutional bias, and non-specific bias make everyone capable of being called a racist. At least that’s what the neo-Marxist social justice warriors insist. But the problem is not just with the social justice warriors. If you accept near meaningless terms like that as legitimate, then you accept the legitimacy of anyone calling anyone else a racist without evidence.
Conveniently for such name callers, institutional bias and non-specific bias can’t be proven. The theory is that racism is so prevalent, non-specific, and unconscious that it can’t be defended against and allows that those who claim it need never make an argument, offer proof, or even think, let alone define their terms.
Spike Lee, who in the past has shown capacity at making worthwhile films, dedicates 135 minutes of screen time in his latest movie, Blackkklansman, to calling Donald Trump a racist.
The 1970s story of the first black detective on the Colorado Springs police force could have been done more justice than being used as a divisive 2018 political tool, seemingly meant to degrade the large segment of the American electorate that chose Donald Trump as president. This is a story that all Americans could find of value and a part of our shared heritage, if presented as such. Lee chose not to do that.
Lee cooks up one dimensional disgusting white characters, he puts the N word in their mouths dozens of times over the course of the movie, then he layers on top popular conservative politics such as belief in free speech, opposition to political correctness, opposition to politicians in general, distaste for the mainstream media, complaints about inflation and the Fed, appreciation for guns, appreciation for Christianity. It soon looks like Lee is attacking everyone right of center as racist.
He layers in “Make America Great Again” references intending to besmirch Trump, though it is a phrase used in Reagan 1980 , Clinton 1992, Clinton 2008 , and many other campaigns. On top of that he places a Trump press conference and 2017 footage from Charlottesville, Virginia protests and counter protests. Lots of amorphous feelings are evoked and aspersions cast. No evidence is presented.
If you believe the word racism is best used with no definition and its claims made with no evidence, this movie is a perfect one for you. If you believe it is undesirable, perhaps even dangerous to have a mob of mental midgets wandering the world reflexively shouting racist at everything that sounds too intellectually complex to understand, then it’s not your movie.
Spike Lee took the fascinating story of Ron Stallworth, the black policeman who infiltrated the Klan, and made it into two hours of belittling Trump and his supporters. Cynically, that’s what the highest value of that story seems to be to Lee.
Plenty seem to agree with Lee that partisan bickering is the highest use of the story. BlackkKlansman opened to rave reception from critics, won the Grande Prix in Cannes in May 2018 as well as the Prize of the Ecumenical Jury Special Mention at Cannes, and the August 2018 Locarno Film Festival Audience Award. The $15M film earned that budget back in its opening week, with far more in earnings to come.
Art has a tremendous way of fostering communication. The book 1984 is an anti-authoritarian treatise that is read across the political spectrum. To Kill a Mockingbird is an English language favorite about justice and the law. They cut through political division and describe the human condition.
To hear Trump called a racist for two hours by partisans, I need only stand outside Trump Tower for a few hours to await the protest du jour. More can be expected of artists and more should be expected.
With artists like Lee leading the way, it’s certain that the cultural division in America will grow. The tale of Ron Stallworth could have been presented by Lee as an American story, or better – a story that describes the human condition to all humanity. Instead, it was made into a petty partisan movie.