This past Monday, Sorry to Bother You director Boots Riley took to Twitter to express his criticism of Spike Lee’s latest film, BlacKkKlansman. In a three-page essay, Riley condemned Lee’s portrayal of the 1970s police, based on the (mostly) true story of an African-American officer who infiltrates a Colorado chapter of the Ku Klux Klan.
“For Spike to come out with a movie where a story points are fabricated in order [to] make Black cop and his counterparts look like allies in the fight against racism is really disappointing, to put it very mildly,” noted Riley.
In the film, African-American cop Ron Stallworth (John David Washington) is credited with exposing and defusing a planned KKK attack circa 1979. Throughout the undercover investigation, he is aided by his colleague Flip Zimmerman (Adam Driver), a white policeman who poses as Stallworth with the Klan and, along the way, becomes his good friend.
Riley alleges that the real-life Stallworth worked with an FBI counterintelligence program to sabotage “Black radical organizations.” He ultimately criticizes Lee’s film for exaggerating the police’s attempts to thwart white supremacist groups.
Asked to respond to Riley’s Twitter post in a recent interview with The Times, Lee said, “Well, I’m not going to comment on that.”
He then continued:
Look at my films: They’ve been very critical of the police, but on the other hand I’m never going to say all police are corrupt, that all police hate people of color. I’m not going to say that. I mean, we need police. Unfortunately, police in a lot of instances have not upheld the law; they have broken the law.
Lee, who has clashed with big names like Clint Eastwood and Jamie Foxx in the past, said he’s “done” publicly feuding. “I’m a young chap, a young man aged 61, but before I was even a younger chap,” he said. “Now when I get a hint that this stuff is maybe going to dilute the message of my film, I know it is not going to do my any good to comment.”